The Boys Who Woke Up Early

A Novel

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Pub Date 03 Mar 2019 | Archive Date 30 Oct 2021

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Playing cops was just a game until the bullets were real.

The gravy train hasn’t stopped in the hollers of western Virginia for more than thirty years when Stony Shelor starts his junior year at Jubal Early High. Class divides and racism are still the hardened norms as the Eisenhower years draw to a close. Violence lies coiled under the calm surface, ready to strike at any time.

On the high school front, the cool boys are taking their wardrobe and music cues from hip TV private dick Peter Gunn, and Dobie Gillis is teaching them how to hit on pretty girls. There’s no help for Stony on the horizon, though. Mary Lou Martin is the girl of his dreams, and she hardly knows Stony exists. In addition, Stony can’t seem to stay out of juvenile court and just may end up in reform school. A long, difficult year stretches out in front of him when a new boy arrives in town.Likeable bullshit artist Jack Newcomb dresses like Peter Gunn, uses moves like Dobie Gillis, and plays pretty good jazz clarinet.

Jack draws Stony into his fantasy of being a private detective, and the two boys start hanging around the county sheriff’s office. Accepted as sources of amusement and free labor, the aspiring gumshoes land their first case after the district attorney’s house is burglarized. Later, the boys hatch an ingenious scheme to help the deputies raid an illegal speakeasy and brothel. All the intrigue feels like fun and games to Jack and Stony until a gunfight with a hillbilly boy almost gets them killed. The stakes rise even higher when the boys find themselves facing off against the Ku Klux Klan.
Playing cops was just a game until the bullets were real.

The gravy train hasn’t stopped in the hollers of western Virginia for more than thirty years when Stony Shelor starts his junior year at...

A Note From the Publisher

There are some reading group discussion questions at the back of the e-book

There are some reading group discussion questions at the back of the e-book

Advance Praise

Equipped with the grace of a fencer and the attentiveness of a journalist, A.D. Hopkins drops us into the world of teenager Stony Shelor, a blossoming humanist, would-be-detective, and hopeful gallant. Read it for the pleasure of this boy’s ideas, for the perfectly pitched turn-of-phrase, for the reminder that in every community, there are those fighting for the right and the true.—Laura McBride, author of We Are Called to Rise and In the Midnight Room.

The Boys Who Woke Up Early might be A.D. Hopkins' first novel, but it feels like it has always been with us; it's a novel filled with heart and grace and a surging sense of wonder, while also lined with brutality and violence. A rare combination, for sure, but A.D. Hopkins is a rare writer.—Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland and Gangster Nation.

A rollicking coming-of-age tale, shining a light on the not too distant past of the Jim Crow South.  With his storyteller’s ear and reporter’s attention to detail, A.D. Hopkins has created poignant characters and a plotline to match.  His lines convey the sadness and shortness of life—the sorrows brought on by family members lost to typical feuds and grudges whose origins no one can remember. In Hopkins’ hands, it all comes to life."—Sally Denton, author of The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs & Murder

A coming-of-age story that doesn’t pull its punches. Set in the waning years of the Jim Crow era in rural Virginia, it’s a narrative in which fists fly, guns go off and the Ku Klux Klan is hiding in plain sight. A.D. Hopkins convincingly re-creates the time and place, and his characters are as natural as the creative turns of phrase he captures from his native South.—Geoff Schumacher, National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement and author of Sun, Sin & Suburbia: The History of Modern Las Vegas

The Boys Who Woke Up Early
is all at once a coming of age novel, an action story, and a tale of social transformation of a southern small town confronting the early civil rights movement...Fast cars, moonshine, gunplay, and the Ku Klux Klan all influence life in the town of Early in the late 1950s, tucked away in the mountains of Appalachia. A. D. Hopkins is a versatile storyteller. The America of today is sorely in need of this reminder, this reawakening of our minds and hearts."—Douglas Unger, author of Leaving the Land and Voices from Silence.

Equipped with the grace of a fencer and the attentiveness of a journalist, A.D. Hopkins drops us into the world of teenager Stony Shelor, a blossoming humanist, would-be-detective, and hopeful...

Marketing Plan

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Featured Reviews

The Boys Who Woke Up Early brims with history, detail, and engaging characters. This book promises that be an entry from a bright new voice in fiction.

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I stepped out of my comfort zone while reading this. I mist admit this is a good read.


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'I sometimes blamed my name for the bad deeds of my youth.'

1959, Jubal Early High School (Early, lying almost on the West Virginia line) Jack Newcomb walks in with a swagger, and before long becomes fast friends with Stony Shelor . When Stony isn’t avoiding trouble and juvenile court, he has fantasies about pretty country girl Mary Lou who just may teach him, and the town, more than he ever thought he needed to know about racism. Jack emulates TV characters from popular shows of the times, perfecting his swagger. Wearing a beret and sunglasses is about as foreign as a teenager could get around the hollers and Jack loves playing up his part, looking like a ‘jazz musician from a Peter Gun show’ (first detective tv series where the character was created for television). Soon, Jack convinces Stony they should each become a gumshoe themselves. First they need a licence to be detectives, but Jack figures it’s no problem, he has it all figured out already. He has researched! The boys find themselves hanging out at the Early County Sheriff’s Department learning police work and falling under the spell the power of asking questions provides. They help with a case when the Rich Conway’s (the district attorney) house is burglarized. Lacking the manpower, why not let the eager boys watch the place, rather than wasting the deputies time? If they can catch the criminal, they can make serious money! But a stolen television leads to bigger tangles, and the person they’ve fingered as guilty isn’t as cut and dry as that.

