The Kansas City Public Library hosts local author, J. Alexander Greenwood for a discussion of his first novel, Pilate's Cross, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 23, 2012, at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
In 1950, a professor in tiny Peru, Nebraska, strode into a college president's office and shot him dead, then killed himself. Though few remember this terrible event, it inspired Greenwood to write the novel Pilate's Cross  and subsequent sequel, Pilate's Key, which will be released during February 2012.
Greenwood is currently a public relations consultant in Kansas City, but in late 2003, he moved to Nebraska's Peru State College for a two-year stint as director of marketing and public relations. Nestled in the rural "Campus of a Thousand Oaks," he found the inspiration for a mystery story that has spawned two books.
Greenwood eventually gained access to police records, crime scene photos, witness affidavits, and news coverage of the decades-old murders, but the resulting book is not a thinly veiled fictionalization of a historical event.
"The professor's motive was, in the grand scheme of things, terribly petty," Greenwood said. "Pilate's Cross is inspired by the questions this terrible crime created. But as a work of fiction it is set in a different place and time and has a more complex motive for the murders.
"Nearly all aspects of the book, including the location, characters, and most importantly the mystery are strictly products of my imagination."
However, recent real-life events at Peru State are chilling in their similarities, and led Greenwood to reconsider marketing the book.
"In 2010 the former president of the college -- my boss -- took his own life as news of a financial scandal was about to break. Though I wrote this book in 2008 -- three years after I left Peru -- I had some serious trepidation about promoting it in the wake of this tragedy."
He added, "The 'college president' character isn't based on my former boss, and I'd be very concerned if readers thought he was. Peru was very good to me, and it's important that people know this book was not meant to mar his memory or upset anyone -- especially my friends in Peru, Nebraska."
Pilate's Cross follows newly transplanted college instructor John Pilate, his sardonic imaginary pal Simon and new friend Kate as they investigate the unsolved mystery of a murdered president of Cross College. In too deep to wash his hands of the mystery, he risks his life to get to the truth of what really happened in 1963 and why it's just as deadly more than 40 years later.
The book's cinematic structure made it an ideal project for a book trailer by celebrated digital media design company T2 + Back Alley Films of Kansas City. The trailer may be viewed on YouTube  or the book's homepage at PilatesCross.com .
Admission is free. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407.