Award-winning Novel Tackles Church Sex Abuse Scandal

When Casperian Books released Kelland, Paul G. Bens’ debut novel which deals with the collateral damage of priestly abuse, not even the author could have foreseen the recent developments in the Catholic Church’s nearly two-decade old sex scandal. But is Bens surprised to find news reports implicating the Holy See and Pope Benedict XVI himself in the cover-up of abusive priests? “Not really,” Bens says. “Time and time again, the hierarchy of the Church has tended to turn a blind eye to the systemic problems within its ranks. Why would His Holiness be any different?”

While the troubles faced by the Catholic Church continue to make headlines across the world, the stories of survivors have seldom been the focus, and that is something author Bens wanted to rectify, if even in a fictionalized way, with Kelland. And since the novel’s release in September, readers have quietly been taken on a journey into the emotional–and sometimes physical–toll the Catholic Church abuse scandal has taken on those victimized by the clergy. “Being sexually abused by a trusted priest can be devastating, not only to the survivor, but to their family and relationships,” Bens explains. “It’s important that people understand the very real emotional repercussions of these horrific events.”

Combining elements of horror and mystery, the novel focuses four story lines, with each character meeting the titular Kelland, an enigmatic stranger who profoundly impacts their lives. Dark and unflinching in its examination, Kelland has amassed an impressive amount of critical praise, with Bens’ work compared to such prolific authors as Michael Cunningham and Stephen King. It has been called “perplexing and rewarding,” by Edge Magazine, and Stoker Award-winner Vince A. Liaguno of Dark Scribe Magazine–commenting on the small press origins of the book–declared that Kelland is “likely the best book you might not read this year.”

In February, Kelland took home The Black Quill Award for Best Small Press Chill (Editors’ Choice). In its third 3rd year, the Black Quills honor editorial and reader favorites in the fields of horror, suspense, thrillers and other dark works. Himself a survivor of priestly abuse, Bens feels blessed by the positive reception the novel has received. “The Black Quill is a great honor and I’m incredibly thankful for every kind word that has been said about Kelland,” Bens said. “I simply hope that people meet these characters, live their lives for just a moment, and feel the depth of courage it takes to survive a difficult past.”