David Downing on ‘Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel’


Ed: How and when were you first introduced to C.S. Lewis and the Inklings? What did you find most interesting and attractive about their work?

David: I first read both Lewis and Tolkien during my college years. Someone recommended the Narnia Chronicles to me in high school, but I thought I was far too sophisticated and mature at the age of 18 to be reading “kid stuff”!

When I finally dipped into The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe one summer, I was so enthralled that I read all seven Chronicles in a month. Then I sat down and re-read all seven of them again the next month.

I started reading The Lord of the Rings one evening in college when I had classes the next day, forgetting all my homework because I couldn’t put it down. I recall that it was about 2:00 in the morning when Gandalf was pulled into the abyss, and I almost had an anxiety attack.

Later in the story, when Gandalf reappears, I had a sense of relief and elation that seemed some small tincture of the joy of that first Easter morning.

I’m sure that part of my attraction to both Lewis and Tolkien is simply that both are master storytellers. But there is also a power of Goodness in their work. As an English major in college, I spent much of my time reading contemporary novelists who are experts at portraying troubled people–selfish, neurotic, brutish, and downright evil.

But very few twentieth-century novelists besides Lewis and Tolkien have the power to show us what good people look like–characters with integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others.

I’m sure this ability to portray good characters convincingly is derived from their Christian worldview, a sense that ultimately, it is not evil or chaos, but Goodness that reigns in the universe.

Ed: Prior to your novel, what scholarly and non-fiction books did you write about Lewis and friends?

David: I’ve written four scholarly books on C. S. Lewis: Planets in Peril (1992), a critical study of the Ransom trilogy; The Most Reluctant Convert (2002), an examination of Lewis’ journey to faith; Into the Wardrobe (2005), an in-depth overview of the Narnia Chronicles; and Into the Region of Awe (2005), a study of how Lewis’ wide reading in Christian mysticism enhanced his own faith and enriched his imaginative writing.

I have also provided the introduction and notes for the Wade Annotated Edition of C. S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (2014) and Wade Annotated Edition of Lewis’ Dymer.

Ed: What was the inspiration or genesis for your novel, Looking for the King?

David: When I speak on Lewis, Tolkien, and their friends, I am often asked, “Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall at an Inklings meeting?” or “What I wouldn’t give to share a pub lunch with C. S. Lewis!”

I am well versed in the biographies and letters of the Inklings, so I have sometimes wondered if I could help readers imagine what it might be like to meet these people in person.

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Source: Christianity Today