When the boys decide to bust a speakeasy and brothel, Stony further inflames a longstanding family feud between the Jepsons (moonshiners and poachers) and his own family, the Shelors. Like his grandfather once told his daughter-in law about their own ancestors “It won’t do to shake that family tree too hard,” he told her, “you might not like what falls out.” What family is without their dubious characters, whose to say or remember exactly what started the feud. Stony knows only that all the Jepsons fought like the devil and dropped out of school by the time they were sixteen. He remembers all too well the hell Buddy put on him in grade school.

Without giving the story away, it’s a coming of age during a time when racial tensions were on the rise, when the Ku Klux Klan were hidden sometimes in your own family and two boys playing at being grown men, thrilled by the power of police work sometimes learn that the difference between right and wrong, good and bad is thin. That love can incite all manner of shocking violence, and messing with the wrong boy can possibly cost you your very life. Will Stony be brave enough to support the girl he loves, in spite of the hatred in the eyes of the entire town? Will he ever be a real detective?

This reads so much like a memoir. That people freely used such inflammatory, racist language is the reality of the time and place. That sometimes we don’t understand how ugly the things we unquestioningly accept as normal are until we open our eyes is evident in the changes Stony goes through. That in looking for our own glory, we may bring the downfall of other innocent people and at a greater cost than we thought even to ourselves. It’s hard to admit even ignorance can be understood if you look at the root of it, fear. It’s nice to see brave female characters in a story about boys too, because Mary Lou has the strength of every man in this novel.

Publication Date: March 3, 2019

Imbrifex Books

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A book that is engaging and enthralling, full of wonderful characters and with a wonderful plot.
A very good read , I will surely look for other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC

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It is interesting to note that this is A. D. Hopkins first novel and although the characters are fictitious the themes and story lines are derived and inspired by his 46 years working as a journalist in Virginia, North Carolina, and Las Vegas focusing for much of that time on small town life. The experiences and people he encountered in the police stations and courthouses of Virginia are here used to telling effect as he produces a novel that looks below the surface of what life was like in a small western Virginia town during the closing days of the Eisenhower years. A time of contradictions where the ostensible small town stability and order was underpinned by rigid racial segregation backed by that state's Jim Crow laws and the possibility of violence erupting at any time.

The novel takes the form of a memoir written in later life by Stony Shelor who looks back at the time when attending High School in the town of Jubal Early he teams up with a new entrant Jack Newcomb to assist in the local sheriff's office. Often more of a hindrance than a help their first case concerns solving a series of burglaries at the local district attorney's house. This is the start of a series of adventures that will see the boys involved in a gunfight with the local hillbilly boy, try to close down an illegal brothel and moonshine operation as well as coming up against the local Ku Klux Klan.

There is no doubt that A. D. Hopkins is a fine storyteller and along with meeting a collection of memorable characters the reader is presented a picture of how racially divided and discriminatory such a small town at that time would be. Certainly to a UK reader the language and attitudes are quite shocking but were of course perfectly normal for many at that time. Hopefully things have moved on. Other things that stand out from the book are the level of corruption, the proliferation of guns of all sorts and the high level of poverty that existed for both communities. This may indeed be still the case as I do not expect that the local mills then in existence would have survived.

In conclusion, this is a thought provoking coming of age drama that goes beneath the surface to present a picture of a community and society in transition and it shows how division and fear detrimentally effects the human condition. Well worth a read and hopefully there will be more from this writer. in the future.

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The Boys Who Woke Up Early is captivating and fascinating. It is filled with awesome characters and a very entertaining and intriguing plot. I really like this book. It’s a great book. I will look for other books by this author. I highly recommend it. Advance reader copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Stony Shelor is in high school and has a crush on a girl named Mary Lou. Stony is already in trouble with the law and trying to stay out of reform school, so he has to be careful how he treads. It’s the 1950’s, and racism is alive and well in his town of Early. A new boy, Jack, moves to town and he and Stony become friends. They hatch up a scheme to become private detectives and start hanging out at the police station. The police are only too happy to put the two new volunteers to work on office projects, but don’t let them solve actual crimes. The boys eventually get themselves hired by an important man in town whose house was burglarized. They are on the case and trying to find the stolen items! Meanwhile, they find out other things that are going on in town, including the big secret, the Ku Klux Klan is in town.

Both boys have access to guns, which apparently was the way things were in rural towns in that era. Jack carries one with him most of the time. Stony can borrow his father’s gun when he wants to. During their investigation, the boys spy on an old rival, part of a hillbilly family, and end up in a gunfight with him. The boys find out that Stony’s family and this family have a long-running family feud. Stony is in trouble again.

The seemingly innocent life of this early time hides a dark secret. The town has prominent men who are part of the KKK. This leads to problems later on and the boys are deeply involved in the entire affair.

This novel brings up some issues that faced society back then and some that still plague us today. For that reason, the title seems appropriate. In effect, the boys woke up the town to some of the things that were going on out of sight. It is a good examination of life in a small town. The narrator is writing as if he is looking back on his past, in a memoir form. The reader sees how his memories from that time are indelibly etched. The events played a transformative role in the life of the town as well as the boys.

