Malphurs’ (Meanie Mouse Versus the Orlando Operators, 2009, etc.) newest offering is a fictional memoir, firmly grounded in historical fact.
Jethro Collen Mulkey (aka., J.C. Mulkey, and, in turn, “Jesus Christ, Mulkey!”) first suspects there is an angel of death at work in his hometown of Mexia, Texas, when he is eight years old and his uncle by marriage is killed in a car accident. Uncle Bobby’s alleged companion, uninjured in the wreck, was not his wife but the high school librarian Kiki Kodell. J.C. soon believes that Kiki and her deranged prison-guard son, Helmut, are responsible for a number of suspicious deaths and occurrences in Mexia. Without proof, there is little our hero can do, except try to keep safe as the feud between him and the Kodells intensifies. Far more engaging than his obsession with that bizarre family is the story of J.C. himself. A loyal son, grandson and brother, he stumbles into both usual and unusual adolescent predicaments as he matures from childhood to maturity. Often led by “Scout” (as he names his self-described “autoerotic” penis), J.C. proclaims his love for one young woman and by the next page is distracted by another. Presumably women find J.C. as ingratiating as the reader will, or perhaps they’re just drawn to Scout, who, like any good Boy Scout, is always prepared. Malphurs’ portrayal of women is sometimes unflattering, as several newly engaged young women visit J.C. and Scout for a farewell encounter. Real-life incidents in the history of Mexia are portrayed in the book—including a prisoner of war camp for World War II German soldiers and a tragic Juneteenth accident. Although Mexia is riddled with improbabilities and inconsistencies, J.C. Mulkey is such a likable, appealing protagonist, the book is difficult to put down, literally and figuratively.
Excellent characterization and a slice-of-life Texas setting help the reader ignore the novel’s flaws.