Shelby and the Other-Brothers....
Ainsley, age 4, (to John Mark): "You're not my brother! I don't have to mind you!"

Shelby, age 9: "Yes, you do, same as me. Mind Randy, too. From now on, they're your other brothers."

Three high school boys in small-town Georgia are accused of unspeakable crimes.



Exposes the Clash of
Tradition and Progressivism
~ ~ ~
Chronicles Its Impact on Individuals,
Families and Communities

Shelby, Randy, and John Mark have been best friends since grade school. Growing up in a small town in south Georgia, they've petted and spoiled Shelby's little sister, Ainsley, hunted and fished, played football, studied, worked and worshiped -- together. The sons of close-knit families, they have been raised to be responsible, to revere God, and to love.

But as seniors in high school, they are accused of unspeakable crimes.  Branded criminals in headlines across the state, persecuted by the justice system, abandoned by their community, their lives shattered and their futures jeopardized, they have nowhere to turn but to their families, their faith and each other.

Sweet Southern Boys -- a coming of age story, a tale of misandry run amok.

Reader Comments

Sweet Southern Boys is a unique novel. Not only is it beautifully written, the prose is smooth and a delight to read. But the real value is in the story, which is so realistic, it could be found in today's headlines.

It's a wonderful story of friendship between three all American boys, of families that are real, and faith that is at the core of everything. A very real and authentic picture of the way childhood and growing up is (or should be) along with how to overcome the most difficult trials - with faith, friends, and family.

The triumphs and trials of the everyday lives of these boys involve the reader and make it easy to put yourself in their shoes and wonder "what would I do if I were confronted with a situation like that?" And it makes you take another look at some events you see in the news...are things really as they seem?

Video Trailer


Verona, Georgia
January 14, 1994

The vehicle streaked westward on a dirt road through sparse woodlands, kicking up dust in its wake. Behind the wheel, Randy Stevenson, soon to turn eighteen, monitored the road ahead. Tall and broad shouldered, he was a gracefully muscled athlete. Shaggy black hair framed his face a sensitive, enigmatic face that captivated girls at Verona High School.

Only people who knew him well and the two boys with him knew him as well as anyone would know how agitated he was behind his stony expression. His nostrils flared to accommodate his rapid, shallow respiration. His hands were not trembling only because they held the steering wheel in a tight grip.

A crescent moon hung in the sky ahead, glowing through a hazy cloud cover. It was eight o'clock. The temperature hovered around forty degrees and the boys wore lightweight jackets over their jeans and shirts.

Randy's eyes darted to the rear view mirror. In the distance, a dusk-to-dawn light cast a circular glow in the darkness and shone down on the riverside cabin the boys had departed moments before. The cabin and the half dozen vehicles parked around it disappeared as trees closed in behind the car.

The two-year-old white Sable belonged to Randy's mother and the music playing softly on the radio was one of her oldies stations. On the drive to the cabin earlier, the trio had been in such high spirits, yakking and laughing nonstop, they hadn't noticed the radio was on.

Now it annoyed Randy. He turned it off and broke the ensuing silence. "John Mark?"

"Yeah," answered a subdued voice from the shadowy back seat. "I'm okay."

"Shelby." Randy glanced to his right. The dashboard lights dimly outlined his friend slumped against the door, his head tilted back, wedged between the door and the headrest, and his blonde moptop falling away from his face. His eyes were fixed on the headliner.

"I'll be arright," Shelby muttered.

The road emerged from the woods into a scrubby flatland and Randy eased up on the gas pedal. An intersection with a county blacktop road lay just ahead.

Randy braked at the stop sign and made a left turn toward town. They'd traveled no more than a few yards when Shelby lurched upright and growled, "Pull over!"

The Sable slowed and bounced as its tires hit the weedy, rutted shoulder. Shelby opened the door and hung his upper body out, retching, before the vehicle came to a complete stop.

In the dome light's glow, Randy caught John Mark's gaze in the rear view mirror.

John Mark tilted his head toward their friend. "We need to take him to the emergency room."

"No," Shelby said. He leaned out the door a few moments after his heaving stopped, spit a couple of times, and raised up, breathing heavily between parted lips. He wiped his eyes, glanced at Randy and half turned to look behind him. "No. I'm fine."

John Mark returned Shelby's glare. "Don't be stupid. If that really was LSD she gave you--"

"I didn't swallow any," Shelby insisted. "I rinsed my mouth out four, five times before we left. Besides, I ain't sure LSD makes you puke. Bein' kissed by Tiffany Bratcher is what made me puke."

