Kathryn Lively - Author

With a K. And a Y.

Guest Blogger: Tom Mach

I am proud to host author Tom Mach on my blog today. Tom is here to talk about his newest novel, An Innocent Murdered.

Comment on Tom’s post today for a chance to win a $50 Amazon.com gift card!

I think it was back in the 1980s when I started reading and hearing news items about Catholic priests who were accused of molesting children and how pastor and bishops failed to report them to the police. Instead, these priests were assigned to different parishes instead of being hauled in for justice. This was a horrible thing for me to contemplate because parishioners trusted these men and did not have a problem in allowing them to be alone with their own children. But later I came across other articles (I can’t now cite specifically these sources) that questioned whether public opinion was painting all priests with the same broad brush. A number of people left the Catholic Church because of a deep distrust of all priests–even though these men represented a very tiny minority of all priests.

Therefore, in the 1990s, I met a police detective to give me advice on how a detective would work on a case of a suspected pedophile priest. The meetings I had with this detective were productive in that I got a better idea of how a detective might handle such a case and understand the day-to-day operation of a detective in the roles he had to undergo and the kinds of evidence he needed to obtain. My intention at that time was to point out how a false accusation, asseverated by a news-hungry media, could result in a priest’s murder. Thus, An Innocent Murdered (but under a different title) was born. But I was uncomfortable with that original draft for two reasons: (1) the whole subject of child molestation sickened me, and (2) the detective I had created, Matt Gunnison, did not have a soul–that is, his entire reason for living was to solve the priest’s murder. He had little sympathy for the situation, had an attitude problem, and didn’t go through any pain himself. I hated that detective and I especially didn’t know how to handle this tender issue of child molestation. I felt I was writing a novel about nausea, diarrhea, or some other highly unpleasant subject. Hence the novel lay hidden and unpublished for a long time–until two years ago, when I overhauled just about everything.

During all those many years while the original manuscript lay dormant, I developed my craft for creating very believable characters. They came alive for me. For instance, in my debut novel, Sissy!, I created a 19-year-old woman named Jessica Radford who gets off a stagecoach in 1862 Lawrence, Kansas and from there on in, takes on a life of her own, being a somewhat outspoken an abolitionist, a woman without fear. She was so real that one day, a friend of mine asked me where Jessica Radford was buried and he was amazed when I told him she was a fictional character.

It was then that it was confirmed that I could create great characters. People who read Sissy! and my subsequent books told me how real my characters seemed. When I took a new look at my previous novel about the unpleasant molestation story, I threw at least two-thirds of it away, along with some of my important characters. When I rewrote it as An Innocent Murdered, the story changed significantly. While something lurked in the background about a molestation charge, the story centered on the murder of the priest itself. The molestation was like a whisper while the murder itself was a shout. I changed Matt Gunnison, the detective, to be a more convincing character–likeable, tough, a man with deep-seated anger about a person who had murdered his teenage sweetheart years ago.

In a way, the inspiration for Matt was me. I took my own persona apart and blended it in with the kindness of a dear friend of me who had died, with a real detective I had met, and with a dear priest who I knew in a Catholic high school. I suppose television sitcoms may have influenced me to write about the two women in my novel, Cassie and Heater, who had a romantic attachment for each other. But their lifestyle was a complete reversal from another character in my novel–Susan Stratford, a former nun who dearly loved God but is conflicted by the fact she never experienced sex and wanted to. (Maybe that’s a partial reflection of me since I went to an all-boys Catholic high school and was scared to death of girls at the time.)

As far An Innocent Murdered is concerned, I was inspired to write it because I wanted to tell the story not only about an innocent young girl who was murdered but about an innocent priest who was also murdered. I wanted to show that while lynch mobs at the turn of the 20th century had all but disappeared, we still had “lynch mob” mentality in today’s world. We had people who would judge another person’s guilt by appearances only and not by fact. I wanted readers to see how wrong that was by telling them a story that would hook them and mesmerize them from the beginning to the very end.


Tom Mach wrote two successful historical novels, Sissy! and All Parts Together, both of which have won rave reviews and were listed among the 150 best Kansas books in 2011.Sissy! won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award while All Parts Together was a viable entrant for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Award. He also wrote a collection of short stories entitled Stories To Enjoy which received positive reviews. Tom’s other novels include: An Innocent Murdered, Advent, and Homer the Roamer.

His poetry collection, The Uni Verse, won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. In addition to several awards for his poetry, Writer’s Digest awarded him ninth place in a field of 3,000 entrants. His website is: www.TomMach.com. He also has a popular blog for writers of both prose and verse at http://tommach.tumblr.com.

Book Blurb: Father O’Fallon has been murdered, and police officer Jacinta Perez is arrested and charged. Detective Matt Gunnison, however, is not convinced and with the help of Susan, an ex-nun, he discovers a fascinating link between the priest’s death and the death of a child 25 years ago. Will Matt be able to solve both murders? See video: http://t.co/H1siZOg.


Still facing the wall, the priest began to sob. “Can’t we talk about this?”

She slipped the Smith & Wesson into her pocket and removed a knife from her bag. “There’s nothing to talk about, you son of a bitch.”

He dropped his hands for a moment. “Please let me at least say a prayer.”

“Go ahead and beg for God’s mercy, you pervert!”

He made the sign of the cross with his crucifix. “Oh my God,” he muttered, “I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee.”

As she slashed his throat he made a high-pitched squeal. His body slumped to the floor. She plunged the knife into his abdomen. He made a gagging sound from his throat as if he were drowning in his own blood. She plunged the knife into him again. And again. And again.


  1. Thank you for hosting Tom today!

  2. The more I read about this book, the more interested I become. Especially since the murderer is a woman. It will be interesting to discover her identity.

  3. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing your process in revamping a story idea that you were having trouble with.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at gmail.com

  4. Okay: SHE has a gun & SHE plunges the knife in. I am so looking forward to reading AN INNOCENT MURDERED.


  5. Very interesting post by Mr. Mach, and I’m glad to see his comment of “even though these men represented a very tiny minority of all priests.”

    I would be interested to see how the character of the detective was created. Does he have a bias one way or the other? “All of these priests are perverts” or “I’m sick and tired of everyone portraying priests as perverts.”

    It’s a touchy subject, but as long as the focus of the story is on the detective it sounds like it’s a story that can be told.

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