William Stage

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

William Stage, a former investigator for the Centers for Disease Control in St. Louis and longtime writer for the Riverfront Times, is back with a new novel, “Creatures on Display.” The book is a “gritty mystery set in the seedy underside of St. Louis.”

This is no typical comic noir, though. It takes a hard look at the fictional efforts of investigators who must confront the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. Investigating the AIDS crisis was something that Stage had to undertake through his work with the CDC.

(Courtesy History Press)

William Stage first noticed faded ads painted on brick walls back in the 1970s, when he pounded the St. Louis pavement as a public health officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Once you do begin to notice them, it’s contagious, you find more and more,” Stage said.

He began carrying around a camera to document the ads, and in 1989 published a book on the topic, “Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America.”