‘Fugitive Sheriff’ features key scenes in Summit County
Author Event: Edward Massey
5:30-8 p.m. on Friday, April 26
Summit County Library Kamas Valley Branch, 110 N. Main St.
Edward Massey’s new book, “Fugitive Sheriff,” starts with the death of Summit County Sheriff Simms, who is gunned down on the steps of a jailhouse.
Simm’s son, pins the badge on himself and vows to find his father’s killers. The catch is the younger Simms is a polygamist, and the feds are after him.
Massey, a Massachusetts resident who grew up in Utah, said many of the scenes in the book are based on actual events.
“There was a sheriff who was killed on the jailhouse steps on the day of its dedication, and my great-grandfather was polygamous and was hunted down,” Massey said. “He did refuse to give up his family, to which, I must say, am thankful of that.”
Massey will return to the Beehive State for a series of author events that are centered on “Fugitive Sheriff” this week.
The author will be at the Summit County Library Kamas Valley Branch, 110 N. Main St., from 5:30-8 p.m. on Friday, April 26. The event, which is hosted by the Silver Peak Chapter of the League of Utah Writers, will feature a reading and a presentation of his research and writing process.
Massey will start his Utah appearances with a reading at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Parsons, Behle and Latimer, a law firm in Salt Lake City.
There are two reasons why Massey is doing a reading there, he said.
“I had done some business with them, and totally independent of that, I found that the progenitor of the firm was … an attorney named William H. Dixon,” Massey said. “William Dixon is a character in my novel and plays a very important role.”
On Thursday, Massey will be at the Kaysville Library at 1 p.m.
Massey chose Kaysville because John Taylor, a polygamist and former leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died in Kaysville in 1887.
“Polygamy plays a big part in my book, and (Taylor’s) death was a significant step in the escheatment of Church property in excess of $50,000 to the United States,” Massey said. “Plus, I graduated from Davis High School, which is in Kaysville, and we’re trying to gather as many classmates and friends as we can.”
The day after Massey’s appearance in Kamas, he will be a speaker at the League of Utah Writers spring conference in Taylorsville, where he will speak about turning historic events into historical fiction.
Massey, whose mother is from Summit County, said his research was instrumental in making his book believable.
The major research points involved the polygamous teachings of the early LDS Church.
“I am in no way trying to say polygamy is or isn’t wrong,” he said. “What I am trying to do is take the position that a person’s values are important to the story. And once you commit to a value structure, like I did with the sheriff, I needed to uphold it.”
The second point that guided Massey’s research involved the history of the Utah Territory and its relationship to the church.
But, Massey said, when he found what he was looking for, he had to write in a way that was interesting to the reader.
“You can wander around all sorts of literature about the pioneer years in Utah, and the reality is most of those writings are hard to read,” he said with a laugh. “So, I had to really try to make the story a gripping and compelling tale that someone would want to read.”
His first draft was rejected by the publisher.
“They sent me a 650-word rejection letter that essentially said the story was unbelievable,” Massey chuckled.
One of the comments in the letter questioned why the U.S. Marshals couldn’t have set up a stakeout at the jail and arrest the sheriff when he came to work.
“The reality of the situation in this little town, historically, was that 90 percent of the population was of the same faith,” Massey explained. “So before the sheriff would even get to the jail, he would have heard from no less than 10 people that the marshals were waiting for him.”
“Fugitive Sheriff” is the second in the Simms Sheriff trilogy.
Massey’s first book, “Every Soul Is Free,” which won the Gold Quill award from League of Utah Writers when it was published in 2014, takes place in 1948. And he is set to publish “Founding Sheriff,” which is a prequel to “Fugitive Sheriff” and “Every Soul Is Free,” in 2020.
“So you have three Sheriffs named Simms from Summit County that run through the story line,” Massey said.
“Fugitive Sheriff” is available at Amazon.
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This weekend’s art auction will raise money for the Park City Community Foundation’s Community Response Fund.