New Books, 2019

Ever since Europeans discovered and came to conquer and colonize the Americas, a great question occupied European Christians. Did Jesus Christ, or his immediate successors the Apostles and the first Christians who followed, cross the great Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and proselytize among the indigenous peoples of the New World? Read the story of what may have happened. Using his knowledge of the age of the Conquest, the author begins with a shipwreck and an artifact and weaves the story of the Andean cross, a piece of Christian culture that is both American and European. This faced-paced story spanning Europe, North America, and Latin America will electrify you with its implications on the great age of the Encounter and the secrets and mysteries of Christianity that still fascinate so many.


The Andean Cross: A Novel
by Lawrence Clayton
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

book review by Dylan Ward, U.S. Review of Books

“. . . the essence of a secret, the magic of its nature is in the revelation.”

Treasures and secrets buried in the deep living seas sets in motion Clayton’s high-stakes, conspiracy thriller. When Dr. Matthew Western happens upon a riddle involving precious cargo from a centuries-old ship, he seeks help from a Professor Valdez (“the Friar”) at the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain. What intrigues Matthew and Professor Valdez is a thorough report of the wrecked ship called the Nuestra Señora de los Milagros, lost at sea in 1544. There are connections directly to Spain and King Charles I, and what Matthew is most curious about is a section of the report written in code, further shrouding the ship’s contents in secrecy.

Matthew embarks on a globetrotting journey that ultimately takes him to the bottom of the “dark Caribbean Sea.” Joining him along the way is deep-sea diver Anthony Lamb, professional geographer Peter Borden, friend Pedro Artigas, and a beautiful anthropologist named Dr. Clarissa (Clair) Snowden. Their hopeful expedition yields a significant find in the form of a “small gold, bejeweled icon” with “three gold triangles” that meet, and “at their juncture a large round emerald circumscribed the center.” Unbeknownst to them, this cruciform icon represents a possible historical and religious significance that is both far-reaching and a game-changer for world history.

Of course, their expedition doesn’t come without costs as the group faces complications from the Republic of Panama’s laws, regulations, and changing political landscape. Other dangers and violence come from the cartel and its power-hungry drug trade and modern-day pirates, complicating matters and putting their lives at risk. As they all work quickly to determine the value and meaning of the rare discovery, they must equally ensure their well-being and safety. Matthew’s search finally brings him to the United States and then back to Spain, where high in the Andes a revelatory discovery deep in the “catacombs beneath the monastery” sheds new light.

Clayton’s complex tale of Spanish conquests and modern-day treasure hunters is replete with codes, symbology, and clandestine societies, making the story come across as something akin to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code set upon the high seas. While reading the erudite novel it becomes clear that Clayton, a professor emeritus of history, is familiar and well-versed in matters of South America’s history and modern-day culture, which largely threads his story together. He also infuses wry humor, serious drama, and romance into the dense tale set amid the sticky heat of the tropics. Following the usual tropes of action-adventure novels, Clayton provides readers with plenty of ancient secrets, codes, and hidden treasures along with political intrigue and standard heroes versus villains to build out the plot.

However, the large host of characters that form Clayton’s book does require the reader to keep up with and remember a lot. Main characters interact with seemly irrelevant minor characters that appear again later at critical moments, while some emerge and disappear without much fanfare. Much of the story is laden with intricate political and social commentary, which slows the narrative’s pace somewhat. Some minor errors include a noticeable lack of quotation marks, which makes the character dialogue confusing at particular moments. There’s also the unusual usage of scene breaks and transitions indicated by the bold printed “Scene Shift” and “Change Scene.”

Yet, Clayton’s skillful writing manages to engage the reader and keep the pages turning. His gift for crafting beautiful descriptions shines throughout, more than making up for any surface issues in the book. These descriptions hint at Clayton’s special reverence for history and the mysteries of the sea with such lines as “He lay motionless over the floor of the sea, suspended in time” or “the anchor broke the surface of the water and rose into the air like some antique sea creature, petrified by time and the sea’s crustaceans.” Clayton invokes haunting images of what remains undiscovered and buried across time.

