Creative alliance

Author enlists help of Charlestown neighbors to complete new book

Created date

September 17th, 2019
Arthur Jones turned to his Charlestown neighbors for help with his latest book: The Jesus Spy. (L to R) Carol Davisson, Arthur Jones, Bill Bettridge, and Pat Bettridge.

Arthur Jones turned to his Charlestown neighbors for help with his latest book: The Jesus Spy. (L to R) Carol Davisson, Arthur Jones, Bill Bettridge, and Pat Bettridge.

Aside from a maintenance-free home and a wealth of on-site amenities and activities, one of the great things about living at Charlestown is the number of diverse and talented people who call it home. 

So, when Arthur Jones, an accomplished journalist and author, needed a reader for the final draft of his fourteenth book, The Jesus Spy, as well as an artist to design the book’s cover, naturally he turned to his neighbors. 

Like minds

Bill Bettridge, former chair of UMBC’s English department and his wife Pat, a retired high school English teacher, were at the top of Arthur’s list. Ironically, a few years before meeting at Charlestown, Arthur and Bill had a chance encounter at The Orchard Market & Café, a Persian restaurant in Towson, Md. 

“As my wife and I walked into the restaurant, I noticed a car with the license plate, ‘Beowulf,’ says Arthur. “After we moved, I saw that same car here at Charlestown. I began searching for a reader for The Jesus Spy and discovered the owners of the car were Bill and Pat, and so they were the first people I approached.”

At the time, Bill was working on his own book, I Take My Pen in Hand, a collection of nineteenth-century letters written to his great-great-grandfather from family members who left Ohio and moved west. 

“Arthur brought me some pieces, and my wife and I read them and encouraged him to go on, making suggestions and so forth,” says Bill. “He asked if we thought what he had written was worth proceeding with and I assured him it was. It was great fun.”

Just two doors down from the Bettridges lives Carol Davisson, a lifelong artist and retired art teacher. Bill and Pat introduced Carol to Arthur so they could talk about designing the cover for his new novel. 

“I had done illustrations before but never a book cover,” says Carol. “We discussed his ideas, and he gave me some sketches to give me a general idea of what he was after, but he pretty much gave me free rein.”

Set in first-century Rome and Judea, The Jesus Spy is a historical thriller that follows a Roman spy chief as he tries to determine whether the Messianic preacher from Nazareth is a threat to Rome’s Judean occupation. 

“Despite the title, it’s not a religious book,” says Arthur. “It’s a story about what the trial and crucifixion looked like to someone who—like the spy chief—was not one of the preacher’s followers and how it affected him later. In ancient Greece, Parthia, Rome, and the Middle East, such trials and crucifixions were regular, public events.”

Years in the making

Arthur originally penned The Jesus Spy in 1990, but his career as an international journalist left little time for leisure writing. 

“I simultaneously wrote economic stuff, and at the same time, I was very dedicated as a Catholic journalist in issues such as poverty, race, oppression and that sort of thing,” says Arthur, whose writing has appeared in Forbes, Financial Times, World Trade, National Catholic Reporter, and Catholic Star-Herald. “At the end of the day, there wasn’t much time for my own endeavors.”

Born in Liverpool, England, Arthur attended an Anglican boys’ school. At 16, he began serving as a reporter’s apprentice, which would set in motion his calling as a journalist. 

“In England, we have a system called City & Guilds, which provides technical training for students. So, if you wanted to be a lawyer, a charted surveyor, an engineer, a journalist, a carpenter, a baker, and so forth, you had to find someone who would take you on as an apprentice,” says Arthur. 

In the course of his career, Arthur interviewed two presidents, two princes, and five prime ministers but says it was all in a day’s work. 

“You might think, ‘Wow, what a life!’ But for me, it was just a job. It was how I earned my living, and it sounds much more glamorous than it was,” says Arthur. 

Since retiring from journalism, Arthur now has time to focus on writing books from his home office at Charlestown. But he is reluctant to call himself an author. 

“I call myself a book writer,” says Arthur. “What is the difference? Book writers never get writer’s block; they just keep writing. When I sit down to write, I write until my fingers or my backside give out.” 

When he’s not writing, Arthur is usually reading. 

“I read constantly. One of my favorite writers is Donna Leon, a mystery writer who hails from the University of Maryland overseas school in Venice, Italy,” says Arthur. 

When asked if he ever plans to retire from writing, he jokes that he won’t live forever.

The Jesus Spy is available at Amazon.com. For more information on Arthur’s other books, visit arthurjonesbooks.com. 

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