As many of you know, a homeless encampment plays a big part in my Branigan Powers mystery series. Malachi Ezekiel Martin is a homeless veteran who often sees and hears things that others don’t because homeless people “are looked right through.”
What you may not know is I based Malachi on a man I know who spent 35 years on the streets. I met Sippio in 2005 when I became pastor of Triune Mercy Center, a church that ministers to homeless people in Greenville, SC. He was always the last in line to eat, and the first to jump up to carry out trash or mop the dining room floor. He was also kind, exceedingly kind.
Those were attributes I used when I began to create the character Malachi. He meets the reporter, Branigan, in The Cantaloupe Thief when the pair attempt to solve a 10-year-old murder in Grambling, Georgia. They reunite in The Cover Story to solve the deaths of two college students. In Death of a Jester, available now on Amazon, I decided it was time to explore why such a smart man was living on the street. And so in this third book, the reader will learn what happened to Malachi in the Gulf War that led to his drinking — and eventually to his life in Grambling’s homeless encampment.
Sippio, of course, didn’t serve in the military nor does he drink or solve murder mysteries. But he continues to worship at Triune, has obtained housing and bought a car. And now he has a book dedicated to him. Here’s what the dedication page of Jester says: To Sippio, who taught me what kindness looks like on the street.