Interview session with ‘Words in Red’ author Colin Rank.
In his novel Colin Rank tells the intriguing story of Simon Ish Kerioth, a Temple recorder living in first century Israel. He is a very private man who has no intention of stepping onto any world stage in history, but destiny has other plans and is about to ensure his name is recorded in what will one day become the most famous book ever written.
Blackmailed by the High Priest into an assignment to gather damning evidence against a mysterious religious man with extraordinary powers, it slowly dawns on Simon that his evidence is beginning to resemble evidence for the man’s defence. What will happen to Simon – more importantly, what will happen to his evidence?
We talk to author Colin Rank about his writing process as well as the fascinating background of his debut novel.
What do you want readers to know about your life that corresponds to your book?
My interest in the subject matter in the book comes from reading the gospel stories in the New Testament repeatedly. There are not many books which ever receive that amount of attention but regarding the Bible, followers of whatever faith or denomination, lean into the writings of the Christian faith in such a way that the material begins to inhabit the reader as it becomes more and more familiar. It’s then that you notice things which would pass you by in a casual reading and it is these thoughts which inspired my thinking for Words in Red. I find the Bible a uniquely interesting collection of writings that hang together in a remarkable way. Considering that the authors often had never met each other, the collection has a strange synergy that make them appear weirdly like the work of a single ‘author’.
What was the process of writing the book like?
For me this was a new experience. I grew up using the written word to record my thoughts and musings. Then came the personal computer and later the mobile phone and like everyone else I learnt to adapt. However, my typing skills although learnt at an early age, are not as good as they could be, and I tend to make mistakes. The urge to correct them as I went along was irresistible; no doubt driven by some flaw in my character! I found this very disrupting in allowing the flow of ideas to come out on paper. I therefore discovered that recording my thoughts in a series of notebooks allowed me to get my ideas down at a speed which corresponded with my thought process. I found that to be much more conducive to listening to my thoughts. I then later typed up what I had written and edited it at the same time.
The basic platform for this novel grew out of the Gospel of Mark. This writing is widely regarded as the basis for the other two Synoptic Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Therefore, being the first and as it happens the briefest, it provided a useful framework. The novel largely sits within the story between the lines and fills in the gaps.
Do you have any other published books? Any books you are working on for the future?
This is my first book, but it wasn’t the first idea I had for a novel. I am working on another totally different story. One of the characters is based on someone who only recently died, and while they were alive, I did not want them to know that I was preparing a story that involved them. I now feel I have the freedom to pursue this idea. I like stories that emerge from real life. The strangeness of fact over fiction is to me, immensely intriguing.
What inspired you to write this story and want to share it?
There is something about the way Mark wrote his Gospel which leaves a lot untold and yet I couldn’t see why some of the content was there and why some content which I feel ought to be there is totally absent. If one stands in the shoes of the writer, one is frequently challenged by the thought that, had I been there I probably would have recorded the story very differently. It is the journalistic approach which I find intriguing. The subject is very clearly Jesus, but I feel I would have written the account from a very different angle. The Gospel of John follows a very clear agenda, and it is easy to follow what interests the writer; But Mark’s journalistic approach is unique. This gave rise to the thought that perhaps the content was taken down by someone who had no journalistic interest whatever, but who was recording the evidence for a very different reason. Maybe the person who took down the words of Jesus was doing so to gather evidence to use against him, but in a strange way this evidence became the framework for the evidence to support him! Hence the idea for this novel. The more I developed the idea, the more it seemed to make sense of some of the more challenging questions that have puzzled commentators for a long time, in particular understanding Judas Iscariot.
Are there any unique qualities to the book?
I am not aware that anyone else has proposed this idea before although I am no scholar on the subject. I am very ready to be proved wrong, but I am not aware of people taking a similar approach.
Are your characters totally fictional?
My characters are drawn from Biblical sources although some incidental ones are added. The principal character is taken from a comment that is frequently repeated by John the Evangelist who reminds his readers that Judas Iscariot is the son of Simon Iscariot. This is unique to John and begs the question why? It is not because he is trying to distinguish between other Judas characters in some way as he makes clear on another occasion. Is it because he wants to identify Simon in some unfavourable way? We are not told.
Is there any special significance in the title?
As I mention at the end of the book, the title refers to the words of Jesus which in some editions of the Bible are printed in red. The effect of having his dialogue highlighted in this way emphasises when Jesus is speaking and what he is saying. My introduction to a version printed in this way occurred when my mother gave me a new bible as a present. It so happened that the edition she chose had the words of Jesus in red. It had the effect of highlighting the content of what the writer felt was important in the things he was recording, and that began to intrigue me.
Thank you for the interview.
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About the book
Title: “Words in Red”
Author: Colin Rank
Plot: A thrilling adventure set in first century Israel. Simon Ish Kerioth is ordered to gather evidence to try a man with superhuman powers. When the true value emerges, a desperate struggle ensues. Simon hopes to secure the scrolls for all time, but at what cost?
About the author
Born the second child of three with two sisters, Colin Rank grew up in Sussex and was educated locally and in Somerset before leaving school at 18. For over 51 years, he enjoyed careers in the food industry, the motor trade, and finally in farming. Some consultancy work and charitable work followed before taking up a position as Chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance in Gloucester, a role he carried for 5 years.
Colin has a wide range of interests, from a love of aviation, cars, and motorbikes to playing drums, making films, sailing, and skiing. An active Christian, he has been a school governor, a charitable trustee, and a church synod representative.
Colin is married with three children and 10 grandchildren and spends many happy hours maintaining the house and garden and mending broken furniture for others. He loves turning wood and pottering in his workshop.