The books in Gary L. Kreigh’s Reverend Fountain Mystery Series, which can be read in any order, each have a fascinating story behind the stories. Today we’re sharing the story of what inspired the writing of Masquerade of Truth. The story behind Payola is included in the book, which will be out just in time for Christmas.
Masquerade of Truth began on the bright, cool morning of 19 August 2006 as I walked through King’s Square in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. I wasn’t disappointed in my stroll through the Trinity Royal Heritage Conservation Area. Victorian buildings built after the 1877 Great Fire of St. John contained house shops, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, and private homes along picturesque streets of yesteryear.
In a roundabout way of returning to my hotel to join my family for breakfast, I came across a man in King’s Square just as I wrote in this book. He appeared to have slept overnight on the park bench where I found him. His beard was scraggly. His overcoat was unkempt but appeared to have been of good quality and appearance at one time. He had been struck violently on the back of his head. Blood had coagulated but not before oozing down the side of his face. I was amazed he was still alive. He was breathing, but barely. I encouraged him to hold on until medical help could arrive.
Being the forensic auditor that I was, I perused the area around him to provide any assistance I could to the police. Nothing struck me odd except that his sole possession—a backpack—lay under the park bench upon which he slumped. It had been rifled through as if whoever assaulted the poor man believed they would get something of value. I noticed some items protruding from the bag that suggested the man was of above average intelligence and had an interest in the arts. I didn’t think of him as having a past—perhaps even a glorious and successful past that included the arts. I only saw him as he was at the moment—ragged, unkempt, slumped over a park bench, and near death.
It took what seemed to be an hour for emergency personnel to arrive even though it was probably closer to minutes. In the meantime, I noticed the man’s breathing was becoming more labored. My words for him turned from physical encouragement to something more spiritual and eternal. I gave him the Gospel and suddenly, as if peace and forgiveness welcomed him, he died before me.
I stood slowly and prayed momentarily, contemplating what had just transpired when I realized for the first time that a woman was standing behind me, watching the event unfold.
“You killed him,” she said bluntly.
It was the most horrifying thing anyone had ever said to me. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, and should anyone believe her, I knew I could be in serious trouble. I corrected the woman, but she wanted to hear nothing of my explanation. She was adamant that I had killed the man by my words. In fact, she reiterated her mistaken observation to the police when they arrived. An officer questioned me, of course, and although he gave me no assurance that he didn’t believe the woman’s accusation, the situation unnerved me until I was back at the hotel with my family.
There, I began to think more rationally. My thoughts returned to the poor man who died before my eyes. My imagination also grew. Creative thoughts conjured scenarios surrounding the man and what had happened to him.
What if he wasn’t who he appeared to be?
What if he wasn’t bludgeoned for his meager possessions?
What if he was killed for a more sinister and compelling motive?
Masquerade of Truth began.
Of course, I moved the setting from St. John to my beloved New Orleans simply because I knew New Orleans better than the historic city on the Bay of Fundy. Readers may first believe my descriptions of the Big Easy are unflattering and paint a tainted view of the city and its people. Readers may believe I wasn’t fond of New Orleans at all. Again, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The descriptions and issues in this book are not confined to New Orleans. Homelessness, hunger, addiction, and mental health are components of every city in the world. We, as residents, simply choose to ignore that they are a part of the city in which we live. In addition, we forget that behind every issue in every city are human beings who have stories to be told related to that issue.
I often wondered what was behind the story of the man I found in King’s Square.
This book was written for him, I suppose, as my way to acknowledge that at least one person found his life worthy to be written about on that bright, cool August morning.