Although he’s written all his life, it wasn’t until the birth of his first grandchild four years ago that Mark S. Parker got serious and wrote the children’s book “Shaky Man.”
Parker, who is a semi-retired landman, said spoke to about 128 sixth-grade students at Ector Middle School Monday about “Shaky Man” and “Skinny Boy,” the sequel he’s working on now.
“‘Shaky Man’ is the story of the unlikely friendship of a white boy and a black boy growing up in Central Texas in the 1960s,” Parker said. “They come to deal with the turbulence of the times, racism, prejudice. And there’s a murder, there’s a trial and, of course, there’s the mysterious shaky man. He is rumored to have killed his wife and kids. He eats small children. He abuses his dogs. And did he? Does he? Top Parsley is the new kid in town and he’s got to find out for himself. That’s pretty much the synopsis.”
The sequel, “Skinny Boy,” is going to be more about football, Parker said. Set in the early 1970s, Parker said Vietnam would be prominent and Fort Hood isn’t far away from the town of Tonkaway where the action takes place. He said he would also talk about military families and how they were impacted by the war.
Parker said he’s hoping to get “Skinny Boy” published by the end of the year.
“Shaky Man” is Parker’s second book. He said his first is a Christmas book that’s still unpublished.
“It’s a hard sell,” he said. “It needs a lot of illustrations.”
His books are aimed at fourth through sixth-grade students, but Parker said adults also enjoy the book because it takes them back to when they were growing up. He added that the book also gives youngsters an idea of what things were like back then.
Another appealing aspect is the morality – the idea that most people are basically good, even when things get disrupted like they were in the 1960s with the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Parker spent his early years in Waco and his high school years in Belton, so he said there both cities are prominently featured in his writing.
“Writing is just fun for me,” Parker said. “It’s not a chore at all. … I’m always surprised. I never know where the story’s going to go. This book just surprised the heck out of me. I didn’t know how it was going to end until I wrote it.”
He likes the children’s genre because he said he’s not a wordy person.
“It gets me to come to schools and talk to kids and I love that,” Parker said.
Ector was the first school he had visited in Odessa, but he has been to campuses in Midland and around Texas. He said he was going to Belton next week because the Friends of the Library there are going to name him Author of the Year.
“Shaky Man” has been read in India, Australia, Great Britain, Japan and New Zealand.
“… I was really surprised. I thought this was just going to be a regional story …,” Parker said.
“I’ll go anywhere and do a school visit,” Parker said.
Kenzie Orona, a permanent substitute at Ector in her first year of teaching reading, said her students were “super-excited” to have Parker visit. She said the prospect of having Parker visit has been discussed since before Christmas. She said “Shaky Boy” reminded her of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“They were very excited to have him come and we’re very thankful that he’s here,” Orona said.
She added that she’s hoping this will generate more interest in not only Parker’s books, but reading in general. Orona said students also have asked if Parker has written other books they can check out.
Twelve-year-old sixth-grader Marcos Marquez is a big fan, and apparently a hungry one. Several of his questions in the school library Monday had some food aspect to them.
“He’s a very great author and I like how he’s going to be coming out with a new book about the Skinny Boy that’s going to involve a lot of football in it. I just think he should mention tacos in it,” Marquez said.
Parker and his wife, Ann, live in Midland and have four children and six grandchildren.
“Shaky Man” is available on Parker’s website, marksparker.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He said the book had been on the shelves at Barnes & Noble in Midland, as well.