The Churchgoer (Harper Perennial)
A haunting debut literary noir about a former pastor’s search to find a missing woman in the toxic, contradictory underbelly of southern California.
“He was finished with church, with God, with all of it. But to find the girl, he has to go back.”
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.
Praise for The Churchgoer:
“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
“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
“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
Patrick Coleman's writing has appeared in Hobart, ZYZZYVA, Zócalo Public Square, the Black Warrior Review, and the Utne Reader, among others. His debut poetry collection, Fire Season (forthcoming from Tupelo Press) won the 2015 Berkshire Prize. Coleman also edited and contributed to The Art of Music, an exhibition catalogue on the relationship between visual arts and music (Yale University Press with the San Diego Museum of Art, October 27, 2015). He earned an MFA from Indiana University and a BA from the University of California Irvine. He lives in Ramona, California and works at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego.
Tod Goldberg is the New York Times, national, & international bestselling author of over a dozen books, including the novels Gangster Nation (Counterpoint), The House of Secrets (Grand Central), which he co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, Gangsterland (Counterpoint), a finalist for the Hammett Prize, Living Dead Girl (Soho Press), a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Fake Liar Cheat (Pocket Books/MTV), and the popular Burn Notice series, including The Fix, The End Game, The Giveaway, The Reformed and The Bad Beat (Penguin), which were named finalists for the Scribe Award on three different occasions. Tod’s short fiction has also been collected in two acclaimed collections, Simplify (OV Books), a 2006 finalist for the SCIBA Award for Fiction and winner of the Other Voices Short Story Collection Prize, and Other Resort Cities (OV Books).