“Messin’ with me’s like wearin’ cheese underwear down rat alley.”
-Police Detective Ollie Chandler, the main character in Deception
Originally posted on my other blog, Notes in the Key of Life, on 8/13/07
Several years ago, I read a very unusual book. It was Deadline, and the author was Randy Alcorn. The story wasn't so unusual, although it grabbed me immediately. What was unique about Deadline was that when a character died, his story didn't end there....he went to heaven, and I, as the reader, got to go there with him.
Randy Alcorn doesn't pretend to be able to describe heaven, but he believes we know some definite facts about it--and those facts don't include winged, haloed Christians sitting around on puffy clouds strumming the harp.
Not too long ago, I read a "spinoff" of Deadline, titled Dominion. Dominion--although it too has a compelling story--could never be classified as easy reading. The protagonist is a black man, and along with the story, the book includes a great deal of the history and background and baggage being a black man in America entails.
Reading Dominion was an incredible eye-opener for me. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of black people. Turns out I didn't, at all. I really had no inkling, but after reading Dominion, I believe I have a much greater understanding of the black experience in America.
...and that brings me to Deception
Randy departed a bit from his usual fiction-writing style in the writing of Deception, which is yet another spinoff of Deadline (Randy doesn't call them sequels or a series.) He wrote Deception from the first person--from the point of view of hardened, cynical police detective Ollie Chandler.
The story begins grippingly, as Ollie arrives on the scene of a murder that portends a lot of troubling questions for him personally.
From that point on, the story doesn't let you go. As a reviewer once said about a book, and I'm paraphrasing, "Don't plan on doing much else while you're reading this book."
It's to Randy Alcorn's credit that we ended up liking the character of Ollie Chandler very much. Randy admits he took pains to make the hardbitten, skeptical, world-weary cop a lovable character...and most of that had to do with giving him a terrific sense of humor.
I did labor to make Ollie likable...and part of that is his sense of humor. I think that's so important, because if you're going to spend an entire book inside of someone's head, so to speak...it's important that they have flaws, that's part of what makes the conflict that makes the story work...BUT, they've got to be, in some respects, likable.
Thanks to Randy spending many hours hanging out with, and picking the brains of, real-life police detectives, Deception has the unmistakable ring of authenticity.
Deception does have the occasional glimpses into heaven, and there are conversations among Ollie and his two Christian friends that delve into issues like atheism and apologetics. But unlike Deadline and Dominion, the book doesn't often depart from the main story--the mystery that's propelling the plot forward.
And the best news for people who love the character of Ollie? Randy Alcorn is probably not done with him. Randy told me,
"After each of my previous six novels, I have had no inclination whatsoever to repeat someone in the role of the viewpoint character. Now, in a couple of cases I've done a spinoff, where Dominion is a spinoff of Deadline. Jake Woods, the main character in Deadline appears in Dominion, but he's in a secondary role--the main character is Clarence Abernathy, who was in a minor role in Deadline. Ollie was in both of those. This was kind of Ollie's turn, and Clarence and Jake are in support roles to him...but when I fnished the book this time, for the first time I thought, 'You know, I'm not done with this character.'"
Eternal Perspectives Ministries
Randy Alcorn has written several books about heaven, and he heads Eternal Perspectives Ministries, which is aimed at teaching God's Word from an eternal viewpoint.
You can find out about all of Randy's books at that website, and you can also check out Randy Alcorn's blog.