The books works well as historical fiction, but also as an adventure story. The issues it brings up would be excellent lead-ins to classroom discussions. The differences between that time period and the current one as far as the attitudes toward guns could be a starting point for classroom dialog. The Jim Crow laws during the era of this story would be a good lesson for classroom discussion. There are many aspects of the book that teachers could use with their students to generate thoughtful writing prompts. I recommend it to classroom teachers especially for that reason. The story lends itself well to getting students thinking about these things. It’s also just a good read and has a powerful message to get across to the reader.

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A. D Hopkins first novel and I expect to read more. How is one to follow on this brilliant novel? We shall see.
The novel has an abundant of history, characters you are involved with and engaging Boys you root for. Not a book you want to end. I loved it from the beginning and did not want to see it end.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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I love that this book is set in the 50s. It added such a good historical aspect to the story especially dealing with with some of the aspects of the book. Jack and Stony want to be detectives and even go as far to start hanging out at the police station and finally get to help on a case when the DA's house is robbed. The things they find though on their "assignment" lead them to question everything they know about their town and their families.

This is the first book I read by A.D Hopkins and I look forward to reading more of his. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

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Coming of 1950's age story detailing the lives, adventures and dreams of two boys who are high school juniors and good friends. At the core of the story is their volunteer time as a team in the small town, western Virginia sheriff's office. Together they face issues involving burglary, racism, prostitution, moonshine liquor, murder and more. I found this a fun, fast read...really enjoyable.

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Compared to my typical dish of words, this book is different. Normally I consume an odd diet of classics combined with science fiction and fantasy, and as such, this is a book that certainly was a welcome addition of flavouring to my diet. Different in style, setting and development, this was a refreshing way to start 2019 and new book thoughts. I liked it, and I think you will too.

The main character is Stony, who finds a new friend in Jack, a newcomer to the local county. They're both teenagers living through the lens of a southern state in the 1960s. The fact that they're teenagers comes across as a useful pin whenever something substantially dumb or short-sighted is done, and otherwise, a lot can be explained by the current social context that the county inhibits.

When all is said and done, the characters develop nicely, clearly learning from both their mistakes and where they want to go. Stony's experiences are different, but they also seem natural. Even the gaps between ordinary teenage life in the sixties and the more... southern aspects are bridged in a reasonable and enjoyable way. The pacing is patient, and while it is occasionally a bit too calm, it's never quiet for too long before the storm.

Personally, there are parts where I struggled to connect with the world within. Additionally, as a northern-European, the comparison of the county centre to a baseball track left me unable to envision the layout, beyond some element of squareness. One crossing line? Where exactly? I don't know, but it's not too important. Luckily the book does not rest on its only baseball comparison or the only one that was spelt outright. Then there are the firearms. I grew up with the seasonal moose hunting myself, but boy does Early county have a lot of barrels and bullets. If anything, it made me appreciate how common they *can* be, and view the cultural gap between here and there, even today, more clearly.

I was startled when the first usage of a certain word crept up, even though I knew it was coming (this book does involve the Ku Klux Klan, after all). It is a repeat visitor, but never in a way that seems disrespectful in the context that the books exist in. Nonetheless, I would look around every now and then to see if anyone could see what I was reading.

All in all, I think a valid word to describe the book is cohesive. There are a lot more characters than just Stony and his friend, and they are all tied into the story in an enjoyable, understandable and personally motivated way. Even characters who all-in-all are mostly insignificant behave consistently and in a relatable way, and help move everything forward. Without the bustling life and small, yet important, interpersonal relationships between people Stony would not have ended up where he did.

Regarding the discussion points:
3. I think things would be quite different these days, not to mention because the foundation for some of the events is not as easily available. Buddy might be, but it's not as simple when it comes to Roosevelt et al.
4. Hard to tell for me, as I struggled somewhat to connect with its layout, but I can relate to the small county feeling, as I myself am from a municipality with about 1300 people in it. (Perhaps that's a bit more -- the local area only had a few hundred.)
5. I sure hope not, but if it's on the wall...
6. Gina and her relationship with Stony stand somewhat out, because while she's important, and what they do together is important, I thought she was a bit distant for a while, but then again she's merely a supporting character.
7. Due to Gina's influence, due to knowing of her father's participation, I think Mary Lou would have had a very different day-to-day experience, though I don't think that would make a big difference in the way the story developed.
8. For the most part I think everything sans the human intimacy would be different.
9. Hopefully be slightly less trigger-happy.
10. See 7.
11. In hindsight, I wasn't too sure of the gunfights effect, until I came to think of how it threw Stony out of the Sheriff's office and caused his migration to the garage. Then again, I feel myself doubt whether I'm thinking of the right gunfight because there were a few, weren't there? Hm.
12. Due to the sheer madness of them, I can't quite decide between Jack and Stony being shot on by Buddy or their help in getting the local moonshine bar (and possible whorehouse) out of business.
13. I'm not sure. I feel like it may have grounded an already similar view when it comes to segregation and that part of the past within the states, but changing it... I guess I had not played the devil's advocate quite as much when it comes to seeing how people already living in that context wouldn't necessarily think otherwise, or find it as extreme as it really is. That perspective was nice to feel closer to heart, though it's not a new one if you live in a sufficiently closed-in county.
14. It does not remind me of any book I've read, no.
15. I hope they'll continue to foster relationships regardless of race, and that they'll continue to challenge those who don't. They might not care too much for political correctness though.

