Independently and originally published in 2012, David Biddle’s ‘Beyond the Will of God’ is a novel that artfully combines elements of the popular psychedelic movement with the plot distinctions of mysteries and thrillers. Biddle’s first novel, having also written for The Harvard Business Review, RAIN Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Kotori Magazine, as well as being a contributing editor with In Business magazine for over a decade.
Very few novels come across the review desk of the Psychedelic Press UK. When they do, they tend to be independently published, steeped in the history and popular culture of psychedelics, and David Biddle’s first novel Beyond the Will of God is no exception. However, while a good deal tend to focus on the inner workings of a protagonist’s mind, Biddle’s offering involves a multiple narrative stream, which, like any good mystery, winds its way together for a dramatic, revelatory and thought-provoking conclusion.
Something strange is happening in the heart of Central Missouri, among other things, Elvis has being increasingly seen back-from-the-dead, and a Christian Revival group are offering the promise of his appearance at a forthcoming meeting. The media are heading there in droves, including the tabloid reporter Franklin Harris, who although being sent to the backwater on a penance for a prior misdemeanour, soon finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that not even his creatively thinking editor could have come-up with.
Meanwhile, the murder of an Amish boy—in an area where murder is, at best, infrequent—has talented police Sergeant Jill Simpson on the case, and when a number of other deaths occur, the full-scale of conspiracy begins to dawn; a conspiracy that Simpson is inevitably wound up into. In a separate thread, PhD candidate Cecil Miller, studying parapsychology under the influence of the research chemical EGG-68, is also making his way to Missouri. Seconded by the Federal powers that fund him, Miller’s indisputable talents at remote viewing are deemed very useful, yet as he makes his way on assignment a voice appears in his mind, beckoning him to the farm of one Lucas Fancher. When he meets farm-girl Coral by the side of the road, a strange connection between them ensues and, moreover she tells him, she’s been sleeping with Elvis for a couple of years.
At the beginning of the novel, the reader is left rightfully confused as to what is happening, how so many disparate people could intertwine to create the story, and where the narrative could possibly be going. Only gently, to begin with, does Biddle feed you the information until the landslide finale suddenly cascades and a picture of completion materializes. However, what is a real treat, is that while the story itself concludes—in a way I’m not going to describe here, no spoilers—the conclusion feeds back many other fundamental questions; life, the universe, and everything. This works particularly well because they are not explicitly addressed at the beginning, and thus creep into one’s mind along with the whole picture of the story.
Thematically, one gets two psychedelically-inspired ideas. Firstly, there is the state of confusion that embodies both a number of the characters and the place in which the reader is asked to step through, and this comes across very strongly. Secondly, there is the creativity-thread, wherein psychedelics are a source of creativity and an access to ‘creative realms’. While a traditional work of psychedelic literature usually functions within the mind of its protagonist, as its domain of action, Biddle skilfully engages them within the social-fiction realm. Indeed, the psychedelic theme encroaches from within and without.
As a novel, which could be placed within both the mystery and thriller genres, Beyond the Will of God has all the right ingredients—murders, mysteries, and mayhem. It keeps the reader engaged, and the story is lucidly told by Biddle who, it should be added, has done a fine job considering it’s his first novel. For the lovers of fiction, of psychedelics and music, this is a great read.