“The story of a very mortal and bemused former pastor turned private detective, The Churchgoer faithfully partakes of a California noir that will win over fans of the genre and make quite a few converts, too. It is, above all, the arrival on the scene of an excellent new talent in Patrick Coleman.”
—Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End and The Dinner Party
A haunting debut literary noir about a former pastor’s search to find a missing woman in the toxic, contradictory underbelly of southern California.
In Mark Haines’s former life, he was an evangelical youth pastor, a role model, and a family man—until he abandoned his wife, his daughter, and his beliefs. Now he’s marking time between sunny days surfing and dark nights working security at an industrial complex. His isolation is broken when Cindy, a charming twenty-two-year old drifter he sees hitchhiking on the Pacific Coast Highway, hustles him for a breakfast and a place to crash—two cynical kindred spirits.
Then his co-worker is murdered in a robbery gone wrong and Cindy disappears on the same night. Haines knows he should let it go and return to his safe life of solitude. Instead, he’s driven to find out where Cindy went, under stranger and stranger circumstances. Soon Mark is chasing leads, each one taking him back into a world where his old life came crashing down—into the seedier side of southern California’s drug trade and ultimately into the secrets of an Evangelical megachurch where his past and his future are about to converge. What begins as an investigation becomes a haunting mystery and a psychological journey both for Mark, and for the elusive young stranger he won’t let get away.
Set in the early 2000s, The Churchgoer is a gripping noir, a quiet subversion of the genre, and a powerful meditation on belief, morality, and the nature of evil in contemporary life.
“Had Ray Chandler written about 21st century San Diego and become interested in theology, he might have written a novel like The Churchgoer: witty, grim, and sunlit by casual wisdom. Lucky for us it was written instead by Patrick Coleman, Chandler's spiritual heir, and that rarest of novelists, a prose writer with a poet's heart. Part SoCal noir, part satire, part elegy, The Churchgoer is a canny literary mystery about addiction, masculinity, the loss of faith, and how little we can ever really know about one another in the end.”
—Rachel Lyon, author of Self Portrait with Boy
“Nothing is sacred in Patrick Coleman's utterly original debut—not religion, not faith, not love, not family—all of it can be lost at a moment's notice. The one thing left standing in Coleman's sun-bleached noir is hope, even for a cast of characters who are never quite what they seem. (And if hope fails, a little violence might do the trick.) This is pulp-fiction of a higher order, and maybe of a higher calling, the world of God and man clashing in a California beach town as unglamorous as the people who live in it, like if Kem Nunn found religion and then lost it, just as quick.”
—Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland and Gangster Nation
“Patrick Coleman's The Churchgoer examines the way we use our highest ideals to justify our darkest desires. It's an Elmore Leanord-esque snapshot of SoCal's seamiest locations and all the engaging crimes that take place there, while also a smart, elegant look at faith, religion, and the good and evil their intersection can create. A great page-turner with the biggest questions on its mind.”
—Charles Soule, author of The Oracle Year and Marvel's Darth Vader
One of Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer:
“Patrick Coleman combines evangelical malpractice, noirish cynicism, and seedy southern California underworlds in this debut literary noir.… With a palpable nod to Raymond Chandler, this forceful mystery is an exploration of religion, responsibility, and the inverted forces at play in the modern world..’” —Camille LeBlanc, Lit Hub.
One of CrimeRead’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer.
One of the Star Tribune’s 45 Books to Keep You Reading All Summer:
“Amen for this gripping debut! A prodigal ex-pastor’s compassion for a homeless woman sends him to the altar of a big church and its oversized religion, where he wrestles with the seven deadly sins.” —Carole E. Barrowman, Star Tribune.
“This is a California noir with a twist.… Suggest this … to anyone who finds poetry in dark-journey narratives.” —Booklist review.
“[R]eaders will be curious to see what the author does next.” —Publishers Weekly review.