Randy gave him a quick appraisal. "You done?"

"Yeah." Shelby shut the door and murmured, "Let's go."

Conversation was sparse on the twenty-minute drive to Verona. It was still early on a Friday night and the cinemas, restaurants and convenience stores were doing a brisk business.

"Guess it's time to call it a night," Randy said as the Sable rolled down busy Chilton Avenue, a brightly lighted commercial thoroughfare.

"No, I don't want to go home," Shelby said. He looked much better, sitting upright, his hands clasped around an upraised knee, but his blue-gray eyes were restless, troubled. "I feel like us sticking together a while."

"Me, too," said John Mark.

Randy nodded. "All right. Where to?"

A momentary silence fell as they considered their options.

"My house," John Mark said. "Let's stay there tonight."

"I thought your folks went to Tennessee," Shelby said.

"They did. But they won't care. I'll call their motel and let them know and y'all can call your folks and tell them where you'll be."

"Works for me," Shelby said.

The light turned green and Randy accelerated, his eyes flitting to Shelby. "I don't like it. What if you have some kinda delayed reaction to that drug?"

"If it even was a drug," Shelby replied. "You know what liars Wes and Tiffany are. I don't feel anything from it. Y'all just keep an eye on me and if I start acting weird, take me to the emergency room."

* * *

A lone observer, standing still and silent in the shadows of the cabin's rustic porch, watched the Sable streak away from the riverside party, its red taillights, clouded by the following dust, finally disappearing into the woods.

The faint smell of beer and cigarette smoke had followed him outside. Muffled conversation and laughter reached him through the cabin walls, overlying the thumping rhythm and lower frequencies of recorded music.

After a few moments, he ambled down the steps into the yard, his longish russet hair glinting in the glow of the security light. He followed a path down a slope to a boardwalk edging the inky Oostachula River.

He found a wooden bench, sat down, and pulled a flip-top cigarette box and butane lighter from his jacket pocket. The only cigarette in the box--thin, filterless and slightly crumpled--had not been made in any tobacco factory. He lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply.
His three rivals had said nothing to him when they departed; just filed past him with stony faces. But he knew from long experience that they were shaken--by now, he was an expert at shaking them up--and a corner of his mouth slanted upward.

Eight years had passed since his first run-in with these three crackers, fisticuffs that had got him detention at school and a talking-to at home. But his father's lecture had ended with a priceless observation:

"...there are other ways to fight, son."

Indeed, there were.

The Music of Sweet Southern Boys

From Chapter Eight

Hang on Sloopy -- The McCoys
The Lion Sleeps Tonight -- The Tokens

     A few minutes earlier Gina had removed the big market umbrella from the picnic table on the patio out back and hauled it inside to hand stitch a few small rips in the seams. Through the screen door, Shelby could hear the radio set to her favorite oldies station. Hang On, Sloopy...
     The music was a bonus and made the work and heat easier to take but Shelby knew he wouldn't hear it much longer. It was just a matter of time before the heat would get to his mother and she'd close the windows and doors and turn on the central air.
    But not until after this song, he hoped. The Lion Sleeps Tonight. He didn't like all of his mother's oldies, but he liked that one.

From Chapter Thirty-One

Sweet Child of Mine -- Guns n Roses

     At that moment, the band began to play and Shelby said, "Little sister, they're playing our song. May I have this dance?"
     She smiled and nodded, and the two walked out to the very middle of the dance floor. The band was playing Sweet Child of Mine. Every eye in the place was on them at one time or another, and other dancers were slow to come onto the floor. Brother and sister slow danced easily. Talking, smiling, laughing intermittently. Ainsley was nearly beside herself with excitement. It showed in her face, in her every movement. And it was clear that Shelby delighted in her excitement.
     Not long into the song, however, something unplanned and unexpected happened. Shelby felt a tap on his shoulder and he looked around in surprise to see John Mark standing there, his eyes twinkling. He put the back of his hand against Shelby's chest and gave him a little shove.
     "Step aside, pal," he said. "I'm cuttin' in."

Writing Inspiration Songs

These tunes from virtuoso guitarist Steve Laury's Vineland Dreams CD, became themes for the
main characters as I wrote, and remain so today.(This version of When Dreams Come True
varies somewhat from the version on Vineland Dreams, which is less improvisational.)

Shelby's Theme
Gloria Ann
John Mark's Theme
Cara Mia
Randy's Theme
When Dreams Come True

Original Material © Copyright 2010 - 2014 by Connie Chastain ~ Web Design by Word Slinger Boutique

tumblr tracker