Take a sacred treasure. Add a secret conspiracy. Attach a name well known to scholars — Dante, Poe, Wordsworth, Archimedes, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, the Romanovs, Vlad the Impaler, “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,” whatever — and work it into a story that can accommodate both the Glock and the Holy Grail. If there’s any room left for the Knights Templar or DNA samples from Biblical figures, by all means plug them in.
That is how Janet Maslin aptly summed up the formula for creating Dan Brown-inspired pulp fiction that is (usually) equal parts conspiratorial, contrived, crackpot, and Catholic-bashing in nature. Nearly a year ago, while wandering through the local (and now empty) Borders, I had the idea of creating a little quiz that would test the finely tuned, highly literatre Pulp-Dar—that's short for "pulp fiction radar", in case you were wondering—of this blog's readers.
It's quite simple: below are thirty book titles, with short descriptions of each novel. Twenty of them are actual novels, all published within the past few years, many of them bestsellers; the descriptions of each has been taken from amazon.com and other sites, and edited and summarized without compromising accuracy or audacity. (By the way, while most of these novels are Catholic-bashing in some way or another, a few of them aren't. Full and accurate disclosure and such, etc.)
Ten of the following are faux novels that I have concocted through endless hours of arduous labor, deep thought, and continual recourse to my thesaurus.
You pick out and list the ten fake novels, without referring to Google, amazon.com, or your crazy Aunt Julia who reads this type of "literature"—just your brain, your memory, and your Pulp-Dar. I'll post answers when the time is right (that is, when I am fairly certain I won't be attacked by CDF-trained albino monks for doing so).
UPDATE: I've posted the answers on Ignatius Insight.
• The Dead Sea Deception: A lesbian police officer from London investigates mysterious deaths related to the Dead Sea Scrolls and a band of sinister assassins who weep tears of blood and believe themselves descended from Judas.
• The Secret of the Upper Room: A Novel: First-time novelist Abram Calaam has written a tour de force novel about the inner circle of Jesus' disciples (including several women) who, upon realizing their master had died on the cross, set about to build the most elaborate and breath-taking mythology in human history.
• Sanctus: A Novel: A monastery in a Vatican-like city-state that towers above the city of Ruin in modern-day Turkey houses monks inside who guard “the sacrament”, which is being sought by the ruthless hero, monks in green habits, and an ancient heretical group.
• The Second Messiah: When archeologist Jack Cane discovers ancient documents pointing to the existence of another messiah, he also finds out that both Israeli and Catholic authorities have reason to possess and suppress those documents, which contain stunning new evidence about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
• The Templar Legacy: A thriller about the Knights Templar, pistol-packing monks, and the search for ancient Templar archive that supposedly disproves the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and demolishes traditional Christian dogma.
• The Revelator's Legacy: While working on a dig on the island of Patmos, world-renowned archeologist James "Buck" Deen unearths a 2000-year-old jar containing a scroll that launches him on a breath-taking search for the truth about the Book of Revelation, the roots of early Christianity, and the most sacred beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.
• The Last Templar: After horsemen dressed as knights raid New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, lopping off heads and firing Uzis, clues lead to the medieval crusading order of the Knights Templars and to a priest–hit man sent out by the Vatican.
• The Vatican Connection: A complex thriller about a powerful secret weapon, a 2,000-year-old document that supposedly contains Saint Peter's denial of Jesus Christ, and a nebulous shadow group made up of church officials who traffic in stolen art.
• The Templar Throne: John Doc Holliday, an army ranger turned medieval historian, teams up with Sister Meg, a beautiful nun, to find a sacred relic, dodging spies from the Vatican, the U.S. government, and an ancient brotherhood known as Rex Deus.
• The Fourteenth Apostle: What if the Apostle Paul really wasn't an apostle after all? What if he was the creation of a pagan, Roman poet intent on reworking the myth of Christ for his own esoteric ends? Those are the premises of this riveting and intellectual thriller based on years of scrupulous research and a flair for intricate plots involving modern governments, ancient institutions, and secret societies.
• The Templar Salvation: An ancient trove of documents containing dark secrets about the early Church could see the light of day if a rogue Iranian intent on revenge against the CIA has his way. Constant suspense, ever-mounting body count, and interesting historical lore will keep readers turning the pages.
• The Magdalene's Gospel: Bruce Howler, a skeptical Yale philologist and famous gay activist, receives a mysterious package containing an ancient gospel written by "the Magdalene". He is soon embroiled in a dangerous fight to save the document and his life from a group of twelve Latin-speaking assassins who are sworn to protect ancient secrets, no matter the cost.
