Andrew Greeley, Priest and Novelist

I just received "Irish Tweed," the latest mystery novel by the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, the Chicago priest, sociologist and bestselling author. The protagonist, once again, is Nuala Anne McGrail, a fictional character nearly as multi-talented as Greeley himself: She's an Irish songstress and sleuth with second sight. In "Irish Tweed," she and her daughter take up martial arts, someone tries to burn down their house, there's trouble in Chicago's Catholic schools, and nuns survive a cholera epidemic thanks to a courageous woman doctor. The book's publication is timed for St. Patrick's Day.

The 80-year-old author, meanwhile, is still recovering from a freak accident in November, when his coat got stuck in the door of a taxi in Rosemont, Ill., as he was leaving a speaking engagement He took a terrible fall, hit his head and fractured his skull, landing him in the intensive care unit of Lutheran General Hospital. A young couple visiting from California happened to witness the fall and came to Greeley's aid, using the woman's scarf to try to stop the bleeding, according to the author's blog, andysword.

In January, Greeley returned home from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. But he has not yet returned to work at the National Opinion Research Center, where he is a polling expert and sociologist. His assistant says he is making slow but steady progress and is now walking on his own, no longer in a wheelchair.

Greeley has written scores of books, both fiction and non-fiction, including some novels with sex scenes that led the conservative National Catholic Register to suggest that his was "the dirtiest mind ever ordained." Critics have never much liked his novels, either. But ever since "The Cardinal Sins" made a big splash on bestseller lists in 1981, he has had a strong following and has contributed more than $1 million of the proceeds to various charities.

On the non-fiction front, one of his interesting efforts in recent years was to show, through careful survey data, that Roman Catholic priests as a whole are very satisfied with their personal and professional lives. Though he wrote a 2004 book called "Priests: A Calling in Crisis," he also contended that they are on average "the happiest men in America."

-- Alan Cooperman

By Alan Cooperman |  March 6, 2009; 9:10 AM ET Alan Cooperman
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