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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 630)...

    According to information found on this website, the prologue to THE HOLY is based on an experience you had as a young child. From reading PROVIDENCE, it seems pretty clear to me that other aspects of the book are drawn from your life, as well. Some examplesthe strong similarity between your experience in the garden at the Trappist monastery Our Lady of Gethsemani and Tim Kennesey's experience in the desert; the Chicago setting; and David Kennesey's background in educational publishing. I'm curious about the source(s) for other events in the book's narrative, though, particularly regarding Howard Scheim's early attempts to discover what happened to the old, "false" gods of THE BIBLE. What experiences/research did you draw on in writing about the rite Howard participated in with the Satanists Verdelet and Delices? What did you draw on for Howard's meeting with the tarot reader, Denise Purcell?

    ...and the response:

    Over the course of a lifetime's reading, I've looked into all sorts of things that have never appeared in my books or had any relevance to them, including occultism--not in any sense for the purpose of research but merely out of curiosity. Taking down The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, I see quite a few articles on modern witches and warlocks that I doubtless read in 1989 or 1990. Opening it at random revealed an article on Leo Louis Martello, an "American Witch" and "activist for civil and gay rights," who might well have served as a model for Joel Bailey (if I'd thought of him; in fact, I didn't think of him or consult the encyclopedia while I was writing The Holy). Howard's experience with Verdelet and Delices was based on general knowledge of this kind, and not on specific research or experience; aside from a few well known details of the Black Mass, the rite was pure invention. Howard's encounter with Denise Purcell was compounded of several things. I've visited psychic fairs; I've studied the Tarot (and at one time could do a very convincing reading); and the terrifying experience that put Denise Purcell off meddling with the occult happened to someone I know well, exactly as described. I might add that, unlike Denise Purcell, I have no "faith" in the Tarot; each of the cards supplies an array of alternate interpretations, and by careful selection among these alternates an experienced reader can produce virtually any desired reading, especially if the reader knows the subject or is familiar with the techniques of "cold reading" that work so well for John Edward on his contemptible "Crossing Over" show.

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