Recently, I have focused this blog on my new novel, IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE. However, it’s time to show a little love to my first book, FIFTH SUNDAY: The Loving Hands Murder. It, too, is based on actual events.
Set in the tiny Alabama community of Loving Hands, the story chronicles a five week struggle of the local Baptist church and its members as they respond to a murder on church property.
How much of this story is actually true? Well, some of it but names and places have been changed to protect the innocent and otherwise.
The idea for the book came from a Wednesday night incident at one of the churches I pastored. After the evening Bible study, a group of boys were playing behind the church near the cemetery where they stumbled upon a pile of lady’s clothing and a photo ID. Investigators traced the discovery to a young woman who was working as an exotic dancer at a local club. That event was the catalyst for the who-done-it story.
FIFTH SUNDAY, set in the 1980s, begins at a lively Wednesday night business meeting at the Loving Hands Baptist Church. In attendance is a young man, Emmett Hollister, who just returned from a stint in the Navy. He happily discovers that the church has a rare new member, Jane Fitzwater (from Mountain Brook, AL), a very attractive young lady, with whom he ultimately becomes romantically involved.
In small towns (and churches) news travels at lightning speed but it wasn’t just the murder that had them talking. A new family, the Johnsons from Ohio, had just moved into the community, the first and only black family to have ever taken up residence in Loving Hands. The phone lines (people still used those in the 80s) were burning up, gossip was running at an all time high, and guess who gets arrested for the murder? Yep, the new guy on the block, Lamont Johnson.
It has been said that ‘when you are shaken the real you comes out.’ As that old adage relates to the members of the Loving Hands Baptist Church, well, what came out was in-fighting, finger pointing, and ungodly behavior.
Eventually, the evidence points back to the church and the scandal becomes so severe that they are faced with closing down the church, that is, until God intervenes and teaches them an important lesson.
Many people say they don’t like organized religion and no longer have an interest in attending their local churches because of bad experiences and the hypocrisy of church members. FIFTH SUNDAY reflects that concern but also reveals the remedy.