My hometown newspaper, the Northfield News, published a story about me and my book last week.  Thanks for a nice article, Brenda Ward, which I reprint below:

The Apostle Paul was a highly important man in the history of Christianity. Though he never actually met Jesus, his letters are credited for being the foundation of the New Testament.

Recently, Northfield author RW “Obie” Holmen took on this controversial figure, writing and publishing a book of historical fiction titled, “A Wretched Man: A Novel of Paul the Apostle.”

“Paul is a such a fascinating character who said some things that seem awfully conservative and mean spirited and he seems rather negative in many respects. On the other hand he was also a writer who helped Christendom understand a gracious and loving God and who wrote the Christian Magna Carta,” said Holmen. “This novel’s protagonist comes ready-made with knotty complications and buffeted by conflict from all sides.”

Set in the first century world of the Roman empire, “A Wretched Man” is the story of Paul, a man struggling with teachings of the Torah, the religious text of Judaism, who experienced a dramatic spiritual transformation while traveling through Damascus after the crucifixion of Jesus. A vision of the resurrected Jesus opened Paul’s eyes to the graciousness of God, to a God not of division, but of oneness and love. This newfound belief in Jesus as the Christ greatly altered the course of his life.
James, Jesus’ brother, however, is not convinced of Paul’s conversion. It was this rejection that motivates Paul to spread the truth of his experience in Damascus to those of the Mediterranean world, a way to seek the approval of James and of his own self. The struggle between these two men is, ultimately, the origin of Christianity.
“Jesus himself authored no writings. Nor did any of those who followed him in the Galilee or during his fateful pilgrimage to Jerusalem,” said Holmen. “It fell to Paul the outsider, who first opposed the movement, to become its reporter, memorialist, essayist, interpreter and promoter.”

Readers will encounter Biblical characters brought to life and experience the richness of the Mediterranean landscape, its cities and wilderness.

“‘A Wretched Man’ is a stunning fictional account of the early church that reads like real-life. While a work of fiction, this just may be the most authentically historical novel ever written about the lives of the apostles,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Buetz, instructor of Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University, and author of “The Brother of Jesus.”

Holmen is a retired attorney and businessman who spent time in graduate school with monks at St. John’s School of Theology, at which time he began giving thought to the life of Paul. After retirement, he spent around three years writing the book. He now lives in Northfield with his wife, Lynn.

Holmen will read from and sign copies of his book at 1 p.m. May 15 at the Northfield Public Library. He will also teach a class on the process of how various writings became books of the Bible during four Sundays in May at Bethel Lutheran Church in Northfield.

“A Wretched Man” is available for $16.95 at the following locations:
• Monkey See Monkey Read Bookstore
• St. Olaf Bookstore
• Carleton College Bookstore
• Online at

— Brenda Ward writes features and may be reached at 645-1117 or