I was writing feature stories regularly for the San Diego Reader, a major weekly. As one assignment, the publisher sent me to spend a few days with Mother Teresa’s seminarians in Tijuana, and I found them to be among the kindest and happiest people I could imagine. One fellow, especially bright, gracious, and unique, was Dean McFalls. Even now, though he’s had some troubles, I think of him as an honest image of Christ in the real world, much like the hero of Graham Greene’sThePower and the Glory.
Soon after I wrote the seminary story, my cousin Patti’s friend Dale, who helped in the nursery of an Evangelical megachurch, got accused of exposing himself to children. The accusation landed him in jail for over two years with no provision for bail. When therapists interviewed the nursery children, all kinds of wild stories came out. Bizarre and ridiculous tales about Satanic ritual abuse went public. The church became a subject of daily ridicule in local and even national media.
My Reader editor suggested an article about the church, Faith Chapel. I attended a service, decided to stick around, met lots of people, and found them nothing like the vicious whackos the media portrayed.
From those two experiences came a novel I named The Fat Lady, an allusion to a character in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, in which a quite unappealing character is revealed as what Mother Teresa called “Christ in his distressing disguise.”
Barbara Peters, my excellent editor at Poisoned Pen Press, insisted she would not publish a book entitled The Fat Lady. I put it aside and later considered calling it The Fat Lady, A Love Story. But my wise sixteen-year-old Zoe suggested I find a less potentially offensive title. So, now it’s The Very Least.
The Reader stories mentioned above, you should find here: