He grew up in the foster care system, moving from house to house while his sister came to my wife and I at five weeks of age. M was the oldest of five or more children and was born into a violent family. We didn’t meet him until he was 11 years old and living at a group home facility between Pasadena and Los Angeles. It took a couple of years to gain his trust and see him open up when he came to our house for a visit.
When I first started writing what became Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, I thought of him. M helped shape the character of Andrew in my mind and I appreciate my co-author Lon letting the boy in the story flourish.
He’s now 30 years old and is in a county jail–again, for a parole violation–and voluntarily extended his sentence so he could get some help and have housing available for when he’s released again.
He had been asking for a copy of our Tom Stone stories and I finally remembered to send one. He called me today and had read the first chapter and was telling other guys in his block about the story–with the opening around Christmas time and Detective Tom Stone meeting Andrew, noticing the frenetic way the boy handled himself.
As we talk about social justice and racism in this country, one of the elements that frequently gets left out of the discussion is the importance of family in a child’s life. Sadly, foster care is a path to prison unless dedicated families step in. Det. Tom Stone does that and continues the relationship with Andrew in Book 2 Sweltering Summer Nights and Book 3 Day of the Dead.
We’re writing a short story and will release it soon where Stone also goes hiking into a canyon with Andrew, his detective partner Jake and Jake’s son.
M is excited about finishing the book and it helps pass his time. It also gives him a window on life choices and can alleviate the loneliness and boredom that can be tough.
Perhaps the Tom Stone stories can inspire him to write since he does have a creative talent that I’ve seen expressed. I’ll be interested to know what he thinks of the story.
Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas is available on Amazon, Kobo and iTunes.
Here’s an excerpt where Stone is visiting Andrew and his counselor Luke at the group after the Christmas party.
Stone felt too self-conscious to play like Luke but he moved the dog around on the floor near Andrew. “Do you like dogs, Andrew?”
The boy waited and looked from Stone to Luke and then nodded. “They can be nice.” His face changed and he spoke in an ominous tone. “And they can snarl and bite.” Andrew grabbed the dog and growled in a low voice.
“Do they growl when they’re scared or angry, Andrew?” asked Luke.
Andrew let go of the dog, didn’t say anything for a few moments, and then spoke up. “Dogs run away from home.” Life seemed to vanish from his eyes after he spoke.
So why do we see a bit of Tony Montana in Angelino?
Scarface was not an easy movie to watch, but it was gripping. Al Pacino’s character has big dreams but unfortunately it’s through the criminal life. He sees others who have made it big and he knows he can do the same. He’s willing to sacrifice others for all the wrong reasons.
A memorable part of the movie was when Montana visited his mother and sister as we see in this YouTube clip. His mother knows what’s up. Below the clip is an excerpt from Anthony Angelino speaking with his girlfriend Sara.
Much of the world around us can look bright and shiny and we don’t realize how deadly it really is. Somehow we think we’re invincible. And maybe we’re too late in understanding what’s really important.
Tony Montana lived and fought for—?
It’s a question that’s worth pondering.
Why do people invest their lives in pursuing money when it’s fraught with danger?
EXCERPT TOM STONE SWELTERING SUMMER NIGHTS, CHAPTER FOUR
“What is going on?” [Sara] sounded like she was fighting to control her panic.
“Just leave me alone.” Angel looked in a mirror on the wall behind the counter and touched the cut. He winced. “Damn.”
“Angel let’s get out of here. Close it up, sell it off. Let’s leave LA.”
“And go where? And do what?”
“Here, let me look at that.” Sara reached her hands like she wanted to hold his face, but he slapped her away.
“My father took a bullet as a policeman in Yucatan to protect the mayor down there. It was a war between the cops and the drug lords. And with the help of the CIA, the cops ran the drug cartel out of town.” He shook his head. “Can you believe it? The cops actually won.
“But the mayor had other ideas. He just took over, formed his own cartel, and stuffed his pockets with all the dollars earned on the backs of cocoa farmers. Yeah, the drug lords did more for the community than the elected officials. And I knew then what I would do. Earn lots of money and give back. Sure, I could sell everything and run. And do what?”
Sara mumbled. “Sell cars.”
“Sell cars?” Angel laughed. “How about horses and buggies?”
“Angel.” She motioned to his nose and forehead. “What are they going to do next? Kill you?”
“They could have killed me a long time ago. They’re smart. They let me do the hard work and then come in and think they’re going to suck the profits away from me. I know more than they do, Sara. You’ll see.” He held her, kissed her on the forehead and his problems seemed to disappear for a moment until the front door opened.
Detective Tom Stone entered. He greeted Angelino and Sara with a half-smile. “Well, how about this?”
Angelino couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His first instinct was to strike out, but he stayed behind the counter and forced a casual tone.
“Yes. How about it? Good morning, Detective. To what do I owe the pleasure? Or are you here to find something to help you chill out?”
“If I did, this is the last place I’d look.”
Angel smiled. “Well, look anyway. There’s a lot of variety. Shatter or some crumble and if you want weed, we only carry the best like King Moses OG. I just need to see your medical ID card first.”
Stone ignored the comment and nodded at Sara. “How are you?”
“Fine,” she replied.
He had been impressed how she calmly gave her testimony during the hearings.
“Still making bad choices, I see.” He glanced around the shop. “Impressive.”
“Thank you.” Angelino beamed. “You should open up one of these places. You’d make more money in a single month than you would in a year being a detective.”
“Hey, I may not make a lot of money, but I got a little something for you,” said Stone.
“Oh, nice. What is it? Another false arrest?”
Stone smirked, reached into his pocket, and tossed a gumball to Angelino who caught it and popped it into his mouth.
“Mmm, tasty.” He blew a bubble.
Stone looked closely at Angelino. “You’re looking a little banged up.”
“Uh, yeah. Cut myself shaving.”
Stone smiled. “On your nose? And your forehead?”
“Shit happens. Life is funny that way.” He spit the gumball into the trashcan. “They lose their flavor too quickly.”
“How about that? I got it from one of your machines.”
“What do you expect for twenty-five cents?”
Stone looked at the shelves and surveyed the various flavors of weed. “I see you don’t have vending machines here.”
“Of course not.”
“Angel, what are you doing?”
“Making money while at the same time helping people.”
“This is illegal.”
Angelino responded. “Nothing illegal here. Everything’s on file. After all, this is a not-for-profit cooperative sanctioned by none other than the fucking City of Los Angeles.”
The Mercedes pulled into the front parking lot. What the hell?
Stone took his time browsing while outside Wu got out of the car and made his way to the store. Angelino kept a gun in his desk. Maybe this was the time to do away with both of them at once. He could only wish.
Sara looked outside and then spoke to Stone. “Nice seeing you again. I have work to do. I’ll be in the back.”
“You take care of yourself, Sara.” Stone sounded sincere.