I began to draft The Judas Case in the last week of
November 2013. This followed a frantic
three weeks of plotting, note-taking, character-discovery and scene-setting, all
stimulated by a single thought that had come to me one evening in a budget
hotel-room in Coventry: what if Judas
had been working for the Temple police all along?
At that point the idea of writing fiction about the historical
Jesus had long since been put aside. I
was on the point of drafting a novel about something else entirely, set not in
1st Century Jerusalem but 21st Century London. Then my subconscious, obviously sensing that I
was about to commit a fatal creative mistake, sidled up and jolted me with the
solution to a question I thought I’d given up wrestling with nine months
earlier: how do you make fiction out of
a life about which virtually nothing is known but practically everything is
I had wanted to make fiction out of gospel for a very long
time – the thought first occurred to me when I spent the summer of 1980
travelling around the eastern Mediterranean and I imagined, Dunning-Kruger naif
that I was, how wonderful it would be to write about a life in which psychology,
social realism, myth and theology all rolled along in a harmonious whole.
The long road to Coventry November 2013 really began a
year after that Mediterranean summer, in Greensboro North Carolina. In the middle of a conversation with the
great Theodore Hines, a
man of deep wisdom and a bewilderingly rich intellectual hinterland, we got on
to the subject of Vietnam. Not the American
involvement, but the French colonial regime.
He mentioned that he had once read an interview with the commander of
the French paratroopers at Dien Bien Phu, whose experience was turned into
fiction in The
Centurions. The paratroop
colonel was a devout Catholic. Given
that, and given his experience of fighting a colonial war, he was asked - if he
had been a Roman centurion in 1st Century Judea, under Pilate’s
command, how would he have dealt with Jesus?
The colonel did not hesitate.
“I would have had him quietly murdered up in Galilee,” he
And that, completely unrecognised at the time, was the seed from
which the idea of The Judas Case shot.