Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – One of the brilliant things about Chesterton is he could write about anything. You want a novel? I’ll write you a novel. You want a story about orthodoxy, about why you guys have your entire lives and the faith all screwed up? I can write you a book. You want a history of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas? I got it. Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: One of the brilliant things about Chesterton is he could write about anything. You want a novel? I’ll write you a novel. You want a story about orthodoxy, about why you guys have your entire lives and the faith all screwed up? I can write you a book. You want a history of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas? I got it. You want me to create a character that survives to this day, kind of like Sherlock Holmes, that solves murders and is a priest? I got that. I got it covered. As Dale explained, or it might have been Joseph that explained it. If you give this a little thought, life is a mystery. During the consecration of the body and the precious blood, we get the mysterium fidei, the mystery of faith. Faith is a mystery.
The genius of Chesterton is that he figured out – he probably didn’t figure it out. It probably just came to him while he was sitting in the publisher’s office, that he could make these mysteries out of, and put this priest, Father Brown, as the protagonist, as the hero. He would just take ordinary circumstances that everyone could relate to and then cause a tragedy in the middle of them. Then the hero, Father Brown, comes in to investigate, unravel the mystery, and prevent further tragedies from happening, and hopefully extract a little penance at the end. This is the genius of Chesterton. It’s Chesterton, though, that puts the detective mystery, he puts it into the genre that we currently have today. People say Edgar Allan Poe kind of – no, Poe really didn’t do that, not like what Chesterton did. He really did create the genre, didn’t he?
Kevin O’Brien: Yes, to a large extent. He created it – when he was writing the Father Brown mysteries, he was writing them as a sort of foil or a counterbalance to what Arthur Conan Doyle was doing. This was still in the early days of detective fiction. The brilliance of Father Brown, Chesterton’s priest who solves mysteries, is, unlike Sherlock Holmes, and unlike some of Edgar Allan Poe’s mysteries and detectives, Holmes was a savant. Holmes was brilliant. Holmes was analytical. Holmes noticed everything. He was almost a machine in the way he thought and the way he could deduce things. Father Brown is almost unnoticeable. In fact, Columbo, those of you in the listening audience who remember Peter Falk as Columbo, which was a brilliant TV series about a detective who appeared to be scatter-brained. He was sloppy. He couldn’t always figure out where he wrote his notes. Yet he was brilliant, and he was deceptively brilliant. Columbo was based on Father Brown. The producers of that TV show said that they were influenced by the character of Father Brown.
O’Brien: Yes, indeed. Father Brown was the first detective in detective fiction who was sort of the underdog detective, or the detective that you would never suspect had the intellectual ability to actually solve a crime. What Father Brown does in these mystery stories – Chesterton wrote 52 of them, I think, over the course of his career. They’re all very well written. Father Brown is not like Sherlock Holmes in that he stands separate from the crime scene and notices all the details, and he’s thinking ten steps ahead. Father Brown sort of enters into it. He understands human nature. He understands that anyone can sin, and anyone can sin in very despicable ways. He knows, as a priest who hears confessions regularly, what the human spirit is capable of, what we really are able to do. He’s more inside the situation and solving things as a participant and using his theological insight to solve the mysteries. That’s one of the things that makes Father Brown so interesting.
For EWTN, we came up with a Father Brown movie that they helped us produce, and in which I play Father Brown. I’ve done a whole Father Brown audiobook on the first volume, The Innocence of Father Brown, which actually won an award as best audiobook of the year in 2009. I’ve been devoted to the Father Brown character for quite some time.
Mike: Father Brown, the series, the television series on EWTN, I was telling the audience the other day, if you’re looking for something that’s not offensive, not objectionable, even though the BBC has its fingers in it, there’s nothing wrong with tuning in. You can watch it with the whole family on Netflix. They have five seasons of it on there. We started watching it. I’ve probably seen a dozen or so Father Brown mysteries. They’re all very entertaining. After a season, I have a lay of the land of who all the usual suspects are. Of course, you have the little, old woman who’s always following Father Brown around and taking care of him. Then you have the detective who always shows up and is always baffled by all this. It’s well-made television. It’ll have you wondering: Who done it?
As I’m listening to you describe Columbo, Peter Falk, I now remember the Father Brown aspects of him. He’d go to the crime scene and look around. He’s all sloppy in his trench coat. His hair is all disheveled and what have you. He’d have that notepad out, which looked like he’d just taken it and squeezed it with his hands and tried to mess it up. He’d get that pencil out of his pocket. He’d turn around to leave – he did this, and this was part of the character. It was so brilliant by Falk. He’d go, “Mrs. McGillicuddy, just one more thing.”
O’Brien: That’s pretty good, Mike. I’m going to do him.
