Here’s a Different Protagonist for a Thriller: a Deacon

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He has worked all over the world, from foreign relations assignments to speech pathology to motivational speaking, but another career path has embroiled Redlands resident Roger Burgraff in murder, blackmail, and the darker side of the human soul.

That career is in fiction, fortunately: In May, Burgraff published a thriller, “Deacon’s Winter,” about a Catholic deacon who struggles with crime, dirty politics and his own faith in the tough Chicago neighborhood where he grew up.

The opening words of “Deacon’s Winter” set the scene:

“From the moment a bloody and battered woman came into my church for refuge, I was drawn into a web of blackmail, torture, murder and corruption of the highest order in Chicago politics. I’d have to put aside my own crisis of faith and help her. It was a necessary part of my calling.”

Burgraff is a cradle Catholic who grew up in Chicago, and a longtime fan of the thriller genre “” but in recent years he has been throwing books away half-read because the protagonists haven’t grabbed him.

“I got to thinking that a Catholic deacon would make a wonderful character because of the ways they come in contact with the community,” Burgraff said.

He likes to write about the things he knows, he said, and the places where he has a feel for the environment. The book’s protagonist is a product of the Chicago streets, Burgraff said, “and the contacts he’s retained — as well as the moves he learned as an MP in the Army — help him survive, and, in his own way, do the work of the Church.”

He said Deacon works within a secret society that has developed “a unique system of ridding the church of sexual predators.”

The woman who takes refuge at the church turns out to be a high-end madam who is blackmailing mayoral and gubernatorial candidates. Bad guys discover her hiding place, injure Deacon and take the madam with them. She is later found murdered, wearing Deacon’s shirt, and he becomes a suspect.

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