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In the little Virginia mountain town of Early in 1959, high school juniors Stony Shelor and Jack Newsome get involved in adventures sometimes humorous and some times very serious.

from description: Jack draws Stony into his fantasy of being a private detective, and the two boys start hanging around the county sheriff’s office. Accepted as sources of amusement and free labor, the aspiring gumshoes land their first case after the district attorney’s house is burglarized. Later, the boys hatch an ingenious scheme to help the deputies raid an illegal speakeasy and brothel. All the intrigue feels like fun and games to Jack and Stony until a gunfight with a hillbilly boy almost gets them killed. The stakes rise even higher when the boys find themselves facing off against the Ku Klux Klan.

I really liked this one: the writing, the characters, and the plot. Stony and Jack are friends with completely different personalities, but who complement each other in this story of growing up in the late 1950's in the small town of Early. There are many episodes that illustrate the different time frame yet evoke timeless situations and there is a current of suspense that works with the overall theme.

Reading like a memoir, The Boys Who Woke Up Early is an engaging novel that captivated my interest early and held it throughout.

Read in January; review scheduled for Feb. 19.

NetGalley/Imbriflex Books
Coming of Age. March 3, 2019. Print length: 256 pages.

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When I read books, sometimes I know exactly what I want to highlight in my review and other times, ideas and themes from the novel need time to grow and develop in my mind like an oyster and its pearl. The latter was very true for my reading of A.D. Hopkins The Boys Who Woke Up Early set in western Virginia (Early County) in the 1960s. It follows the cultural and social awakening of two teenage boys, Jack Newcomb and Thomas Jackson Shelor, who in turn help start an awakening that ends in cataclysmic proportions for the county itself.

Thomas, referred to throughout the novel as Stony (from Stonewall Jackson), is on juvenile probation. He gets into fights and manages to attract trouble even when he is trying to stay out of it. His somewhat unlikely friend Jack Newcomb has been the new kid a thousand times over with his parents moving from town to town for new development projects. The two of them decide to start a private detective agency after Rich Conway, the local prosecutor, has had a string of thefts.

The story of The Boys Who Woke Up Early is in many ways a timeless American narrative of small town life, mischief, and growing up. The universality does not just stop there. Early County has a strong Klu Klux Klan (KKK) membership. The segregated and rather large Black community of the county means that the KKK are always on edge and what I would describe as itching and willing for a confrontation.

This is written as historical fiction that looks back on the racially charged 1960s and addresses how people like Jack and Stony overcome some of their racial prejudices. Yet, it also reflects the unrest we see in the United States today. With recent events involving indigenous activists and young white men ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) hats taunting and yelling at the indigenous activists, I can say without a doubt that America needs a reawakening. Novels like Hopkins’ can give us the illusion that poor race relations, discrimination, and even the KKK and other hate groups are a thing of the past. However, this is a regular occurrence for non-whites in the U.S. and to assume that this stuff could only happen in the 1960s-1970s is a naive outlook.

Hopkins weaves a timeless narrative that should speak to contemporary America. The author was a journalist and reporter and his details of police, politics, and civilian relations is described well and with a touch of what I imagine is insider knowledge. What I appreciate most about the novel is the racial awareness and awakening that the Jack and Stony undertake throughout the novel. In the beginning they are passive bystanders to racial inequality. It is something they never questioned or even really thought about. This is true of most people even today. Unless we are directly affected by something it can be hard for us to see how it affects others. And this blindness goes beyond race relations. The boys learn through meeting African Americans, talking with white alleys, and learning inside details of the bigger race relations of the county that what they have assumed as ‘fact’ might actually be very false. Their evolution is not over night and they don’t wake up and suddenly become ‘woke’. The process is an accumulation of small realisations that result in a paradigm shift for the boys.

I hope if people read Hopkins novel they ask themselves how and if they question the current social, political, and cultural climate of their country. I hope that the characters Stony and Jack lead by example and maybe even change a few reader’s lives.

Do you enjoy contemporary historical fiction? Will you be picking up a copy of Hopkins’ novel? As always, share the reading love.

NOTE: This novel was was accessed through Netgalley and Imbrifex Books for review purposes.

For links to relevant news articles read on the original page:

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September 1959 in the small town of Early, Virginia. "Stony" Shelor is almost seventeen and just starting his junior year of High School. Enter new kid Jack Newcomb who models himself after a beatnik character from the TV show Peter Gunn. The two boys, both a bit nonconformist, become fast friends.

Jack's decision that they should become private detectives leads to a lot of time spent around the local police station learning the trade. The cops couldn't be happier having two volunteers to do some of the nonessential duties (like cleaning & filing) and the two boys become sort of like mascots to them.

It's all kind of endearing in a way but Early, Virginia isn't Andy Griffith's Mayberry so when trouble comes... and it does... there's more to it than good ol' wholesome fun.

The Boys Who Woke Up Early is a coming of age story set in a time when the world (at least The United States) was having some "coming of age" issues of its own. While the first half of the book deals with the boys' Hardy Boy-esque adventures the second half gets deeper into the social changes affecting their world (mostly racism and associated issues).

I thought this was a pretty good book. There's a certain suspension of disbelief required at times as it goes from silly to serious and makes you question how anyone could let these boys get into these kinds of situations but, then again, it was a different time.

