The cover of Monmouth writer Mark Leslie’s newest novel.

MONMOUTH — The American Revolution is the backdrop for award-winning author Mark Leslie’s newest novel as he tells the story — based on actual events — behind the colonies’ desire for Bibles and one man’s decision to defy the British and print copies for Americans.

“A Cause Most Splendid: The Battle for the Bible” is Leslie’s 14th book and fourth historical novel. It tells the story of Robert Aitken, publisher of the Congressional Journal and Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” who despite the threat of prison or the hangman’s noose, is determined to print much-needed Bibles for American colonial troops, churches and families.

At that time in 1776, the British royal family claimed the sole rights to publish “God’s Word,” and any other printing of the King James Bible was not only illegal but a personal slap in the face to King George III. His naval barricade of colonial ports to prevent supplies, such as tea, from reaching colonists included Bibles.

According to the publisher of “A Cause Most Splendid: The Battle for the Bible,” Elk Lake Publishing, the book is a memorial to Aitken, a Scotsman who immigrated to America in 1769 at the age of 35 and ultimately defied British laws and royal family edicts to publish Bibles.

“It’s astounding,” said Elk Lake Publisher Deb Haggerty, “that this part of the Revolutionary period has not been prominent in the public narrative of our history.”

Midwest Book Review cited Leslie’s “genuine flair for compelling, entertaining, and deftly crafted storytelling.” The American Family Association’s AFA Journal called the author “a seasoned wordsmith … in the class with John Grisham or other secular novelists touted for producing today’s best fiction.”

Leslie is also the winner of six national magazine writing awards. He and his wife, Loy, live in Monmouth.

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