“The Church has 2,414 Canon Laws, and I never met one I liked …. I found the God epitomised in these laws to be harsh, legalistic and only reluctantly forgiving … The Code’s God is the antithesis of the God whom Jesus presented to us as our Father.”
After spending twenty years as a Roman Catholic Priest, William Kienzle left the church in 1974, largely because the diocese refused to marry divorcees.
He subsequently married a copy-editor to whom he’d announced his love a year before he left the priesthood (but he insisted this wasn’t the reason he left). He then found a job as editor of MPLS magazine in Minneapolis, most of which he and his wife had to write themselves, often using the pen-names Mark Boyle and Fiona Lowther.
After two-and-a-half years he moved to Kalamazoo to become Assistant Director of the Center for Contemplative Studies, run by the Trappists, which was subsequently moved, lock, stock and barrel, to the University of Dallas in Texas, with Kienzle as Director. Both he and his wife liked the university and the Texans, but they didn’t like Texas. Nine months later, he and Javan were on their way back to Detroit. By then, his first Father Koesler novel had been published.
“I was aware,” he explained, “of the storied advice to would-be authors: Go with what you know. What I knew best was Catholicism and the priests and nuns who populated that faith. How to put that experience into a murder mystery? A bunch of priests and nuns going around killing people? Hardly likely. What about someone killing priests and nuns? That was it. I was off and running … So I wrote what became The Rosary Murders.”
The book was made into a film featuring Donald Sutherland in 1987. Kienzle said, “I feel I stand in a long line of authors who are not enchanted by film adaptations of their works. I was naiive. Since the movie was filmed entirely in Detroit and a friend was the producer, I thought I might be welcomed on the set…” but this was not what happened. “We both wanted to forget it,” said Kienzle’s wife. “No way was the author to get his hands or his eyes on the script.” Kienzle himself heard about the completed film and its added love interest from his friends, but chose not to see it. As he explained in a letter, “Since I am still using many of the characters, I did not want to risk clouding my image of them with someone else’s notions.”
William died of a sudden heart attack in 2001. RIP
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“It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”
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