While the story is about teenagers in 1959 and the early 1960s the author strives to present a sense of realism. Meaning there are racial slurs, some cursing, and one or two cringe worthy moments when seen from a modern perspective. I wouldn't call it salacious or gratuitous but it's there.

Bottom line: The Boys Who Woke Up Early is a good read. Lots of fun with a few thought provoking moments.

***Thanks to NetGalley, Imbrifex Books, and author A. D. Hopkins for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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The story of The Boys Who Woke Up Early is in many ways a Seemingly historical American narrative of small town life, mischief, and growing up. I hope that the characters Stony and Jack lead by example and probably change many lives!
Highly recommended, amazing book!

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Earlier in the book, I was reminded a little of To Kill a Mockingbird (though much less innocent) and perhaps Natalie Gordimer’s A World of Strangers. Hopkins perfectly captures Stony’s moments of enlightenment as he gradually starts to get past his ingrained prejudice against the black community in his own town and eventually to befriend one of them. Despite being set in the past (the 1950s-60s, I think), what I loved about this book is its relevance to the present day. While not everyone in Early is outright racist, there are so many who don’t challenge the Klan’s actions, don’t question the racial segregation, and are largely okay with perpetuating the racial divides. Mary Lou Martin, a schoolmate that Stony admires, is the first to challenge these givens, and in dating Roosevelt (a black boy), she becomes a target for the Klan’s wrath. Mary Lou makes a point to Stony that things in Early can’t change unless the progressives stay and try to make the changes they want to see, rather than running away to a place with more modern ideals. The writing is unembellished and flows smoothly, making the book an effortless and gripping read. This book is a reminder of generational differences and the role of the youth in shaping the present and future of the world around them, not by running away or unquestioningly accepting things the way they are, but by staying and gradually trying to change the way things work. Additionally, the fact that there are all these characters carrying guns, people being shot - fatally or otherwise - and even students talking so casually about their experiences holding and firing a gun brings to mind the ongoing debates about gun laws in the US.

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Oh yes I definitely recommend this book!!
Very captivating. Hard to put down.
There is a lot to think about long after you finish this book. Really gives you an insight on how things were long ago in the Deep South.
Throughly enjoyed!!!

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Stony grew up in what a typical southern town would look like in the 1950's, The history incorporated into the story made this even more interesting. The Boys Who Woke up Early was an interesting read and it was not easy for me to put down.

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This story follows two high school boys as they learn police procedure. Initially following officers around and cleaning guns, they work their way up to dispatching when the department is short of officers. The story examines the way small town police departments operated during desegregation.

The backhanded politics including corruption, bullying, and abuse are themes woven throughout. Though a fictional story, the details are clear and a bit of truth shines brightly. Stony Shelor and Jack Newcome go from innocent boys to brave soon-to-be private detectives.
Written in the style of The Catcher in the Rye, this coming of age story is one not to be missed.

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4 stars Thanks to NetGalley and Imbrifex Books for allowing me to read and review this ARC. Published March 3, 2019.

I found this to be a fun book. There were a number of places that I laughed out loud. Places that reminded me of similar things that I had experienced.

The author has written non fiction and edited a number of books, but this is the debut novel of A. D. Hopkins.

Basically about a group of teen boys, both friends and adversaries, in rural Virginia, in the late 50's and early 60's. Back when segregation was still alive and the KKK was active. Corrupt small town police departments and long living family feuds all bound together to make formidable story.

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Title: The Boys Who Woke Up Early
Author: A.D. Hopkins
Genre: Fiction, historical
Rating: 4 out of 5

Western Virginia in the days of the Ku Klux Klan is where Stony starts his junior year of high school. The town is poor, and those who live in town don’t associate with the hillbillies in the woods and hollers. But Stony has a crush on Mary Lou Martin, one of the country girls, and he can’t figure out how to cross the divide.

Then Jack moves to town. Jack dresses like TV detective Peter Gunn and plays jazz clarinet, and soon he and Stony are good friends. Jack convinces Stony they’ll be detectives, and soon the boys are spending more time at the sheriff’s department than at home. If only Stony didn’t have a history as a juvenile delinquent.

Soon the boys run up against the district attorney and find themselves involved in a raid on an illegal speakeasy…just before they face off with the Klan in their attempts to keep their town safe.

I kept telling myself I’d put this book down because the writing wasn’t quite up to par, but I enjoyed the story so much that I finished reading it. This book is decidedly not in favor of the Klan. It’s set just when the fight for equal rights begins, when discrimination is the norm, and only a few people are waking up to the awareness that the way things have always been isn’t the way they should be. I enjoyed the story of Stony’s realization that his small mountain hometown needs to make some changes.

A.D. Hopkins is a former journalist. The Boys Who Woke Up Early is his new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Imbrifex Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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They always say write what you know, and that is exactly what A.D. Hopkins has done in this, his debut novel. Having been an investigative journalist and reporter for close to five decades he uses his insider knowledge to give the story an authentic feel to it, and although set in the past (early 1960s) it is still timely and relevant to the world we live in today. The main focus of the novel is on racial prejudice and segregation and the involvement of the white supremacist hate group the Ku Klux Klan in perpetuating the hatred towards the black community. The point is made that if you want change you need to push for it - a timeless reminder that we can make progress if we stand up and be counted.

