This tale is improbable in more ways than one: Indianapolis police homicide commander Snow offers a dryly nonplused account of his discovery of his “past life” as 19th-century portrait painter Carroll Beckwith. Snow participated in (and taped) a therapeutic “recovered memory” session as a lark, and, once hypnotized, was jolted by a series of clear images and recollections that seemed even then strangely plausible, despite his cop’s hard-nosed, empirical perspective. Later, when he walked into a New Orleans gallery at random and confronted a painting that had appeared to him in his vision, he determined to put his detective’s investigative skills to work and research congruencies between his “memories” and the artist’s life. Surprisingly, the evidence that he painstakingly assembled through retrieving Beckwith’s journals and work from obscurity seemed fully to confirm that Snow’s “recollections” were authentic. Snow relates all this ruefully, hardly eager to be perceived as “New Age.” His crisp, unpretentious prose and descriptive skill go a long way in convincing one to follow his unorthodox journey. His researched account of Beckwith’s lost life is impressive: Snow is remarkably sensitive to aesthetic concerns and has unearthed the compelling tale of an artist who was forced to rely on portraiture for support, and whose fast fade seemed foreordained, even as friends like John Singer Sargent found fame. Snow has the courage of his convictions: though his detective wife urged him to curtail his quest to avoid career risk, his book is provocative.
It is in this manner related to regression therapy since it comes up with matters that have come to point to the truth of the recovered memories.