The Conduct of Saints is a battleground on which power, God, sex, and the Devil collide in the impoverished city of Rome during May and June of 1945. The German occupation of the Eternal City has ended, the war in Europe is over, the Bomb has yet to fall on Japan, and Rome is under the jurisdiction of the victors—the American, British, and French Allied Control Commission.
An American Vatican prelate and lawyer, Brendan Doherty, is involved in two crusades. With his horror of capital punishment, he means to avert the execution of the Nazi collaborator Pietro Koch. As Devil's Advocate, Doherty intends also to prove the hypocrisy of Alessandro Serenelli, the man who, forty years before, murdered the child martyr, soon to be canonized Maria Goretti. Converted by a vision, Serenelli has spent his life, in prison and out, in promotion of the beatification of his victim.
Memory-tormented, hard-drinking, a moral street fighter for what he is sure is right, both angry and compassionate, Doherty feels guilt for having done too little to save the city's Jews from Auschwitz. He engages in his causes and quarrels with Rome's pre-dolce vita, postwar society—people both fictional and, like Alessandro Serenelli, Maria Goretti, Pietro Koch, Pius XII, and film director Luchino Visconti, historical—until the priest comes to a reckoning with himself and with the serene, unshakeable saint-maker Serenelli.
"The Conduct of Saints is Davis' twelfth novel. His range is breathtaking. He's never a pedant; the novels rooted in history illuminate their time through human behavior. His technique is subtle, but never obscure. His intentions are always revealed at a purposeful pace. A reader will search in vain for a stray cliché, a familiar voice, a lifted reference. The Conduct of Saints captures the time and the place; it is a profoundly atmospheric novel. More important, it presents an unforgettable cast of characters. Once again, Davis' work commands our attention." --Huffington Post
"A strong example of an uncommon type of historical fiction, appealing to readers who like to see guilt punished or forgiven." --Kirkus
"Christopher Davis is a master at getting into the minds of his characters, and through them weaving his story. The author spares no one in conveying how “God, sex and the Devil collide in the impoverished city of Rome during May and June of 1945.” In The Conduct of Saints, there is little content that is bright or joyful, but the reader will come away with a sense of history in all its unvarnished and perverse detail...The Conduct of Saints is a compelling, complex, character driven story. The writer draws us into the halls of the Vatican, into the spartan and isolated or secretly lavish quarters of its troubled inhabitants, into the inner circle of people who can buy their way in and out of critical situations...Each chapter of The Conduct of Saints should be read and then considered, and perhaps read a second time, to truly appreciate the depth of Christopher Davis’s insights."--New York Journal of Books
CHRISTOPHER DAVIS has taught creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, Bryn Mawr College, and other schools. He is presently Senior Lecturer in the Arts emeritus at Bryn Mawr College. He has published eleven novels, three books of nonfiction, a book for children, numerous articles and short stories in national and foreign publications, and produced a play based on his National Book Award nominated novel A Peep Into the 20th Century. Davis has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant. He is the recipient of a National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Career Award.