The issue of the moral ambiguity of gun ownership in the US today is cleverly linked as so many of the characters talked about owning and shooting a gun themselves. The writing and plot are seamless and grip you from the very beginning, and the characters are beautifully rounded; I admired Mary Lou the most as she had vision and didn't unquestioningly accept the way things were as most people of the time did. It's a captivating thriller but so much more than that. It makes us question our lives today and how far we've come but also how much further we still have to go to gain equality. It's both a powerful, thought-provoking and highly entertaining hybrid coming-of-age novel/thriller, and the descriptions of small-town life make for engaging reading.

I appreciate the title of the book hinting at the societal awakening hidden amongst the pages and whoever wrote the synopsis did a fantastic job; that's certainly what attracted me initially.

Many thanks to Imbrifex Books for an ARC.

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DNF- felt very uncomfortable reading as a caucasian female coming from a caucasian author. Might just be over sensitive but I can't help how I feel and I did not anticipate it. I will try to avoid this issue going forward although it is sometimes hard to tell. I will not lower the rating due to my personal preference nor post a public review.

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This story truly amazed me. The cover and title drew me in, the blurb sounded good BUT it was so far away from my normal read. It was so real. I was transported back to the 50s and all the madness that went with it. Politics, racism, KKK. Just wow.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Imbrifex Books and the author, A.D Hopkins, for the opportunity to read a digital copy of The Boys Who Woke Up Early in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.
I thought the book was a good read. It was well written and thought provoking.
Worth a read.

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Engaging, enthralling, and cant wait to get a spotlight up on my blog. Great writing on a heavy topic.

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If you like fast paced stories with a conspiracy twist, you’ll love Boys Who Woke Up Early. A high -flying thrill ride !!

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This one was definitely a coming-of-age story! Told from the perspective of a troubled Virginia boy in Eisenhower-era as he embarks his final two years of high school. Trying to find his place in the world, hoping to be a man but ultimately learning that he’s still a boy. It gives you great insight to the law enforcement, corruption, racism of the time from the perspective of a boy who is trying to figure out who he is & the man he wants to be in the small town that isn’t quite ready to evolve with the changing times. I thought it was a quick read. What you read in the synopsis is what you get in the book. And while there is nothing wrong with that, it seemed a little disappointing that was all I got as a reader. If you’re looking for a coming-of-age story during a time of historical evolution and racial tension, then this is the book for you!

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Thank you NetGalley and Imbrifex Books for this copy of The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins. The following review is no way influenced by this, and is entirely my own.

The Boys Who Woke Up Early is a story about boys experiences as teens, but not a coming-of-age story, nor a historical tale other than being true to the times that it’s written about. It’s relaxed pace ambles on the way real life ambles on. The situations the boys get into are believable and entertaining, and the narrative voice ring true.

I love how the escapades work in with the title of the book, and how the destinies of the boys are formed by them. Complete with humor and sobering themes like racial prejudice and segregation, The Boys Who Woke Up Early delivers a satisfying read by showing both good and bad exist simultaneously, and not always where it should.

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This is a good novel about life in the 1950's. Lots of things are starting to change in the US, and views on segregation is no exception. The main character had to grow up during a difficult time in America. This book would probably be a good read for younger males rather than my girlfriends.

Thanks to net galley for a copy of this book to read for a review.

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This ended up being one of my favorite books from this year. Loved the characters, loved the storyline. I do look forward to reading more from this author.

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Thank you to Imbrefex books for supplying me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I picked up this book. I'm from Alabama, which means I've read <i>To Kill a Mockingbird</i> at least a dozen times, watched the movie a few dozen more, and have read more about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks than kids in other states have probably even heard of. Even though racial politics in the South seem to be as backwards as everyone else likes to say they are, there's no denying that they are obsessed with their own mistakes. Civil rights in Alabama is stuck in the 20th century. Honestly, I thought this book was just going to be another story just like the rest I've read, too stuck in the past to say anything interesting at all.

There is something about the way Hopkins writes, however, that makes this book stand out amongst all the others set around the same time. Maybe it's because of the way the narrative approaches time at an angle, things not <i>quite</i> chronological-- We hear, in the middle of events, from future versions of Stony and his friends, who set to rights their own misconceived notions before the reader even has time to judge them for it. Or maybe, it has something to do with the fact that Stony is unlike any protagonist I've seen in a book of this subject matter.

Honestly, most of the time a book about civil rights is written with a white protagonist and a white author, things have a chance of coming out... odd. Hopkins could have fallen into this trap very easily, with Stony either being the white saviour or the dyed-in-the-wool racist who lets a good woman steer him right. But he's not. Stony is, instead, like a thousand white boys I've met before, and a thousand I'm sure I'll meet again. While Mary Lou certainly inspires Stony's change of heart, its own conscience and common sense that has him going up against the racists in his town. More than that, though, Hopkins points out how corruption and racism in the police force is something that effects <b>everyone</b>, not just those who are already vulnerable.

While it's not a perfect book (I found the way Stony described the women in his life.... distasteful), it was written in a way where I could not help but emphasize with the stunningly real and flawed characters (especially Roosevelt). It was so intriguing. Despite the fact that the plot was not so much an arc as much as a slow meander through a year in Stony's life, it still clung to me, had me thinking about the fallout of Stony and Jack's latest misadventure in the car, at work, in the shower.

It's a read that sticks with you.

