I've just finished a fascinating novel called Toward the Gleam which gives me confidence that Catholic fiction is alive and well. Author T.M. Doran creates a "what if" world based on the proposition that Middle Earth actually existed as a real, ancient civilization. The protagonist, John Hill, is an Oxford professor and veteran of W.W. I, who discovers by accident (during a terrifying night in a dark cave where he's taken shelter from a storm) an artifact from said civilization. It is a gleaming metal box of unknown material containing an ancient manuscript describing a time filled with strange creatures and dangerous adventures. It becomes Hill's lifetime passion to translate the unknown language and discover whether the work is fact or fiction. But there is someone else interested in the book as a key to unleashing power over men and he will go to any lengths to discover Hill's secret and plummet the depths of his research.
Those with a passion for Tolkien will enjoy this creative story where famous people from the past mingle in cameo scenes with Doran's fictional characters to help unlock the mysteries of the ancient world. On a few occasions I felt another real person was introduced just for the author's amusement. A brief discussion of "Dorothy's" fantastic murder scheme takes place among John, Jack, and Owen in the (Inklings') pub, the Bird and Baby which is a clear allusion to mystery writer Dorothy Sayers. I won't identify the others. As I read, half the fun was seeing these celebrities, identified only by first names, pop up with words of wisdom (and clues) for our hero.
If you want a thoroughly entertaining romp through a real/imaginary world of mystery and menace, pick up Toward the Gleam.It's great fun. And if you figure out the riddle of the locked room it contains, you're smarter than I am. Here's the book trailer. Enjoy!