SEATTLE, WA, USA – The influence of elections has become a hot topic. Conclave, Tom Davis‘ fascinating debut novel, proposes election influence of a higher order: the election of the Pope.
Davis‘ story begins with the death of Pope John Paul 1 in 1978 and continues with a Tom Clancy-like story woven around the premise of “what would have happened if?” the first non-Italian in some five hundred years had not been chosen at the time the Cold War was looming.
And “what if” that election had not only been encouraged but also engineered by the US government in some way- thus potentially changing history in ways that we may even yet fully realize…
“This particular period of time in history- September 29, 1978 to October, 1978 (and Pope John Paul’s election on October 18, 1978) makes the setting for this story that much more interesting,” Davis said in an interview. “There was so much going on at this time”- including the Palestinian peace talks breakdown, diplomatic relations with China at the forefront, and the like. Davis was also very interested in the effect of Communism on what was taking place at that time since, he feels, the Papal election did play a role in and put some pressure on the Communist regime.
Combining Catholic theology, world affairs, history, action, and even a smidgeon of romance, there is something for everyone in Davis‘ clever, highly researched, and well-presented read. His story includes clashes between the KBG and CIA, with agents infiltrating even the Vatican.
Young army officer Carter Caldwell is sent to persuade American cardinals to use their influence at the upcoming conclave. Along the way, smart, attractive, and Catholic CIA analyst Katherine O’Connor. As Davis described: “Before the conclave is over, the Sistine Chapel will be bugged, a spy (spoiler alert!) in the Vatican’s kitchen will be murdered, and CIA and KGB operatives will exchange gunfire. As the most important figure in the Catholic world is finally chosen, one question remains: Will he survive long enough to become pope?”
Since Davis is not Catholic, he says “this project took a lot of research.” The book is filled with details about the Catholic church, the Vatican, and the life of clergy- both Catholic and Protestant- that really add interest to the story. What made Davis decide to write this story involves some comments he heard when he, himself, was actually a “Washington Insider.” While serving as a young army captain in the 1980’s, Davis had a project, as he describes it,“overcome by events” and got a luncheon invitation with someone “high up.” During the conversation this person mentioned, beginning, as Davis tells it, “As you know” (which means Davis would or could not, in any way know…) Pope John Paul’s election was orchestrated by President Carter’s national security advisor…” . . From innocent business luncheons great fiction ideas can grow, and over the years, Davis got to know some other people who encouraged him to spin the yarn.
The characters in Conclave could not be more convincing- some highly likable, others strategically contemptible. Davis says his characters are all modeled, to some degree, after people he’s known. In fact, he’s taken some of his own quirks and used those for his main character, “Carter Caldwell.” Davis says “Caldwell” is an army major who “is about 70% Ty Cobb, about 20% another friend who was also a DC insider, and about 10% myself.” “Kathryn O’ Connor” is drawn from two of Davis‘ female friends who worked for the CIA in their young professional lives. This journalist wants to know after whom the Sister Cummings character is modeled because that character is fantastic! (See sample text from book below…)
Davis says his Ideal Reader would be someone Catholic- particularly since 25% of the population in the US is Catholic. Davis thinks this story would be “naturally appealing to Catholics.” The story, based on earlier history could be considered more appealing to some people more in his own generation who remember the Cold War Era, and who also remember the TV show “The Americans.” However, with elections becoming more than just the usual and customary tallying of votes, this topic should be of interest to anyone at this moment in time!
As far as plot and theme, Davis adds that, in addition to telling an engaging and thought-provoking story, “If I wanted to point something out in particular, it’s that there’s an interesting relationship that always has to be reviewed between church and state.”
And, of course, we’re now a world that will forever be both fascinated by and suspicious of elections…
Reading like a Tom Clancy novel, Conclave delivers exceptional intrigue as it explores the full potential in religious-political overlap. This debut novel also includes a nicely presented chaste romance, and the story receives high praise from this journalist who is on the look-out for the sequel as well as the upcoming adaptation for a television mini-drama.
The selection below proves just how interesting and exciting scenes in Conclave have been set up.
Here’s a peek inside:
“The dark figure stepped gingerly around the table, slowly being illuminated by the farthest light bulb. Sister Cummings squinted through the brightness as the figure slowly came into full view. She now coul see that his face was covered with a dark ski mask and his hands with black leather gloves.
“Who are you?”she asked again,and again there was no reply. The dark figure continued to move methodically toward her. His right hand reached rearward, and Cummings heard a sharp click. The light reflected off the sharp edge of a shining stiletto switchblade. Now she knew what was happening.
Cummings slowly retreated toward the end of the table and reached underneath it. Her eyes remained fixed on the intruder as she carefully pulled up a large carving knife from the shelf under the table, rotating it slightly so that he could see the reflection from her blade as clearly as she could see his. He stopped briefly, his eyes focusing on her, slowly assuming a slightly crouched position, moving his hands outward, improving his balance, now fully aware that she was not going down without a fight…”
Conclave by Tom Davis
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform