Faith in the 1960s by Sally Carpenter

Most people see the 1960s as a time of social turmoil, a rejection of traditional values, rebellion and an attitude of “please yourself” and “turn on, tune in, drop out.” However, in Middle American, the mindset among the common folk was more like the 1950s.

My new retro-cozy series, the Psychedelic Spy, is set in a small rural Southern Indiana town in the 1967—much like the hometown where I grew up during the 1960s. In a town of 10,000, we had about 30 Protestant churches and one Catholic parish and elementary school. The town had at least one black church, a small AME (African Methodist Episcopal) congregation. The nearest synagogue was 30 miles away, so the city’s religious makeup was pretty homogenous.

The public schools in my town never scheduled activities on Sundays or Wednesday evenings because those were “church times.” In deference to the Catholic students, on Fridays the school cafeteria always served fish sticks (that tasted like cardboard)—even though after Vatican II in 1965 Catholics only had meatless Fridays during Lent.

My fifth-grade class in public school began every school day with the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance—and all the students remained standing for both. I doubt that this activity is still carried on today.

Of course not everyone in my hometown went to church, but most did. Going to church every week was just something a person did, same as showing up at school or the office. Church attendance was more of a habit than a devotional act.

My family was active in one of the largest churches in town, First Methodist. I was spoiled because the congregation was large enough to host a fine adult choir and plenty of youth activities to keep me busy: Sunday School, Sunday night youth group, youth choir, the Christmas pageant and Vacation Bible School.

First Church attracted the town’s “elite”: dentists, doctors, city leaders and businessmen. Most of the women members were wives and homemakers. I only know of three members who were single women—two were schoolteachers and one was the vice president of a bank.

Some members no doubt saw the church more of a social organization or service club like Kiwanis and Rotary than a place for spiritual nourishment. But they were good people who didn’t drink, smoke or swear in public and who gave service to the community.

I drew on this experience for my 1960s protagonist, Noelle McNabb, a member of Bethlehem Community Church in the fictitious town of Yuletide, Indiana. On Sundays Noelle and her family are in church. On Wednesday evening she’s at church again for the weekly potluck dinner and program. Noelle is in the Modern Issues discussion class, which is also attended by the city’s “elite”—the mayor, a nurse, teacher and a nosy newspaper reporter.

Most of Noelle’s friends go to church. In future books I want to give her some Catholic friends as well.

Noelle also lives out her faith. A spy agency recruits her to work undercover as a go-go dancer in a nightclub. Some customers insist that she share a joint with them. How does Noelle keep from smoking weed while maintaining her cover?

When she and her partner, veteran agent Destiny King, are hiding from the police in a safe house, Noelle says grace before a meal. The worldly Destiny thinks Noelle’s behavior is silly.

When the women are after an enemy spy, our heroine finds she must shoot and possibly kill the enemy to stop him. Noelle is abhorred. She hates guns and refuses to murder another human being. How can she capture the spy without compromising her moral values?

So far none of the reviewers have complained about the book’s religious aspect. Noelle’s faith is present, but not overblown. She has her faults and is no Pollyanna or saint. The book is a great alternative for readers looking for a more gentle story than found in a hard-boiled mystery.

Flower Power Fatality: The Cold War gets cozy in this retro-cozy spy caper set in 1967, a year of music, miniskirts—and murder! Actress Noelle McNabb works at the Country Christmas Family Fun Park in Yuletide, Indiana, but she longs for the bright lights of Hollywood. Real-life drama comes her way when a stranger with a fatal gunshot wound stumbles across her doorstep. When she attempts to finds the man’s murderer, Noelle encounters a super-secret spy agency, SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). SIAMESE recruits Noelle on a quest to find missing microdots under the guidance of a street-wise agent, Destiny King. As Noelle goes undercover in a cheesy nightclub and faces the enemy in late-night chases, she uncovers family secrets and finds her moral values put to the test. Along with her pet cat, Ceebee, and the kooky residents of Yuletide, Noelle discovers it takes a village to catch a killer. 

Author bio: Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier living in Moorpark, Calif.
She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University, a Master of Divinity, and a black belt in tae kwon do.
Her Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol retro-cozy series is comprised of four books, including The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper, 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel.
Flower Power Fatality is the first book in the Psychedelic Spy retro-cozy series.
She has short stories in three anthologies. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles.
Reach her at Her website is and she blogs monthly at

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Jackie Houchin said…
I really liked your article on faith in Flower Power, Sally. I noticed it, of course as I was reading, and loved it there. You are right, it doesn't overpower the story at all, and instead adds some character conflict that is so good for a story.
Thanks for posting this here. Thanks Marilyn for hosting her.

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