Character Focus – Interview with Mark S. Parker



Mark Parker jI was born in Mexia, Texas, in 1955.  My formative years were spent in Waco and Belton.  I graduated from Belton High School and Texas A&M back in the 70’s.  This Central Texas boy met a West Texas girl named Ann.  We married in 1977.  In 1980 we moved to Midland, her hometown, with our first son.  There, I went to work for Gulf Oil as a landman and was just happy to have a job.  I’ve been a landman ever since.  Sometimes with a company and sometime independently.  I’ve always enjoyed books, literature, letters, words and wordplay.  My writing, until recently, has been for family, friends and church.  A few years ago, about the time my grandchildren started coming along, I started writing books and songs for children and young people.  Our four children grew up in Midland.  Now we have six grandchildren.  They are my muse.


Shaky Man Cover FinalSHAKY MAN

STAY AWAY FROM SHAKY MAN! SHAKY MAN is the story of the unlikely friendship of two boys, one white, one black, growing up in Central Texas during the 1960’s. They are brought together by their common love of laughter, baseball and Star Trek. They come to deal with the racism, intolerance and turbulence of the times. There is even a murder and a trial. And, of course, there is the mysterious Shaky Man. All the kids in Tonkaway, Texas say he killed his wife and kids, eats little children and abuses his dogs. Did he? Does he? Top Parsley is the new kid in town and he has to find out for himself.


1. Tell me a bit about your character. Who are they, how old are they?
Thomas Oliver Parsley is a sixth grader.  He’s average height, average build.  He has sandy hair, blue eyes and big ears.  His friends call him “Top.”  His family calls him “Topper.”  Joe Ellis calls him “Topknot.”  Top doesn’t care for that very much.  He is eleven when the book starts and twelve when it ends.

What do they look like?
Top is left-handed.  Because of that, the only positions be gets to play in baseball or either first base or the outfield.

3. Does the character have any quirks?
Top is an open minded boy.  He takes people as they are.  That causes problems when he makes friends with a black boy from Waco named Mickey.  This comes to a head when Mickey’s father is accused of a murder on the Baylor campus.  They are exposed to the ugliness that was 1960’s racism.

Top is obsessed with thinking about how he sleeps.  Every chapter in the book ends with a report on how his night went

4. Where do they live? What’s it like there?
Top is the new boy in Tonkaway, Texas, a small town outside of Waco.  It’s a place built along Tonkaway Creek.  Everyone knows everyone.  Kids hang out at the Milk Barn.  John’s Farm-acy is the place to go for hardware and dry goods.  Youngsters ride their bikes or walk wherever they go.  They’re pretty isolated from the rest of the world.  Blacks go to different schools. Segregation is the norm.

5. What is their role in the story? Are they the protagonist/antagonist, a supporting character?
The story is narrated by the grown up Top nearly fifty years after the events take place.  Young Top is the protagonist.  The older Top’s vivid memories of the times and events give the story life.

6. What do they do for a living?
Since he is in the sixth grade, Top’s only job is the occasional yard mowing.  He grows up to be a doctor, just like Shaky Man.  His passions are for baseball and Star Trek.  Those things, and laughter, are what bring Top and Mickey together.

7. What do they do for fun?
Play baseball, fish, make birdhouses at Dr. Boone’s (Shaky Man) and swim.  Since Top and Mickey can’t swim together in public pools, they do it in the fishing hole on Tonkaway Creek behind Dr. Boone’s house.

8. What is their greatest weakness, their greatest strength?
Top’s greatest weakness is his sensitivity toward others.  It’s also his greatest strength.  Because of it, he becomes best friends with a black boy, accepts a girl with Down’s Syndrome, friends with a bully with an alcoholic father and friends with an old man with a tremor who is feared by all the other kids in town.  He is also faced with the prejudices these friendships lead to.

9. What is the best that ever happened to them? The worst?
The best thing to happen to Top was meeting Mickey Jackson, the happiest guy he ever knew.  That, and hitting the winning home run against Oglesby with a full count to send the Tonkaway All-Stars to Houston for the Little League playoffs.

10. What do they want from life? What are their goals?
Top wants to win the Little League World Series.  He’s twelve years old and doesn’t think too far beyond that.

11. Does this character of a “theme” song (or several)?
Well, It’s not “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees.  Top was tired of that within a week of it being released.  That was all the radio stations played.  The “Star Trek” will be his theme for life.  He and Mickey lived long and prospered.


Want to find out more about Top? Check out SHAKY MAN!

Mark S. Parker can be followed via the link below.


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