Lately, my booksigning events have been filled with surprises. I wrote in January about the unexpected fun I had at my recent grocery store signings. Saturday at the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels, I had another bonus.
My table was across from the entrance to the room circled with authors and their books. I saw a man walk in who looked familiar. This was not unusual. I was in my town and it was still small enough that recognizing a face is a frequent ocurrance.
I turned away to talk to the author seated beside me. A moment later, a voice said, “Would you like my autograph?” That voice sounded familiar. I looked at the speaker and he looked a lot like Les Severance.
Les was the father of Maine native Michael Severance, the Air Force C-130
crew chief stationed in Abilene
, Texas, who was murdered at the age of 24 in San Angelo
. His wife, a veterinarian, was convicted of his homicide.
I’d talked to Les a lot on the telephone while writing Michael’s story in A POISONED PASSION
but we’d never met face-to-face. But Les lives in Maine
–you couldn’t get much further from Texas and still be in the United States. I didn’t think the man standing in front of me could possibly be Les. Then his mouth twitched into a shy smile–the same smile that’s in the photograph of him with his son Michael and his newborn grandson Shane. (right)
Certain I was about to embarrass myself, I asked, “Are you Les?”
He nodded–but I found it hard to believe. From behind him, Tom Goff suddenly appeared. He was Les’ attorney in his battle to wrest custody of his grandson from the family of his son’s killer. I’d met with Tom on multiple ocassions and the sight of his face assured me that this was, in fact, for true, the real–the one and only–Les Severance.
Les was in Texas returning his grandson to his legal custodians after a six-week visit in Maine. It was a sad time for Les–it always was that way when he had to say goodbye to the only child of his deceased son. I saw the sorrow etched in his face and shimmering in his eyes. But delight was there as well. He made the five-hour drive to New Braunfels because he wanted to surprise me and he certainly had.
We hugged, talked and hugged again before he left.
He thanked me for writing about his son, for the difference my book made in his family’s life. As he walked away, my eyes welled with tears.
I have a lump in my throat now just writing about that moment.
It wasn’t the first time I was thanked by the family member of a victim in one of my books–but it moves me every time it happens. It is a precious gift.
It’s one of the reasons why I write true crime,
And why I don’t know how I could ever stop.