Man who lived on DC streets for almost 3 decades surprised by favorite author

Wesley Thomas, who was homeless for almost 30 years, was surprised with a visit from crime novelist Patricia Cornwell at Miriam’s Kitchen on Friday.

Wesley Thomas, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell and Washington Post columnist John Kelly pose for a picture at Miriam’s Kitchen on Friday. Kelly wrote the article that prompted Cornwell to want to meet Thomas.

Wesley Thomas, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell and Washington Post columnist John Kelly met at Miriam’s Kitchen on Friday. Kelly wrote the article that prompted Cornwell to want to meet Thomas.

Wesley Thomas, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell and Washington Post columnist John Kelly met at Miriam’s Kitchen on Friday. Kelly wrote the article that prompted Cornwell to want to meet Thomas. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

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A man who lived on the streets of D.C. for almost 30 years got a special surprise on Friday — a visit from his favorite author, whose books helped him through tough times.

Wesley Thomas was in disbelief when he walked into Western Presbyterian Church and saw crime novelist Patricia Cornwell. She was there to meet him one-on-one.

“To meet someone who I admire as an author, it’s an amazing thing,” Thomas said.

Cornwell read an article in the Washington Post by columnist John Kelly profiling Thomas and the work non-profit Miriam’s Kitchen, which is located in the church, did to help him find housing.

In the column, Thomas said he “loves to read” in his new home, and that his favorite author is Cornwell.

What happened next?

“The next thing I know, I heard from Patricia Cornwell’s people,” Kelly said. “She had seen my column, was moved by Wesley Thomas’ story and was pleased that he was a reader — every writer likes readers.”

When Thomas walked in, he said he was shocked.

“Not in a million years I thought this would happen,” Thomas said after meeting Cornwell.

He would go to Foggy Bottom Library and read her books to escape.

“I just thought it was so cool. I was very flattered that he would say something like that. I feel very honored to be mentioned that way,” Cornwell said.

She gave him a signed copy of her book “Autopsy” and they talked about the plot and characters. The book is based in Virginia and is part of the Dr. Kay Scarpetta series.

Cornwell said because of coronavirus precautions, this was the only in-person book signing she was doing for the novel and it was just for him.

She said she wants to keep in touch with Thomas.

“I’m making a new friend. This is not a hit-and-run: You’re going to give me your email and if you’d like, we’ll chat some,” Cornwall said. “You might get sick of me actually.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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