What does a guy do when his best friend starts doing things that are completely out of character? In the case of Luke McAllister, you can’t do anything – until you figure out exactly what it is that is different.
The fact that his best friend is a girl complicates matters a heap. Nothing makes sense when RaeNell Stephens, the girl that has “the best curve ball he’s ever seen”, starts blushing and acting like a durned female. All of this at the beginning of the ‘summer to end all summers’ too. This is the summer that Luke, RaeNell, and their friend Farley Midkiff set out to locate, and cash in on a rogue Civil War soldier’s stolen one million dollar Union payroll.
Undaunted by thousands of scholars and fortune seekers having looked unsuccessfully for the treasure for a hundred years, the three twelve-year-old friends search diligently for themselves. What they find is an adventure that leads them on a spiraling path of discovery.
They discover newness in themselves, their families, and the closeness of a small southern community in the process. Luke wrestles with his morality, ethics, and his slowly emerging awareness of the difference between boys and girls. He also discovers that his late father left him an incredibly large legacy of duty, fidelity and caring for those around him.
The telling of the story takes place in imaginary New Caledonia County, NC in 1966. The deep rural traditions, vernacular, and ways of life of the region and community are portrayed in great detail as the story unfolds.
This is an adventure story, but it is also a story about making good decisions whether you want to or not… It is also a story of relationships. Family and community are underscored, but there is an underlying theme of male/female relationships. It’s really okay for boys and girls to be buddies without always having to be boyfriends and girlfriends. It is also a story about innocence. NOT innocence lost, but innocence maintained.
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The Story Behind the Book
The backstory of The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton- by Mike Thomas
Originally, The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton wasn’t written with a mindset of any type. It was not designed to do anything but tell a story. It actually started off as an exercise. I call it my accidental novel.
I write copiously daily. I have learned that if I don’t write regularly with some sort of goal, I become stale and disinterested in the process. I have a regimen of writing, at minimum, five thousand words a day – every day.
I will start a story off with great ideas, excitement, and plans for some sort of magnum opus. The ideas and prose flow along at a satisfying pace… until it doesn’t. Then I am often visited by that bane of the writer’s existence known as writer’s block.
To combat writer’s block I write. It doesn’t really matter what I write in these situations. I must keep my fingers moving and little letters must dance across the computer screen. I write silly stuff, dogma, political rhetoric, jokes, rants or whatever else comes to mind. But, I have to keep moving, or the writing will die for that day. I call it writing calisthenics.
I keep a notepad file down in my computer’s tray that I have labeled “Block Notebook”. When the block times come, I just pull up that file and start typing away without much thought.
Back in the mid ninety’s, I was working on a detective type novel that had some pretty odd story twists in it. I wasn’t really comfortable with some of the subject matter either, but I thought it was a story that needed telling. With such discomfort you could imagine the long bouts of “Block”.
My then-wife happened by while I was working and said, “You don’t need to be writing that junk, you should do some of your southern humor stuff. That’s what sells.”
She nagged at me for several days about the same topic. She kept at it until one afternoon, I pulled my block notebook up and just blasted out the line: “Nearly everything in my life changed the summer that
RaeNell Stephens started growing titties.”
She looked over my shoulder and said, “Jerk,” and stomped off.
I had made my point anyway, and the nagging ceased.
As the days went by, the detective novel became more difficult. I would pull up the block notebook and add a line or two to that original line.
Suddenly one afternoon RaeNell woke up, and a storyline blossomed. In a rush of inspiration, I wrote The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton, bending over the keyboard, and banging out forty-thousand words in a bit over forty-eight hours.
To this day I couldn’t accurately tell you where the storyline came from. It wasn’t written, as much as it just coalesced.
I knew I wanted to tell the story, but I also wanted to say that it’s Okay for boys and girls to be buddies without having to be boyfriends and girlfriends. I wanted it to be a simple story of kids having fun. It needed to be a story of innocence. Not innocence lost, but innocence maintained. It had to be a story of having to do the right thing, whether you wanted to or not. I also wanted it to be a book that adults would enjoy too.
After nearly fifteen years of editors, rejection slips, rebuffs, and simply being ignored, The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton was accepted for publication.
Of course I cleaned up the first line. The book now begins with: Nearly everything in my life changed the summer that RaeNell Stephens started growing up. It reads better I think…
The book is enjoying the light of day after dwelling in that unholy, dank, dark bottom desk drawer. It was a story floating around wanting to be told, and it just happened to land on my keyboard… I’m glad it did… It has been a fun ride.
ABOUT MIKE THOMAS
Mike Thomas is a southern writer. He grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina where he learned a lot about family, traditions, and the genteel lifestyle most southerners enjoy. The richly eccentric folks of his youth have become his characters in today’s books and stories.
Mike began as a newswriter, editor, columnist, reporter, and speechwriter before switching to the role of Critical Care Registered Nurse. He traveled nearly every corner of the world as a vagabond contract nurse before resettling in North Carolina a few years ago.
He lives with Bobby, his desktop computer, and Rachel his laptop, in Halifax County, NC.
“That’s all I need,” He says, “Just my computers and a bit of focus. Then we can make up worlds we could only have dreamed of last week.”
You can visit him at www.mikethomas-writer.com
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