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What you read in the description is what you get.
The book is well written and researched; the brutality and violence, the class divide and racism, all of these were things you lived with every day during that time period. If you're well acquainted with these topics, the book will offer little more than that; however, as an introduction for teens who are just learning about these topics, it's an interesting read. Very well written.

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Great historical fiction — peppered with the kind of details that say someone actually lived this story (or something close to it). Most historical fiction can’t help but overlay modern sensibilities on the story, but this one feels completely embedded in the time — from action to dialogue to thoughts.

Thomas Jackson “Stony” Shelor is a high school junior in small town Early, Virginia. His first-person account describes his experiences from Sept. 1959 through Sept. 1960 — working “for free” in the sheriff’s office, getting into trouble with town bullies, hankering after a girl who knows her own mind, and befriending the somewhat crazy new kid in town. This is all amidst much bigger events: massive black voter registration and the resulting Klan rallies; the (very) slowly shifting attitudes of whites towards blacks; and the fine line a good sheriff has to tread to work with corrupt elected officials and still try to keep a town lawful and safe.

It reads like good journalism — no surprise as this is the debut novel of a 46-year veteran journalist. I had forgotten how much I like a real story — not overburdened by excess angst, overly bold characters, and well-defined narrative arcs that bear little resemblance to reality.

I love the way the clean writing describes both the action and our narrator’s perceptions, reactions, and evolving opinions. He does some (to me) stupid things but we are treated to a real understanding of how his worldview and principles led him to those actions. Billed as a YA novel (the main character is 17), for me it was much more a documentation of a particular time and place as experienced by someone growing up in that time period. A nice juxtaposition of history and personal development.

As an aside, lots of interesting details about things like learning to shoot and care for firearms, working at a sheriff’s office, a garage or an apple orchard. Just enough detail to be interesting to someone (like me) that isn’t actually interested in those topics, but never enough to be boring. Also, fascinating attitudes among the largely working class members of the town — they don’t map to any definitions of “liberal” or “conservative” today — just people using their own minds as to the right way to live and treat people.

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This book was a spectacular depiction of small town America during a tough time. The main character "Stony" recalls on his experience in high school in the 1960's while also trying to deal with the "evil" cascading over the small town of Early: The Klu Klux Klan. Stony and his new best friend Jack manage to survive a massive amount of shootouts, fights, and even a revolt against the ever present KKK. And it somehow all started with Jack becoming a 'private detective', unbelievably at the age of 17!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story had a good flow to it without being too heavy on one specific event. The characters were very likable (or you hated them, but they were meant to be hated) and they all could be very different in their own way without being drowned out by specific 'standards' set for characters during this period of time. I find that books written in this time period have a hard time approaching race since it is such a hot topic, but this book did it well without stepping over any boundaries or sugar-coating anything.

The style the author uses is very easy to grasp, nothing was hidden from you but you did have to have a good sense of humor to get the jokes he wrote into the novel. I was skeptical at first to read something like this because of how certain ideas were going to be presented but I think the author did a very good job with reminding the reader that this was happening in a small town in the 1960's and not in todays time.

Overall, I thought this book was amazing. I loved the characters, the intense climatic moments, and I thought the story was excellent. I was rooting for my favorite characters the whole time! I would like to rate this book on a wider scale because I feel like a rating out of 5 isn't a great depiction of how a novel is.

My rating for this would be 7.5/10.

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I very much enjoyed reading this book. The writing was very good, and the story as well. Will recommend to others.

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This book was so good. It came across as more of an autobiography or memoir which made it all the more interesting. The story is a coming of age of sorts that takes place in a small town during the turbulent times of the 1960s and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement and rising of the KKK in that small town, as told through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Stony, as he relates the tales and shenanigans of he and his friend Jack. I can't wait to see what this author gets up to in his next book. Great Debut!

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This is a great book! So different from what I usually read but surprisingly very enjoyable. Set in the late 1950's and early 1960. This was the time of desegregation, racism and the KKK. The author did the time period justice and also the Southern expressions. It is about an interesting time in our country's history and would be a very good read for young people today.

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As someone who has lived in the south for over two decades, I can say there is a feeling of undeniable realism interlaced throughout the fictional story and characters of The Boys Who Woke Up Early. For a debut novel, the book is very well-written and it is very easy to become absorbed into Hopkins writing. His style is simultaneously unique and familiar, making the story and characters all the more relatable. Stony and Jack had a believable friendship and both had strong character arcs that mirrored each other. Hopkins manages to make them both flawed characters that the reader is still able to root for. Being set in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement, the story's theme is primarily race and racism. Despite, the story taking place in the past, the commentary on racism still fells relevant for modern times. Moments of tension and humor are interspersed throughout the book, which serve as ideals balances for each other, although this does occasionally result in some pacing problems. On the whole, the book is a sweet coming of age story with set in a particularly harrowing time in American history making it an exciting and thoughtful read.

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The Boys Who Woke Up Early is a well-written books that manages to seamlessly integrate moments of humor, tension, and a complex exploration of race. The book has a feeling of being fully formed in the author's mind and as a result, the story and the characters feel realistic. The book manages to explore racism in the American South in the 1960s, while also managing to comment on the modern day persistence of the issue. Stony and Jack were compelling characters whose relationship felt authentic and it was nice to see them be able to learn from each other and grow. Overall, the book is an ideal combination of social commentary and a coming of age tale .

