Some reviewers description on Amazon that influenced me to purchase a copy of the novel said that one of the main characters of the novel, Father Vivyan Chell, was a thinly disguised Thomas Merton. I confess that I don't see it. About the only thing that Vivyan Chell and Thomas Merton have in common in that they are both priests and they both have trouble maintaining their vow of celibacy.
Father Vivyan Chell is a former British Army Officer who has joined an Anglican religious order and become a priest. For many years, he has been running a mission in a fictional African country called Zinariya. As a teenager, Lennox Mark comes to Father Vivyan's mission and is struck by his holiness and his work with the poor.
Lennox comes very near to dedicating his life to Christ and staying with the mission, but after living with the monks for several months, he goes back to his life of wealth and privilege. When the novel opens, Lennox Mark is an overweight, middle aged millionaire who owns a muck racking tabloid newspaper called The Daily Legion.
One of Father Vivyan's former students in Zinariya, whom he had great hopes for, has become the dictator of Zinariya. Like every other character in this novel, General Bindiga is little more than a caricature (think Idi Amin).
Turns out that Father Vivyan is not nearly as holy as everybody thinks he is. For years he has been living in sin with a series of African women. Finally, out of guilt he comes home to England and is put in charge of a slum parish which he opens up to the poor and destitute. Once again, his libido gets the best of him and he has affairs with a series of women.
Author A.N. Wilson with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
Peter, it turns out, has split personality disorder which gets worse as he gets older. Peter's split personalities run the gamut from a highly intellectual English butler all the way to a retarded homicidal maniac. It turns out that Peter has been sexually molested by his school counselor, which only makes his mental imbalance worse.
A.N. Wilson with his daughter
If this description sounds like this novel is a muddled mess, that just about describes it. The convoluted plot also involves an artist supported by Martina and Mary who's new performance art is a glass toilet which is to be installed in the foyer of the The Daily Legion and which the artist himself will sit upon and take a crap, but is blown up by terrorists led by Father Vivyan who are rebelling against the British support for General Bindiga.
A.N. Wilson enjoys a libation
Obviously, the title is taken from the demoniac in the Gospel of Mark, where the man possessed by demons tells Jesus "My name is Legion: for we are many." (Mark 5:9). The demon possession theme is not only the boy with the split personalities but also the Fleet Street rag that prints lies and half-truths to sell newspapers.
Over all, although I generally admire A.N. Wilson's work, this just falls flat. Two out of Five.