OTG: An intriguing new Catholic publisher: Tuscany Press

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 15, 2014

Some months ago a surprising book came across my desk, a review copy of a novel from a publisher I had not yet heard of—David Beckett’s The Cana Mystery. The story revolves around the discovery of the “lost jars of Cana”, the jars used when Our Lord changed water into wine. The finder, Paul, contacts a linguistic expert, Ava, because there appears to be a prophecy of some kind in the jars. At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI announces his dramatic resignation.

The cover blurb continues:

Is there a connection? Ava and Paul set off on a deadly global adventure to Yemen, Egypt, Malta, and Rome searching for answers. Every step of the way they’re chased by Paul’s unscrupulous billionaire boss, a drug lord, and corrupt officials. A thrilling mix of historical and contemporary intrigue, The Cana Mystery keeps the reader wanting to know more.

OK, I admit it. I laughed (actually, I snorted) when I read the blurb, and I immediately dismissed the book as one more feeble effort to glue a Catholic veneer onto contemporary schlock. A prophecy in the jars of Cana? An evil billionaire? Indiana Jones gets religion.

But then someone whose literary judgment I sincerely respect actually read the book (now there’s an idea) as a kind of Summer lark. She pronounced it quite good: Strong characters. Deft plot. Thoroughly engaging. Actually quite easy to suspend one’s disbelief, which is a key achievement in the fantasy genre. Perhaps it is risky, after all, to judge a book by its cover….

The publisher of this novel, Tuscany Press, was founded in 2012 by Peter J. Mongeau in Wellesley, Massachusetts to encourage and publish fiction with Catholic themes. The chief editor is Joseph O’Brien, an experienced writer who lives and works on a homestead in Wisconsin; Tuscany also offers editorial services to budding writers. The Press offers some non-fiction works as well—at present, devotional books for Advent and Lent—under the Christus Publishing imprint. This year they are expanding into films.

In addition to creating Tuscany Press, Mongeau also established prizes for the best submissions in the categories of novel, young adult novel, and short story (and, most recently, film). The prizes are significant because they bring in good fiction for possible publication. This has been particularly true for the short stories. Three volumes of Tuscany Prize-winning stories have already been published, as has one short novel. Two novels unconnected with the prize competition have also been published so far, A Hunger in the Heart by Kaye Park Hinckley and, as mentioned earlier, The Cana Mystery.

For those interested in fiction which explores the human person in the context of faith, browsing the offerings on the website will prove fascinating. Tuscany Press even gives its answer to that elusive question: What Is Catholic Fiction? This is an intriguing new Catholic publisher, and well worth watching.

On the Good (OTG) is a service of CatholicCulture.org.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Sep. 17, 2014 1:00 PM ET USA

    I lost my ability to read fiction many years ago, but I think I will give "The Cana Mystery" a try. Thanks for the book review!