RJ Whitfield


Challenging assumptions

Reimagining Christmas in modern Australia

What an incredible interpretation of the seasonal nativity scene.
I was intrigued to discover it’s set in Australia – my natural assumption was that it was somewhere in Africa. It just goes to show, don’t assume!
What attracts me to the image is how it turns so many stereotypes upside down, inside out and back to front. Another interesting point is the clearly recognisable shell logo without the company name mentioned. I turned to thoughts of oysters giving rise to beautiful creations from a horrid niggle/poke in the flesh or the South African perlemoen or mother of pearl shell. There are so many stories to tell from this reinterpretation of the nativity scene.

But that’s not all. In searching for the image online – I had only seen a photocopied version of it – I discovered this one:

Click on image for source location

Having conjured up a story or more around the first image, the second forces a rethink – perhaps a radical one, again challenging assumptions.

And I couldn’t help but think of The Shack by William P Young which has now been made into a film. I read this book ages ago and am thankful I did. I’m not sure I would read it now based on the blurb and the trailer which clearly places the focus on what the director or marketeers think will get people in to watch the film and make money. For those interested, the book is now classified as a crime novel whereas it was previously religious/Christian fiction. Today, looking at the blurb on my 2007 copy of The Shack, I can’t say I would have read the book based on this – I very definitely read fiction based on word of mouth, which places me in an interesting position as a publisher… (and it’s word of mouth which has brought this book to the ‘big’ stage ten years down the line). I’m not even going to attempt to tell you more about The Shack as I think it’s best read with no or few preconceived ideas, and definitely before you see the film.

Another self-confronting novel challenging assumptions of a religious nature is RJ Whitfield’s The Good Vicar. As I’ve said before, touching on themes I wouldn’t generally read but definitely worth a read or three for the depth of writing and thought-provoking content.

An author has the power to reveal or conceal creating a written image of the message they want to convey. Fiction writers have more freedom in this regard whilst non-fiction writers by limiting their descriptions and being selective open themselves up to accusations of bias. It’s your choice how much you let your reader assume, but it’s also worth being reminded that it’s not always good to judge a book by its cover or by its publishing platform.

First published 14 April 2017, updated 2024



A few books in the TSL collection give me horripilations:
The Good Vicar by RJ Whitfield, and especially
the Lucifer’s Child trilogy by Gideon Masters
And I really didn’t expect to find the word on a medical page!

If you’ve resisted following the links until now, horripilation is what goosebumps are called.

Amna Agib in The roots that gave birth to magical blossoms could have used horripilations when reference is made to the pleasant sensations felt in some of the stories. However, I don’t think the word would have flowed off the tongue or the stories carried the same weight had horripilation been used in place of her descriptions.

And it turns out the word is used in music too – a music genre.

One lives and learns.

first published 4 March 2018, updated 2024



If one wanted to identify a theme in the books I enjoy, it will most likely be Reconciliation. People finding ways to put aside their differences and come to a closer understanding of each other. It’s a theme dominant in TSL author John Samson’s work: Powerless and Shaka Are Dead (don’t forget The Good Vicar).

Some other books I’ve enjoyed and others I will look to read include:

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman

Antonia Hayes – Relativity

Various other books by TSL authors have elements of reconciliation: Death on the Vine by Linda Kane and Gestation by Gideon Masters.

first published 14 May 2017, updated 2024


John Samson

About John Samson

Having had friends and others comment favourably on his writing but not being able to find an agent, John looked to self-publish. Cold Fiction was the outcome. Having discovered TSL Pub, he is in the process of moving his self-published novels to us. Shaka are Dead was his first novel published by TSL. Powerless was his first written novel and is the second to be published. Reading Lady Chatterley in Africa is John’s third novel, was followed by A Donkey Called Oddsock and now The Fall of the Romance Empire.
John also writes under the name RJ Whitfield.

John’s writing draws on his South African upbringing, exploring themes around reconciliation between different groups of people and circumstances. He enjoys travelling to unusual destinations.
He has been writing since about 2005 and has been an active member of the Harrow Writers’ Circle since 2006.
Apart from writing, his other main love is music charts.

Books by John


Spiritual places

The most obvious spiritual places are generally regarded as religious places. How many books feature these special places? I’ve identified a few:

A church (of England) church in The Good Vicar by John Samson
St Paul’s, a Polish church in Ealing and various others in A Second Chance by Anna Ryland
There is a Presbyterian Church in Naomi Young-Rodas’ If it Falls

And a whole book about a church which became a VAD hospital during World War 1 – St John’s United Reformed Church by Northwood Community Arts (on request).

Linda Kane has a few churches and other spiritual places in her Luci de Foix series: Black Madonna: The Pope’s Obsession and Death is an Illusion.
Jo Wilkinson’s When Falls the Night and Leslie Tate in Love’s Register have spiritual places rather than a building, as does Kathleen Bates in Joyful Witness.
Megan Carter’s collection of poetry Amazing Grace is inspired by spiritual places while Beatrice Holloway’s Elusive Destiny deals with meeting the requirements to get into heaven in novel format.

first published 12 January 2017, updated 2024

RJ Whitfield, Novel, John Samson 4

The Good Vicar – RJ Whitfield #Review #book #suspense

The Good Vicar by RJ Whitfield is a book which has grown on me. I may have mentioned elsewhere that this is not a book I would have read by choice because it has an element of the super-natural which I tend to avoid. However, as proofreader, editor and then publisher I ended up reading the book more than once – I think about five times. This might suggest a bias, which I don’t deny, but given my tendency to avoid this type of story, the bias is reduced.

The book tells of a vicar, Andrew also known as The Good Vicar, having a vision to visit a paedophile in prison. The paedophile, Paul McCready, has had a Saul of Damascus moment. (For those not offay with Saul’s story, he was blinded by a light on his way to Damascus. This blinding experience convinced him that he needed to stop persecuting the Christians.) McCready wants the vicar to vouch for his change of heart and organise for him to attend the funeral of one of the vicar’s parishners. The vicar’s attempts to reconcile his vision with the reality of his position affects his home life as well as that of others. His faith and values are challenged along the way. The question is, how does he deal with McCready’s wish?

Each reading of The Good Vicar has yielded new insights into the story and it’s for this reason that I recommend the book. At its most basic, it’s a mild thriller. At other levels it touches on Christian religous topics and the super-natural in the form of The Rat, a figure which appears human but which has other powers. Attitudes towards those who are different, issues of fidelity and nature versus nurture are topics or themes which feature, challenging the assumptions society tends to hold.

See also:
There’s a rat in the kitchen
Books which stay with you
A good ol’ cuppa tea
Two versions of the same event

Have you seen?