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TO HUNT A HOLY MAN
Leaving the raw battlefields of Vietnam, To Hunt a Holy Man, cuts across the rich cultural landscape of Buddhist Thailand. Its characters are enmeshed in war-born adventure, danger, sexual encounters, and spiritual quests. Both Hunter and Holy Man have everything to win-but someone has to lose.
The Holy Man is a US Army Catholic priest who flees Vietnam. Longing to complete his spiritual journey, he disappears into Thai Buddhist monastic life. The Hunter is a God-hating, lone-wolf antihero. His plan to claim his trophy is thwarted by an alluring Thai policewoman, and a jolting religious experience. He is staggered, but is he redeemed? Or will he claim his prize and bring the priest back to Vietnam in shackles?
Much more than just a hunt, Fletcher skillfully presents the reader with an exotic and fascinating spiritual journey through Southeast Asia. He shows that, 50 years on, there are still powerful lessons to be learned from that infamous war.
To Hunt a Holy Man uses edgy language and noir images, but any flinching by the fainthearted will be salved by the story’s redemptive ending.
#1 Bestseller on Amazon
in Metaphysical Fiction
“To Hunt a Holy Man brings to mind the likes of Graham Greene and Brian Moore. Readers will be moved by the depth of characterization and plot which is as intriguing as it is important.”
–Ron Felber, bestselling author of A Man of Indeterminate Value
meet the Author
Before his debut as an author, Michael Fletcher has worked in international humanitarian relief programs for 35 years, primarily with the United Nations Peacekeeping and United Nations World Food Programme.
He served in Cambodia, Rwanda, Uganda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, East Timor, Israel, and Darfur-Sudan. He’s lived and worked in Thailand and Cambodia, and throughout Southeast Asia since 1971. Fletcher served in the United States Army for seven years, including three years with Psychological Operations in support of the Cambodian government during the War in Vietnam.
In addition to his BA from Arizona State University, he holds an MBA (Syracuse University), an MAR (Yale University), and a Doctor of Letter in Creative Writing (Drew University).
To Hunt a Holy Man is Michael Fletcher’s debut novel.
Frequently Asked Questions
I started writing the novel in the summer of 2018 and finished in the spring of 2021. So, about 2 ½ years of writing, preceded by several month of organizing research material (for example, Thai folklore which I used throughout the book, and chapter outlining. After the manuscript was “completed,” numerous editing and revisions – and rewriting certain sections – took several more months. It wasn’t really “publication ready” until the spring of 2023. Doing the math, that’s about 5 years total. Roughly.
I’m drawn into stories (as I explain in my blog spot #3) that involve the confluence of the Buddhist and Christian faiths — and the similarities that these faiths espouse. In To Hunt a Holy Man, there is an introduction to the faith background of the primary character (Coltrane, a former Catholic, turned God-hater when we meet him). And we are then held by a gracious hand of policewoman Pip, and her character presents the Buddhist traditions of Thailand as she guides not only Coltrane, but the reader as well. These two faiths are initially presented as separate and distinct belief systems, but later these merge and blend in a concluding act of spiritual transformation. This bridge between the two faiths is also realized in the arc of the third primary character of the novel, Father Goodcut, the AWOL Catholic priest and Holy Man who seeks – and finds – a spiritual home in Thai Buddhism.
I like the following paragraph, not because it was “good” or particularly noteworthy, but because it marked the turning point in the story for the Holy Man as he prepares to flee Vietnam: “The outward signs of his priestly vocation were abandoned in a wooden footlocker. Like a casket. He shed his blood-stained prayer stole, his clerical collar, and a photo of his investiture as a priest that was folded down the middle – as if the crease itself depicted his divided nature. Good man. Bad man. Sinner. Saint. Christian. Buddhist.” (Chapter 7)
I found that “time management” was always a difficult thing to do properly. Writing within the cracks of time between other obligation was never sufficient, so it was necessary to set aside large blocks of time to detach from the world around me and get into the creative space. I think this is a very common problem amongst writers and my experience is not at all unique. Another issue I faced was the ability to reach a decision point when I could say, with a great degree of confidence, that the project was finally “done.” There was always the temptation to open the manuscript and give it “just one more” thorough going-over and revision before I could say to myself, “Now, that’s just perfect.” It would certainly sound good to say so, but that never seemed to happen.
I have lived and worked in Thailand for over fifty years (since 1972) and have put down deep roots in that country. Over the years, I have travelled extensively in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia and Laos. While I don’t think one ever becomes “Thai,” I like to think that I have a fairly good grasp of Thai qualities, including the culture and the language. So, I hope to have conveyed not only the physical background of the country in the novel, but also the beauty of the people, their religion and culture. The Vietnam War era – and its aftermath in countries like Cambodia – was perhaps the most striking 10-year period in the last 100 years. The reverberations of that struggle are still being manifested in that part of the world. I drew a lot of inspiration for the story from personal experience lived in the region during that period, including my military and United Nations service – and from the cast of characters that emerged in those encounters.
I’ve played the guitar since I was 12, but realized early on that I had next to zero musical talent. I know all the basic chords and a few tunes, but never was in a band or group. In fact, I was, and remain, a lousy musician. But I have a very nice Gibson guitar which I’ve had from the beginning. I’m hanging on to that in hopes my progeny will do better. I much prefer riding bikes – and I don’t mean the peddlin’ kind, either! That’s way too much work. I get out on my Harley when I can, and the weather is good. Nothing quite like some quality time with my Milwaukee girlfriend to get the moods sorted out. I’d like to say that I read a lot. It is said by all the wise people I know. But I can’t honestly say that I do read that much. I simply have not found the time. The last great book I read was The Seven Story Mountain, by Thomas Merton – a hero of mine.
I would say that one should find the quiet space and think seriously about the story that’s been swirling around your head. Is it worth telling? If so, what format (a book, short story, novella)? Then start writing, and whatever you do, (1) avoid distractions, and (2) don’t try to get it on paper perfectly the first time (even the second or third time). Just write. Editing comes later. That said, the story has to be moving to a conclusion with each page and not meandering around the place. I once read an admonition from Steven King (On Writing) who famously said of outlines, “Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.” With due respect, I could not disagree more. (Then again, perhaps I am a “bad fiction writer.”) In writing a novel, I found it necessary to stake out the chapters along with their outlined content, from beginning to end. Such a process is nicely laid out in a book by John Truby, The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. I found it a very helpful resource. Of course, there are others to choose from.