The novel strengthens gradually until it finally becomes riveting, picking up pace toward its end as Matthew’s journey brings him full circle to Spain and to the holy catacombs among “the bodies and bones of hundreds of the faithful.” One can feel the chill of a noteworthy revelation coming. Overall, the novel is entertaining and absorbing and will largely appeal to fans of historical suspense. With an unresolved ending it seems Clayton is primarily laying the groundwork here for future novels in a possible series to feature protagonist Matthew Western and accompanying characters. For now, readers will have to be content to enjoy this alluring first novel.


The novel The Andean Cross by Lawrence Clayton has a little bit of everything wrapped into an interesting and page turning package: buried treasure, history, drug cartels, adventure, intrigue, spies, faith and an all-American love story intertwined masterfully. In addition, I found the overall question of the book, whether or not Jesus Christ or his disciples visited the new world, to be a thought-provoking premise. While most Christians sects do not preach that he did, it had me questioning why wouldn’t he have come or sent his sheep to the people of the New World?

There were a number of different stories interwoven into the novel, all happening at once but each clearly defined. Here and there, pieces of information would be revealed about characters or events to show how they were all truly interconnected in the story.

I really liked the writing style of this book. It is smart without the author spending all of his time trying to show you just how smart he really is, which is often the downfall of new authors. Imagery was used but words were not wasted. In an almost Baldacci style, the characters were well-developed and well-rounded, the story was well told and entertaining and the pages seemingly seems to turn themselves as I read, often reading into the late hours. The Andean Cross is an enjoyable read, I would recommend this book or other works by Lawrence Clayton to others.

Suzanne Gattis, Hollywood Book Reviews


Finished Andean Cross and enjoyed it a lot. From the first ch. I never dreamed it would be set in contemporary Panama, which I know so well. You captured it nicely.

Your narrative flows nicely and alternates easily between dialogue and omniscient story-teller. Congrats. 

Michael Conniff, San Diego State University


Larry Clayton brings a refreshing, Christian perspective to these essays that examine the human condition, sharing his thoughts on everything from the flighty and humorous to the serious and transcendent.

His musings and insights–almost of all of which were published as op-ed columns in the Sunday edition of the Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and national newspapers like the LA TimesChristian Science MonitorWashington Times, and Miami Herald-seek to make sense of life.

In the tradition of a newspaper op-ed, the essays share profound lessons on everything from religion to history, politics, foreign affairs, education, sports, and other important topics.

While many of the writings revolve around Christian themes and history, Clayton is not afraid to tackle problems that almost everyone has faced, such as the daunting, and humorous, experience of getting through an airport checkpoint these days.

He laces his stories with wit and wisdom derived from his faith and his experiences as a teacher, writer, and even as chairman of the Department of History at the University of Alabama. He references the “port rail” that–when not on duty–he used to hold on to and dream and think a bit while serving on a ship in the Navy making its way through the waters and waves of the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Mediterranean ocean and seas.

What readers are saying about this book.

These are comments on individual Op-ed essays, most of which are included in the book you are reading.

They come from people who read the Op-ed from across the political and social spectrum, including judges, housewives, professors, professionals, veterans, public officials and especially those with a Christian context to their lives, and I suspect a lot of people in my age bracket (pre-Boomers, Boomers, and post-Boomers) who relate to the subject matter.

I have been traveling and am just now catching up on reading The Tuscaloosa News. I read your column regularly because I find your words “lovely”!! I like the way you weave spirituality into the everyday.

Having never before written to a columnist, I was moved to write and let you know that I very particularly enjoyed your Christmas Eve one. I know the story is told and retold, ad nauseam, every year, but something about this one just caught me. I don’t know what it was, but I want to thank you for it!!

Lisa Cain


Excellent article, full of truth and a message that Christians must share verbally and visually by the manner in which we conduct our daily lives. May God help us to choose to embrace James 1:22.

Ricky Harris


Thank you for mentioning last night’s Reformation program ahead of time in your column, of which I’m a regular reader. If the program was mentioned in UA campus mailings or emails, I failed to notice, so I would have missed the chance to go if not for you. Martin Luther is one of my heroes for what he did for Christianity, and his portrait hangs on my office wall. I learned a lot from the lectures last night and was also surprised to notice that two of my engineering students were in the choir.

