The Hawk and the Dove was the first book I ever wrote; a novel.
It explores the theme of God’s power being made known in human weakness, and marks the creation of an imaginary community of monks in the (fictional) medieval St Alcuin’s Abbey on England’s North York Moors.
In writing that first novel I carried in mind two famous medieval texts – Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the delightful Fioretti of St Francis – a candid, endearing, often funny set of tales about his first followers. The Canterbury Tales is structured as a frame-tale; a device holding a series of different stories together by presenting them within one common setting – in this case the frame-tale is the story of a group of pilgrims on the road together, providing the structure linking the stories they each tell.
Because my novel also has a medieval setting, I took the device of the frame-tale, and The Hawk and the Dove is structured as a series of stories about the medieval monastery, linked by and embedded in the modern setting of a mother telling stories to her daughter. This also allowed the balancing of a masculine community with a feminine one.
A sequel, The Wounds of God, swiftly followed, in 1991, again shaped by the same frame tale structure.
The third book in the series broke away from this structure, which seemed inappropriate for the subject matter of that third novel, The Long Fall. This time the story was a close-up, slow, somber sketch of a man struggling with illness and disability. It deals with intensely personal relationship, helplessness, infirmity, and the narrowing down of a person’s life as it draws to a close. For this, a pared-down, simple structure seemed a better fit.
The books were first published in the UK, and in the US Crossway took them on. Christian fiction struggled to be taken seriously in the UK – in those early days, when I was a Local Preachers’ tutor in the Methodist Church, the Methodist Recorder refused to review them on the grounds that they were fiction so had no serious theological content. They flared and died in the UK, but in the US it was a different story. There they sold steadily for twenty years, becoming gradually widely known and loved.
After they’d been twenty years in print, the thought occurred to me to write another novel in the series. Crossway were pleased with this idea, and so I wrote The Hardest Thing To Do, quickly followed by The Hour Before Dawn and Remember Me.
These also have been well received, but in the years since the first books were written Crossway had run down their fiction department, and The Hawk and the Dove series had become something of an anomaly in their list, and so it was that they decided to take no further volumes, and the seventh – The Breath of Peace – was self-published. It, too, has been well received.
But natural changes in Crossway staff meant it was time to prune and re-organise the list, and so it came about that the whole series was offered to my UK publisher, nowadays Lion Hudson.
They have taken it on, creating a new set of cover designs for this new edition of the series.
The first three books – The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God and The Long Fall – will be available next month. The next three books – The Hardest Thing To Do, The Hour Before Dawn and Remember Me will follow in a few months, and The Breath of Peace comes out next year in this new format.
During this year I will be working on an eighth book, The Beautiful Thread, which will be added to the series next year.
In these hand-over months I guess their availability will be a bit patchy. The cover for The Breath of Peace in the new edition hasn’t yet been done, and the pre-order for that book is not up yet, so in the meantime it’ll still be available in its original form. The Crossway editions are now available only through second-hand bookshops (I think), and The Breath of Peace will be withdrawn from sale in its present form as the time for the new edition draws near.
For those of you who don’t know these books at all, I’ll tell you a bit more about them in future posts, but I think that’s enough for now – just keeping you up to date. I’ll be changing the graphics and links here on the blog to show the new cover designs, which I hope you like.