Mike: “You said you left the refrigerator open – pardon me. My wife was always telling me about refrigerators. If you left the refrigerator open, then the milk that we just had in the coffee would be spoiled. You said you hadn’t been anywhere to the store or nothing since then. Now, I like my milk fresh, and that milk was fresh.” It was just brilliant the way he did this.
O’Brien: Mike, that’s pretty good. Listen. I’ve got to one-up you. I put Columbo in some of our interactive mysteries. [mocking Falk] “You were very close, but, sorry, Mike. One more thing. I’ve been listening to your show. There’s just something I’m wondering, Mike. When you have your guests on and you talk, I’m just wondering, this radio thing, Mike – I’m sorry, excuse me. Oh, by the way, I’m really impressed, Mike. The way you’re able to work on a microphone. By the way, were you present the day – now, I don’t’ think you’re guilty. You were there that day, weren’t you, Mike, when the victim – let me just write this down. One more thing. You wouldn’t mind confessing, would you, Mike? It would just save us a little bit of time. Would you mind?”
Mike: I got beat. I concede.
O’Brien: You concede. Good. Finally, I rang it out of you.
Mike: That’s a really good Columbo. People that are young are going: Who’s this Columbo? What are you guys talking about? You’d have to have been – I was probably 12, 13, maybe 14 years old when that show was number one. There were so many knockoffs after that trying to recreate the magic of and the genius of the character, number one, and then of Peter Falk pulling it off. The only thing you know Peter Falk from after that is – what’s the movie where he shows up and he’s reading the story to – The Princess Bride.
O’Brien: Yeah, he’s reading the story to his grandson.
Mike: To Fred Savage. Little Fred Savage is the grandson. We don’t hear very much from Peter Falk after that. Kevin, we only have a couple of minutes left. I didn’t prep you for this, but can you give the audience a live example of a Kevin O’Brien Father Brown murder mystery?
O’Brien: Of course, since I don’t have one in front of me, I’ll just have to ad lib a little something. I don’t know about the clues. [impersonating] “The one thing is, of course, you have Sherlock Holmes. The thing about Sherlock Holmes is he’s very focused. He knows exactly what he wants. Of course, Dr. Watson is a much more – Holmes, I don’t understand. How did you do this? Watson is more scatterbrained. Then, of course, Father Brown, the thing about Father Brown is he’s much more, he’s sort of gentle and he notices things, but he’s very kind to people because, of course, he’s a priest.” Then, of course, we have any other character who might come in. The idea would be, within about a minute or two, there’s a little mystery; something happens. Then there’s a small number of suspects, maybe three. If you listen very closely to the minute mystery, you’ll be able to tell: Aha! I know which one is guilty. All you do is then email the Pearcing Truth show and say: I know who done it. I got it. If you get it right, you win a Joseph Pearce book. I’ll play all the little characters. We’ll have these little radio mini mysteries. It’s going to be at the heart of every episode. Every episode is a mystery anyway, because you’re trying to figure out who the convert is. Just a little sample there to figure out who done it.
Mike: We’ve mixed up the – one episode is literary convert-based. Then the next is small is still beautiful-based. We’re alternating. I actually wrote the – I did what you do but poorly. I actually wrote the mysteries and had them voiced by our news lady. There are four clues in each one. I’m trying to lead the audience, kind of like what you’re doing. If you’re paying attention to the clues, then you should be able to figure out. This is the fun part about this. It’s all about the dialogue. You’ve got to pay attention to the words, the specific words. If you pay attention to the specific words and the specific dialogue, you can solve any and all of these. If you don’t, then you have no chance. If you do, then you have a prayer.
O’Brien: Mike, let me ask you, because I only heard the first episode. You’re telling me that – are you flip-flopping between the two, small is beautiful and literary converts?
O’Brien: Is that your plan?
Mike: Yes. So we go one – but they’re all Pearcing Truths. Joseph can talk economics as well – as a matter of fact, it’s more enjoyable, fun, and beneficiary for the listener to listen to Joseph Pearce to wax eloquent on economics than it will ever be to hear Paul Krugman or somebody who is an alleged expert on it. This is something that Joseph does, and he brings it out in his book. I think he said he wrote the book in 1998 or 1999. It’s in its fourth or fifth printing or so. He’s actually gotten pretty good at it. Here’s an example of my mystery. “I’m not square, but I’m not a ball either, but I am round. I’m made of metal, but sometimes made of wood or china, too. Regardless of what I’m made of, I’m always holy. If my usefulness doesn’t pan out, I can still be used as a great gift.” I’m not going to give the final clue because that would sell it out. That’s how I wrote these little, my version of the – what did I call them? The good, the true, the beautiful, and the small challenge.
End Mike Church Show Transcript