Frank Newman | Research Engineer and Instructor


I couldn’t agree more with the points in your column (“I Bring You Good Tidings of Great Joy,” The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016)

Larry Oneal


Brilliant!!! I am a retired pediatrician, having practiced in Tuscaloosa since 1965.  This is the truest, most direct, practical piece of advice for women of all ages. [“Ignoring the elephant in the room,” The Tuscaloosa News, Dec. 10, 2017] Having dealt with this issue at times in my practice but more so observing these things ‘play out’ in the media is truly distressing for all parties. Thank you and I plan to share it with my family, particularly, my granddaughters.
Jerry A. Davis M. D.


Dr. Clayton’s attempts to get rid of fake news will end the National Enquirer (or is it Inquirer) Star… etc. We won’t have anything to peek at the grocery checkout. That’s the only way I know if the Most Interesting Woman in the World…. Kim Kardashian… is getting a divorce… or is it that other actress? Can’t keep them straight. My favorite is the Face on Mars. It hurt me when my Dad told me that wasn’t true. But…. it’s on the front page, Dad! “Sorry, son, it’s fake.” And how to lose 5 pounds in five minutes. Movie stars without makeup “who have aged horribly.” I’ll be crushed. Yeesh…. (“Fake News Threatens Integrity of Journalism,” The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday December 18, 2016)

Dana Beyerle


I just wanted to let you know how very much I appreciate your recent article (about golfing and religion), Sorry I cannot recall the actual name of the article.  I kept the bottom of the article to be able to respond to your wonderful article.  It was about discipline and you encouraged us in the last paragraph ” Try Romans 10:17 and follow it up with James 1:22 and don’t forget to keep your left arm straight and your eye on the ball.” 

I commend you for including Scripture and not being afraid to discuss your own belief!  You spoke to my heart and am sure many others!  In a day when our faith is squelched, it is refreshing to hear God’s Word!  I commend you, Sir!  And look forward to more wonderful articles from you!

Mrs. Mickey DeHaan


I follow your column, and, though I don’t always agree with you, I know you care deeply about the things you discuss.  Caring is perhaps more important that absolute correctness….Your 2/12/17 column, “Founders put Liberty before Equality,” prompted me to write you directly because, like you, I care deeply about America, and the American Idea….I liked the inference that equality involves elasticity in your questions, “How far did equality stretch? Did it cover all?”  It is obviously stretched to the fullest when covering all, which is the active energy of absoluteness in human equality.

Steve Key


Hello Mr. Clayton—I read your column weekly.  I was saddened to read today about your house fire and the loss of your pets.  I hope you and your wife are doing well.

Last week’s article on the control of language was excellent.   In the same edition I saw a request from Mike Daria, Superintendent, for teachers for summer programs for students for a weeklong camp type learning experience.  I would like to encourage you to contact him to teach.  Our youth badly need someone who can enlighten them on these subjects.  They have few critical thinking skills and have no idea of the value of language.   Thank you.

Starr R. Hudson


Bravo!  — A very well-written and thought-provoking article. [Muslims attempt to refashion and out-procreate the rest of the world, note sent 3/21/17, so I think it was a piece on Islam]

Sandy Gathings


Hi Larry,

As president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, a 50-year-old nonprofit educational organization, I’d like to invite you to download our white paper on why cursive writing training remains important in a digital age:

Click to access white-paper.pdf

All best,

sl sig

Sheila Lowe, MS

President, American Handwriting Analysis Foundation


I always look forward to reading The Port Rail on Sunday mornings! And many, many thanks to the Claytons for the compassionate ministry you provide in the jail and for the hope you bring to our community.

Scott Donaldson


Sunday’s commentary (6/11) by Larry Clayton on cell phones and the Mark Oppenheimer piece on “Tweet Fatigue” were right on the mark. I used to worry when I saw someone walking alone down the street apparently talking to no one. I thought they were crazy. Now I realize they are on blue tooth. Also, our tweeting president needs to realize most of us do not communicate via Twitter!

-Robert Nicol


Great article!

Jim Taaffe

Thank you for the Sunday article about UA. This is a very incisive article about the status of higher education in our country. All of us would be better if our agenda was about fairness, truth, honesty, Christian values, etc.

I am a huge supporter of UA, even currently serve on a partnership between UA and Pickens County, and I hope for “excellence” in our great university.

W. O. “Buddy” Kirk, Jr. (7/3/17)


Thought you might like the attached if you have never seen it before.  It relates well to your column in the Tuscaloosa paper this morning. (8/16/17)


Julian M Brook

Past International Treasurer

Past President, Southeast Region

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism


Mr. Clayton,

Just a short note to let you know how much I enjoy reading your column. I eagerly search it out each Sunday.

