He eats little kids, murdered his wife, and mistreats his dogs, to boot. That’s what they say, anyway. Top doesn’t entirely know what to think about the rumors. He’s too busy settling into his new home, playing baseball and making friends—like Mickey, a black boy who soon becomes his best friend of all.
Everything changes when a shocking murder turns the town, along with Top and Mickey’s lives, upside down. Neighbors show their true colors. Shaky Man’s secrets are revealed. Through it all, Top learns again and again just how confusing and unfair the world can be. A tale of childhood set in the 1960s, Shaky Man timelessly reaffirms the basic goodness of humanity and the importance of friendship and compassion in the face of prejudice.
Targeted Age Group:: 9-15
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My latest and first published book is titled SHAKY MAN. It was inspired by my grandchildren. I had a story to tell them. They are my muse. I wanted to share with them the innocence of the 60’s and that prejudice and intolerance is more than a racial issue. It can be transcended by love and understanding.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The book characters began with the man in the mirror and the boy he used to be. I drew from many people I knew growing up in Central Texas. A few identify with actual individuals, but not many. Most are conglomerates of the those who inhabited the world where I grew up.
Right after Christmas Mama insisted that I bring Mickey home for the weekend. She wanted to get to know this boy I talked about all the time. Christmas Day was on a Monday that year. Butch took me to the Boys’ Club on Wednesday and I asked Mickey if he wanted to spend the weekend with us. School would still be out, so he could stay until Monday, New Year’s Day. He said he’d have to check with his Mom, but he was sure that would be okay.
On Friday Daddy and I picked Mickey up at his house. Mama wanted him to be sure to bring his church clothes. Mrs. Jackson liked that.
On Saturday morning we got up for breakfast. Mama was in the kitchen. Daddy was reading the newspaper and drinking his coffee. Sister was watching cartoons.
It didn’t take Mickey long to start teasing Sis. He’d say, “Oh, Caroliiiiine. Wudja’ bring me summo’ pancakes?”
She’d laugh and play like she hated being called Caroline. Nobody called her that but Nana. Then she’d get him some more pancakes. I warned Mama that he could eat.
After breakfast, Mama told me, “Why don’t you go show Mickey around town?”
“Okay, that won’t take long. Maybe we’ll run into some kids at the park or something.”
We put on our jackets and started walking toward town. Pretty soon we were in front of the Phillipses’ house and Jane Ellen was playing by herself out front. She came running out to say “Hi.”
“Hi, Jane Ellen. How’re you? This is Mickey.”
Jane Ellen looked Mickey over real good. Up and down. Then she pointed at him. She told him, “You’re colored!
Mickey smiled. Then he took on a serious appearance. He looked Jane Ellen over real good. Up and down. Then he pointed at her. He told her, “You’re white!”
Jane Ellen laughed and jumped up and down. She said, “I like you.” Then she ran up and hugged Mickey’s leg.
I told him, “Don’t get the big head. She likes everybody.”
Cherry Ann came out to say hello and met Mickey. We talked a while, then headed on our way. I decided we should work our way toward the creek and let Mickey see the Tonkaway version of the Brazos River.
We walked past the Carpenter’s house, but they weren’t home. I’d hoped Alan might be around to tell Mickey about the Green Ghost of Tonkaway Creek. Mickey said that was alright. He didn’t like ghost stories anyway.
Staying along the creek bank, we came up behind the Ellis’ house. They weren’t home, either, so we kept walking. When we reached a certain point I told Mickey we had to turn around.
He asked me, “Why?”
“Because we’re getting close to Shaky Man’s place,” I answered.
“Shaky Man? Who’s that?”
I told him all that I had heard about Shaky Man as we walked back up the creek. I told him I didn’t know how much of it was true, but I just knew all the kids in town were afraid of the man. I told him about egging his house and how I didn’t think his dogs looked too bad.
Mickey said, “Okay, let me get this straight. This old man lives up there by himself with dogs he abuses.”
“And he killed his family.”
“So they say.”
“And he eats kids.”
“According to what I’ve been told.”
“And he just gets away with it.”
Mickey said, “I think we should go back and go up to his house and knock on the door.”
I said, “What! Are you nuts?”
“I mean it. We need to find out.”
“Find out what?”
“Find out whether he likes white meat or dark!”
Mickey laughed, pushed me and took off running. I didn’t even try to catch up. I was laughing too hard.
I yelled at him, “You’re sick!”
That night we went to the Pawelek’s to watch Saturday Night at the Movies in color. Mickey had never really watched a color TV. “African Queen” was showing. It was a good movie with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. We agreed that we could have done without the part with the leeches.
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