The Rev. Curtis Black has been a man consumed with money, power and women.
He brought pain and suffering to his first and second wives, and is reaping what he sowed with his third.
The fictional black Baptist pastor, who enjoyed living lavishly, has helped Rockford native and novelist Kimberla Lawson Roby sell more than 2 million books.
Readers have welcomed what they view as works of fiction that reflect real-life examples of ungodly behavior among leaders in their church communities and that offer valuable lessons. They've also embraced the tales of faith, forgiveness and redemption in her stories.
Roby, who on Wednesday will address attendees at the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago, in May will release her 11th title in the Rev. Curtis Black series, among 20 total books she has had published.
Six titles in the Rev. Black series landed on the New York Times Best Seller list. The books have attracted church-going readers, many of them African-American women, and garnered Roby an NAACP Image Award this year.
"I don't really feel like I'm reading a novel," said Felicia Simpson, a 33-year-old South Side Chicago fan who grew up regularly attending a Methodist church and has read several of Roby's books.
"It's more like I'm actually sitting in a pew at a church, and I can definitely identify with [the] stories."
Roby, who now lives in Belvidere, said her characters are "not a reflection of every pastor or pastor's wife but a segment of people who are not doing the right thing across all denominations and all color lines. We can find examples across the board."
Roby, who has participated in discussions on her books in churches across the country, describes herself as "a Christian, who loves and believes in God." She began writing the first book in the Rev. Black series in the late 1990s, months after the wife of the then-president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Rev. Henry Lyons, set fire to a $700,000 waterfront home he'd purchased jointly with his mistress.
Lyons was convicted of stealing millions from the group, joining other high-profile religious leaders who fell from grace and made headlines, including televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and pedophile priests.
"I've really not had to do any research at all because I've seen so much," Roby said. "I've heard so much. There were lots of scenarios locally that I knew about, scenarios in other cities."
Source: Chicago Sun Times | FRANCINE KNOWLES