To Play the Fool (1995)

To Play the Foolcover-fool-uk

“You’ve arrested a Fool for murder?” the English voice said incredulously.

“He is not under arrest. At most he’s a weak suspect. However, he’s a problem to us because it’s very difficult to understand what he’s doing here. The interviews we’ve held have been—unsatisfactory.”

The deep voice chuckled. “I can imagine. He answers your questions, but his answers are, shall we say ambiguous. Even enigmatic.”

“Thank God,” Kate burst out. “You do understand.”

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but I may be able to throw a bit of light into your darkness. When may I meet this fool of yours?”

“You want to meet him?”

“My dear young woman, would you ask a paleontologist if she would care to meet a dinosaur? Of course I want to meet him. Is he in jail?”

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What they say

Among the shrubbery sleepers in Golden Gate Park lives a man who calls himself Brother Erasmus. He carries only a staff, dresses in rags and speaks only the words of the Bible and Shakespeare. Erasmus ministers to the homeless and preaches to Berkeley seminarians, who see him as a modern St. Francis. He is also wanted for murder. From this risky material…Laurie R. King has crafted To Play the Fool, a thoughtful and compelling character study with a crime at its core. (San Jose Mercury News)

King’s calculated disdain for the received conventions of the detective story, though, only confirms her status as one of the most original talents to emerge in the ‘90s. (Kirkus)


Read Laurie’s thoughts on writing To Play the Fool on her blog Mutterings.

To see the park where Erasmus and the others sleep sometimes

And Laurie’s seminary, where Erasmus has been known to preach

For a bibliography and Laurie’s suggestions to teacher and book groups, click here.

Holy fools are, as one might expect, widespread and varied:
St. Francis, God’s fool
St. Simeon, holy fool
The Russian tradition of holy foolishness

Isn’t there something delightfully ironic about a PhD thesis on foolishness?

And what about Laurie’s BA thesis on The Holy Fool, available here?

Britain’s National Guild of Jesters

And who was this Erasmus fellow, anyway?

For a view of the area around Fisherman’s Wharf



Click on Fisherman’s Wharf to visit the gallery.