“It’s more humane to face a firing squad than a classroom, humiliated because of illiteracy. One is swift, the other leads to a lifetime of isolation and hardship. Timekeeper is my triumph over letters. Parts of my journey are no longer clear. Forty-eight years later, I have re-imagined events that seem most consistent to my memory. In 1959 ground swept under my feet like a starving man scrambling for his next meal. I’d fled a dysfunctional family in Virginia. I met many people along the way, but no one could compare with Chief in Oklahoma. He filled a void in me and taught me how to join together the many pieces of life. Chief wasn t surprised that I’d crossed the country at the age of fourteen. I was a big kid and had become hardened to the ways of the streets. Right away Chief understood why I didn’t fit in. The main thing was, I couldn’t read. He looked into my soul and saw the suffering I’d endured in the white man’s world. He also saw into my future. Anyone with a lick of sense would ve been frightened of Chief, an old medicine man with strange powers. But after everyone else had given up on me, he saw how I could help myself. At first I thought he was foolish as a fish flopping on a riverbank when he said I should go north to a place he’d visited as a boy. Hell, that was back before we had automobiles. But he said I would go with a great power. I couldn’t imagine where the power would come from. I thought it had to be a strong car, a big Buick Road Master. Every boy my age wanted a car. But the old man gave me a name, Timekeeper. I was no longer Johnnyboy, the affectionate name my Mama had called me. But the gift of the new name stayed a mystery for forty-eight years, the time it took me to figure out Chief’s predictions. For all those years I’ve searched for his meaning, and now I know.”
Johnny Boy Atkinson is at it again, but he comes at you from a completely different direction. In Timekeeper he gives you the moving story of a young man’s difficult journey to overcome illiteracy and the mean-spirited abuse of one’s own dysfunctional family. In Dark Shadows Red Bayou-with his masterful storytelling ability-Atkinson brings you the murder mystery thriller par excellence. John Atkinson has been nominated for the 2009 Library of Virginia award in fiction for his novel/quasi-memoir Timekeeper. Over the years many of his articles and short stories have appeared in syndicated publications and magazines.