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I enjoyed this book as a piece of fictional social history of 1950s America - growing up with racial segregation, KKK, guns and a lot more freedom. Although I found some of the stories shocking, the background of the author seems to assure the reader that they are based, at least in part, on factual events. Not an era I'd like to go back and live in but one which the author brings alive with his writing - of characters, scenery and scene setting. Recommended.

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I really enjoyed this in-depth narrative of life in 1960 rural Virginia. Great for teens and adults alike, I was hooked straightaway.

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I admit that coming of age novels have a certain appeal to me. This title is one that does not disappoint.

For an adult looking in, Stony appears to be headed for a life of trouble. Then he meets the new kid, Jack, and starts an adventure that includes spending a lot of time at the county sheriff's office. Thankfully, not behind bars!

Aside from watching Stony and Jack learn from their adventures, you also get a better sense of how life was in rural Virginia during the Jim Crow years. A time when many embraced the Klu Klux Clan and feared what would happen if segregation went away and blacks voted on a regular basis.

Tipping my proverbial hat to Mr. Hopkins who does a wonderful job with his characters and painting the scenes they are in.

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An interesting addition to the shelf of YA books that deal with racism. Set during the Eisenhower years, this book offers a new character sure to charm audiences, an intriguing mystery, and a sweet coming of age tale.

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Jack and Stony want to be Private Detectives, so the boys start to hand around the local police station hoping to help out on some "assignments" but things get serious when they find themselves faced with the Klu Klux Klan.

Such a short summary does not do this book justice, but I fear that to go any deeper might give away spoilers. This book is a coming of age story unlike so many others entwining historical fiction with adventure and youth. Hopkins' writing is exceptional; the characters, setting and plot pulled me in from the very beginning and the literary nerd in me was only too happy to think over the discussion points.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read and review this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It takes place in the rural hills of Virginia, in a time when Jim Crow laws and prejudice was the law of the land. Two boys, looking for excitement and the thrill of acting like adults, try their hand at some detective work and helping the police get things done where it's needed. Things get real pretty quickly, and the reader gets to see the racial injustices through the eyes of the boys just when they're becoming men. It's contrast to the adults in the area who have grown up in this world, and have resigned themselves to a certain way that things are done, was interesting to the characters as well as the reader. The characters are likable and I found myself cheering their personal growth and chiding their falls into trouble. This book was a timely read, a glimpse into another region of the county and the unique challenges that different areas face.

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The story of Stony Shelor and his friend Jack takes place in a rural southern town in the early 60s. Both friends are fascinated both with playing detective and with guns and they start hanging around the police station, hoping to solve their own case soon. But what seems like kids playing cops and robbers is the real thing here, and Stony and Jack get in trouble more often than not, facing moonshiners, racial tensions and corrupt citizens. I enjoyed watching Stony and Jack's transition from teenagers into adulthood, their path paved with making new friends (as well as foes) and some serious lifetime experiences.

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Unfortunately I didn’t love this one as much as I was hoping to. I liked the idea behind it and the storyline, but it fell flat for me. I can see why some people love this one, but it just wasn’t for me.

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*Many thanks to A.D. Hopkins, Imbrifex Books and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
I do not read too many books about teenagers as the age gap between them and me is too wide, however, I was intrigued by the summary of this book. The State of Virginia, close to West Virginia, late 1950s, early 1960s, a small town of (Jubal) Early, teenagers who want to play the role of detectives and racial tensions - all these ingredients are suberb for a good story. The specifics of life in a provincial town in that period are well-depicted, especially the 'equal but separate' rules that applied to economic and political issues, the incredibly easy access to guns and the racial divide. I never lived then and there, but while reading, the place, the people and the problems seemed very real.
Stony Shelar and Jack Necomb, the main characters, are observant, adventerous, industrious and with a sense of humour, which I appreciated a lot.

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Thanks to Imbrifex Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel.

In the early stages this book was a little bit of a slog - the detailed description of every stitch of clothes and the bodies (especially the female ones) kept coming and unnecessarily bogged down the narrative. I understand wanting to set the scene but it felt a bit OTT.

That aside, though, what started off looking like a gentle tale of county folk turned into a very enjoyable, genuine (I felt), and successful attempt to present a changing America - a time when racism was still rife and overt - the KKK feature strongly - but when individuals and society were just beginning to deal with it. It felt honest. The fact that the author had the main character and his family presented as good and decent people who - even when recognizing racism - had 'standards' below which they would g0 - at least initially - meant that this didn't feel like a romanticized version of reality. The main character and his family, for instance, no matter how liberal they saw themselves couldn't see past inter-racial relationship. The same complicated relationships that exist now between people on different sides of the political or cultural divide these days existed back then and the book shines a light on them.

The book itself is a delight. Rich in atmosphere and evocative of a different and difficult time in the US. It felt like I was reading a memoir more than a novel but the author bio seems to suggest that that's not the case and though he witnessed much of what's recounted in the novel, he wasn't the main protagonist in any of it, just a very keen and present observer.

The characters are well-drawn and while some of them might be familiar - the crooked and racist white lawyer, the upstanding lawman, the non-typical country girl - they're written so well and warmly it's impossible not to like them. I can't speak to how well the Black characters resonate since I'm not Black but they felt real and their experiences dealt with honestly.

As well as dealing with very serious issues of the time, the book is replete with a warm and sharp humor that just adds another layer of enjoyment for me.

Finally, I just love the punny nature of the title!

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