• The Templar Tantrum: This deeply researched thriller follows two intertwined stories: the nearly successful destruction of the Knights Templar in the fourteenth century, and the modern-day work of a secret cadre of Vatican cardinals intent on continuing the same destructive work. The second volume of the "Templar Triumvirate" trilogy.
• The Babylonian Codex: A Iraq War vet and a rogue CIA agent race to unravel the secrets that link a long-lost mosaic to a mysterious Biblical codex, in time to stop a deadly cabal of powerful zealots with a chilling plot to remake the world and bring on the Second Coming.
• The First Apostle: A British detective faces down the combined forces of the Mafia and the Vatican as he seeks to unravel a plot involving a scroll and diptychs that describe the crucifixion and beheading of two unnamed first-century Jews.
• The Constantine Codex: While touring monasteries in Greece, a Harvard professor and his archaeologist wife uncover an ancient biblical manuscript containing the lost ending of Mark and an additional book of the Bible. If proven authentic, the codex could forever change the way the world views the Christian Scriptures.
• The Phoenix Apostles: The opening of Montezuma's tomb in Mexico City and a deadly attack puts a journalist on the path to uncovering a shocking truth that involves a deadly 2,000-year-old trail that leads back to the death of Jesus Christ.
• The Messiah Secret: Assessing the contents of a lavish English estate, museum conservator Angela Lewis discovers a a parchment which describes the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. But can she avoid the nefarious plans of a mad priest, who doesn't want the treasure to be found, and a greedy industrialist, who desires it for economic gain?
• The Emperor's Bible: Former FBI agent Hank Lamb just wanted to relax on his cozy house boat in Miami after retiring from his dangerous work for the government. But an expected visit from a stranger from the Middle East sets off an electric series of events that has Lamb asking questions about the origins of the New Testament, the real history of the papacy, and the shadowy group that is intent on silencing him.
• Elisha's Bones: Professor of antiquities and skeptic Jack Hawthorne, is hired to find the bones of the prophet Elisha, and soon discovers clues to a shadowy organization and a deadly conspiracy older than the Catholic Church.
• The Marks of Cain: American David Martinez and Englishman Simon Quinn become involved in two strands of a unified conspiracy that has implications so terrible that the Catholic Church is willing to conspire with a terrorist to conceal them.
• The Curia Code: A young Irish priest, Father Ricky McFarlane, has been assigned to work in the secret Vatican archives. Once there, he falls in love with a beautiful young professor, Joy Chittinger, and discovers a secret document that threatens to shake his faith and the very foundations of the Catholic Church.
• The Breath of God: A religious studies grad student who is interested in the secretive, shocking development of first-century Christianity seeks answers in the Himalayas and the legend of Issa, a boy who made a spiritual journey through India some 2,000 years ago.
• The Cardinal's Mission: When Cardinal Timothy Drakeland of Chicago disappears after leaving a dinner party, his nephew, Eric Carlson, suspects he has been kidnapped by a secret Vatican cabal pretending to be Masons, leading him to London, Scotland, Paris, Rome, and the inner recesses of the Papal residence.
• The Knowledge of Good and Evil: A fast-paced thriller of a former priest and the woman he loves traveling the world to find clues to a monk's lost discovery, chased by agents of an ancient Order sworn to prevent such challenges to the Church, at all costs.
• The Deadly Scrolls: A beautiful young doctor, Megan Handow, is entrusted with the final, shocking request of a dying man who claims to be a descendant of Jesus and an Egyptian princess. A fast-paced, globe-trotting thriller that combines conspiracy, Church history, and complex characters in what has been described as "a Dan Brown novel for real historians and theologians".
• Labyrinth: A volunteer on an archaeological dig stumbles onto a cave with two skeletons, strange carvings, and a stone ring. Aided by dreams, she discovers the shocking story of the Crusades, the Cathars, and the quest for the Holy Grail.
• The Secret Supper: Set in fifteenth-century Italy, this thriller tells how Inquisitor Agostino Leyre was sent to investigate rumors that Leonardo da Vinci was concealing heretical messages in "The Last Supper".
• The Didache Deception: Jesuit priest Father Nolan Fray has been abruptly suspended from his research into early Church texts in Paris without warning or explanation. And when he is nearly killed near the Eiffel Tower by a dark-robed assassin, he realizes how close he was to uncovering ancient secrets that threaten the most powerful men and Christian doctrines in the world.
• The Unholy Grail: A Jesuit priest and a female religious professor who is having a crisis of faith, are thrown into a conspiracy that challenges accepted Church doctrine as they research a secret gospel written by Jesus' brother, James, and are caught up in the dangerous conspiracy surrounding it.
Answers can be accessed on Ignatius Insight.