|Father Luis Chavez is based at the church of St Augustine, Los Angeles, which was his first appointment after spending five years at the St Robert Bellarmine Seminary in upstate New York.
It had been 14 years since, as a juvenile delinquent, he had taken part in a raid on a convenience store and ended up in the juvenile wing of the local prison where he had refused to give away any information about the gang with which he had been involved. His brother Nicholas, who had had a calling to be a priest, warned him, "It's not about letting these people enjoy life, it's about letting them into your head. Once you hear their voices when you're about to make a decision instead of your own or, even better, God's, you're not living for yourself any more. You're living for them. You might as well be living for the devil."
These words "would be burned into his mind the rest of his life." So, after his brother had been killed, caught in the crossfire of a drug-related shooting, he had decided that he too wanted to be a priest, convinced that "the church's teachings can help people in their everyday lives." However, this does not stop him still indulging in the rough stuff when necessary.
Mark (Gordon) Wheaton (1975 - ) was born in Dallas, Texas. He studied at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A. in English) and Indiana University (M.F.A. in Playwriting). He began by writing for film magazines then went on to become a screenwriter as well as writing horror comics and video games. His first crime novel (Fields of Wrath, reviewed below) led to commissions for two further Luis Chavez books. He is married and lives in Los Angeles.
Fields of Wrath (2016)
Fields of Wrath describes how Father Luis Chavez had returned to the mean streets of his youth in Los Angeles, hoping to put his juvenile criminal past behind him. Although it is only six months after his ordination as a Roman Catholic priest, the brutal murder of a worker in Ventura County's vast farm fields compels him to return to a criminal childhood friend in order to unravel a massive conspiracy. Also teaming up with Michael Story, an ambitious Los Angeles deputy DA, Chavez goes undercover as a farm laborer to bring down an immense human-trafficking ring tied to one of California's most prominent and powerful families.
At first the story (which had started as a comic book pitch) jumps around too much, and is not only very complex but quite confusing. There are a multitude of characters and it is not always easy to remember who they all are - but it gets much easier to follow and is more interesting and even exciting when Chavez disguises himself as a Mexican virtual slave labourer and faces up to daily struggles in the fields.
There are some interesting characters, including the criminally inclined 14-year-old computer whiz kid Miguel, but the main weakness of the book is the unconvincing character of Father Chavez. We are told that he looks for "evidence of the hand of God" and that "nothing filled a priest with greater self-doubt than wondering if he allowed God to operate through him, in his pride, he has substituted his own will," but, with his happy acceptance of violence when he finds it necessary, and his almost total autonomy, he makes a most unlikely priest whose real motives and religious experiences are never adequately explained. Although he keeps thanking God for His practical help, on one occasion when a friend of his was killed, he reverted to being "the man he'd once been. He wanted to kill someone." In fact, he does shoot four criminals, before taking the hand of a dying crook (whom he has just shot) and praying: "O Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful Lord of Earth, we ask that you receive this man into your arms, " and inviting him to confess his sins!
There is some illegible double printed text on page 78 of the Kindle edition.
The author has his own (minimal) website and there is an interview with him talking about Days of Wrath on the Land of Books website.
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