You are an inspiration to me as well as a great source of historical facts.

Being a 67-year-old fella, and a Christian, I surely agree with your perspective of today’s society. 98/17/17)

A fan,

William (Buddy) Caudill


Larry, my stepdad Terry Counselman introduced me to your articles a few years ago. He was my science teacher in Thomaston Al and also taught history at MCHS. Incidentally, he was my favorite teacher.  He said he attended a lecture by you several years ago, I assume at UA.

I enjoy your writing; it really makes the Sunday paper worth buying. 

Keep up the good work! (7/30/17)

Bruce Gwin


Great column today; I agree wholeheartedly. (11/26/17)

Beau Wicks


I thoroughly enjoyed your article about apartment living.  My husband and I have very recently moved into the same complex as you and your wife. We have always been Tuscaloosa residents and we agree that apartment living is very very different.

   We also enjoy “people watching ” from our first-floor porch.  And visiting the Dump.  (I may be delivering some dump diving items soon)

   Thanks for a great article. (“Apartment Living, Dumpster Diving and the Heiress,” The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday)

   Looking forward to another soon.  (8/1/17)

Gayle Howard


I enjoyed your article today. A nice review for me. 8/20/17)

David Cole


I read your article every Sunday in the Tuscaloosa News and always enjoy it.

This week, your writing of interpreting and translating a language particularly interested me…. (9/18/17)

Keep on writing

Frances Vinson


As I sat in my den this morning, my precious wife of 43 years has left for church, I am unable to attend because I am recuperating from surgery this past week to remove a cancer from my nose. For the most part I have had peace with this issue because of a practice of praying to God daily, that he will “prepare me for what comes my way today and help me to respond with Christlike love, heart, attitude and perspective”.

Your article reminded me that our walk with Christ is a journey that starts over every day! We practice every day so we can become more Christlike and are prepared to deal with the days like I have experienced this week!

The old saying of you play like you practice, is so true in all activities and aspects of our lives! May God always give us the good sense to choose to spend the appropriate amount of our time doing the things such as bible reading, praying and listening for and to the Holy Spirit so we will be prepared for whatever comes our way. I sure appreciate and enjoy your articles! God Bless! (9/24/17)

Ricky Harris


Hi, Larry:

I enjoyed your column today; you have a great analogy between golf and Christianity!

The beauty of how God created the world and all the things we can apply the principles of being a Christian to are amazing; but He is, isn’t He?

Is your book still available? (“Like Golf, Christianity Requires a Lot of Practice” in The Tuscaloosa News Sunday Sept. 24, 2017.

Pam Hamilton


The Port Rail: your articles in the Tuscaloosa News are always timely and interesting. Thanks for sharing your Christian faith. (9/24/17)

Ann Counselman


I think I’ve told you before; because of my Sunday schedule, I usually don’t get to read the Sunday paper until Monday.

My Sunday schedule probably mirrors your wife’s schedule on the Lord’s Day, Amen?!

To use your golf analogy, you hit another “pure stroke” with your pen on yesterday’s article.

If followers of Christ did more “practicing” my world, your world, our world would be a better place.

Thanks again for a much-needed lesson we all needed to read. (“Like Golf, Christianity Requires a Lot of Practice” in The Tuscaloosa News Sunday Sept. 24, 2017.

Charlie Wilson


I enjoyed your column in today’s Sunday paper.  I must admit until recently I didn’t know a lot about Martin Luther’s life.  I manage a chemical company here in Tuscaloosa and as fate would have it last week, I was visiting a new German supplier, SKW, that we are evaluating.  Of all places, their production site is in Wittenberg, Germany.  They are the largest fertilizer producer in German.

So, while I was there, I got a chance to learn more about the history and life of Martin Luther.  (“Luther and the Storm That Remade Our World,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday Sept. 22, 2017)

Marc Smith


I enjoyed your column about Martin Luther and have a question.

Is it possible to say that the actions of Martin Luther enabled to some degree the Bill of Rights we enjoy today? I saw this idea proposed or stated in an article from I believe the Washington Post which has been covering the anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses. Perhaps because I am not a student of history, I had never heard this before, but I found the idea intriguing.

If true we owe even more to Martin Luther.

Jim Hipp

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