Friday, April 28, 2017

Ham and Cheese Christian Novels: A Second Look at Debra White Smith

So when I read Smith's Austen series, previously, I said that they could be a bit cheesy, and were better fluff than anything, but didn't reach the ridiculous levels of anviliciousness that other Christian novels have.

Well, not so much a lie as...a purer, more innocent time.

Don't get me wrong. I still maintain that Smith's novels are good fluff reading, especially if you're, say, trying to get through finals involving environmental fiction with your sanity intact. (More on that later.) But re-reading them really brought out all the bad writing and super ridiculous villains Smith uses.

Smith comes from the "said is a word for plebeians" school of writing, in which her characters do almost everything but "say" things. She focuses on little details that...don't really add to the scene, such as a character, in the midst of a tense, emotional moment, gazing at the hot dog seller in the park. Like, the hot dogs get their own description.

Also, the copies of the books I have all seem to have had a bad editor who misses really obvious grammar problems. Those, in fact, were more distracting than people hollering and wailing and grimacing words (how do you grimace words? I don't know how that works) and hot dog distractions.

But the big problem, and this is a problem so many writers have, are the strawmen villains. Oh, those delightful strawmen villains. Such as the complex and vivid Mary Crawford being reduced to Sexy McSeducerton, who wears scandalously short skirts and her perfume is...GASP...called "Sexy".


(I can only go five minutes without making a Doctor Who reference.)

However, I still maintain that my favorite villain is her Mr. Elliott analogue, who likes to "chase his ice cream with a little heat". Seriously, our villain is introduced as evil because he is drinking whiskey.

Of course, I would advise him to try Jackscream instead.


  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 lb. good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 c Jack Daniels
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 C cold heavy cream
  1. Heat the milk until bubbles rise around the edge of the pan.
  2. Remove from heat, add vanilla, cover, and steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Melt the chocolate with the whiskey on low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thoroughly combined; gradually whisk in the warm milk.
  5. Pour back into saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened; temperature should be 170 degrees.
  6. Strain the custard through a fine mesher strainer and let cool.
  7. Stir the melted chocolate mixture and cream into custard; cover and refrigerate until chilled.
  8. Freeze the ice cream in ice cream maker; transfer to a freezer container and freezer for an hour or two to firm before serving.

I have no doubt I have already earned the "Debra White Smith Evil Badge of Evil". When do I get some minions? Brent Everson has Penny Clay. They spend a good chunk of time genuinely cackling over their evil schemes.

Maybe hindsight is 20/20. Or maybe I was so overloaded on strawmen and anviliciousness from the Ecofiction class that I noticed it more.

Oh, don't worry, environmental fiction. You'll get your turn.

Looking at you Ernest Callenbach. Side-eyeing you so hard right now.

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