Harry MacPherson, an Episcopal priest and writer of thrillers, is approached for help by Mark Raven, whose marriage to Roselyn Harry celebrated over twenty years earlier. To discover the father she's never known, Celine, the daughter of Mark's dead lover, Benedict, wants to read her father's letters to Mark. Her arrival from France risks compromising Mark's marriage to Roselyn, who is ignorant of her husband's past. Celine meets their son, Richard, and the children of male lovers fall in love. Meanwhile, Lidia Quintavalle also seeks Harry's help after she is charged with inducing the death of her wealthy husband, Serge. These alliances and misalliances are channeled into Harry's thriller, The Case of Dante's Bones, about a mad professor obsessed with burying Beatrice's remains with Italy's greatest poet. Under one fictional roof several stories are linked: a triple romance, a thriller based on theft and burial, a memoir of sexual love lost and recovered. The relations between Harry and Lidia, Lidia and Serge, Mark and Benedict, Mark and Roselyn, Celine and Richard are all caught up in the stridency of THE DEVIL'S INTERVAL. Resonating together, the stories sound the strongest chord in Western music, but not before the novel's jarring finale.
- “I woke up before the sun this morning and devoured half of THE DEVIL’S INTERVAL. It seemed better than plunging into the cold. Your friends will not have to pressure you to write your memoirs. We already have what we need: a perfect confluence of life and art.”
- “I finished my last sip of THE DEVIL’S INTERVAL. It was divine. Masterfully orchestrated, and an enriching and entertaining read. I would have finished the book sooner, but I’m very fussy about when and where to read sacred text.”
- THE DEVIL’S INTERVAL is a novel about a novelist: an Episcopal priest, whose writing is disturbed, first by the unscheduled call of a troubled former parishioner, and then by an unexpected letter from a woman out of his own romantic past. The plots motivated by these two interruptions, as well as the plot of the internal novel, will prove more than enough to capture the interest of the reader. But just below the surface are penetrating explorations of other matters—religious, psychological, and moral. The book has many lessons to teach about speech and silence; their uses and abuses. The abuses range from amusing malapropism to outright mendacity including everything just short of the latter: innuendo, half-truth, concealment, and mental reservation. On this level, the book proves to be a commentary on the saying in St. Matthew’s gospel: “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no’. Anything more is from the evil one” (5:37). This is an entertaining and edifying book, featuring ambivalent sexuality and precise syntax. It’s not a book for those whose minds or vocabularies are small.
- THE DEVIL’S INTERVAL has been a wonderful reading experience. There were interludes that I felt were written with me in mind, although you had completed the book well before we met. I thought I would find fire in the text. Instead, I found an ocean: moments of tempest, moments of calm. The novel draws with the promise of an open horizon, even as its rhythm enlivens the spirit and speaks to the heart. But it is finally the spirit that gives access to the peace at the novel’s depth. I feel you could write volumes with these characters. Although fiction is not a genre I favor, anytime you feel the urge to press me with your writ, please do so. I am better for having read you. I remain open to the possibility that at some other moment the best thing for me to do is to read another Roccasalvo.
The buzzer sounded three times on the intercom. It was a jangling noise not easily dismissed. Harry tried playing deaf in the hope he might ignore the interruption. He was in no mood to tolerate distraction now that the prose was flowing. He was in the middle of his novel’s opening dialogue, having spent the better part of two hours listing would-be characters. In the novel’s opening dialogue, he addressed the post-Soviet chaos:
“What ought to define the new commonwealth is a strong coition of interdependent states like the Swiss cantons,” announced Oliver Smutt.
“You mean ‘coalition.’” Prunella Dingle corrected while her sister, Hortense, nodded.
“Exactly,” Oliver continued. “And a clear national policy should accompany it. The former Soviet republics can’t keep courting democracy while staying married to dictatorship. They seem to osculate back and forth.”
“You mean ‘oscillate,’” interrupted Bernice Bickering.
“What did I say?”
“‘Osculate,’” she added with grammatical vehemence. “It derives from the Latin verb, ‘to kiss.’ Of course, Oliver, if you insist on coition among states, it’s hard to imagine without some osculation.”
“There’s no need to be crude, Bernice,” he protested. “It doesn’t become you. You know exactly what I mean. I was contrasting post-Soviet politics with the stable Swiss confederacy, which I deeply admire.”
“And I was being pedantically precise,” she alliterated. “Anyway, Oliver, I’ve never grasped your lopsided love of Switzerland. How is it possible for a country, so stunningly beautiful, to be so thumpingly dull. There’s nothing distempered or irregular, no morbid depths. It’s all resolved in a cheery harmony. The country resembles the watches it makes in Geneva: a sliver of metal, compact with parts, and accurate to the second till the year 3000. I much prefer the Italians for their boisterous meals, wild gesticulating, and sexual antics. It’s a symphony of high spirits. If you visit Switzerland for scenery, Oliver, I go to Italy for vitality.”