Growing up and passing time: Author Stan Crader's latest book released

Sunday, November 25, 2012
Stan Crader, holding his latest book, "The Longest Year," stands next to a restored 1963 Stihl tractor. (Linda Redeffer ~ Banner Press)

Those familiar with Stan Crader's first two books will be glad to know that Tommy, Flop, Booger and the rest of the gang from Colby High School are back.

In "The Longest Year," everyone is getting a driver's license except Tommy, the youngest of his group of friends. While he watches his friends, and his girlfriend Melody, take and pass their driver's test, he counts the months until he can join them, hence the title of the book.

"I was one of the last ones in my class to turn 16," Crader said. "When you're 15, it's like an eternity, it's agony to wait."

The story takes place in Colby, a fictitious town based on Marble Hill, in the early 1970s when anybody who was lucky enough to have his own car also installed his own 8-track player. The rest of them drove their parents' car whenever they could.

In Colby it's the beginning of the school year, football practice has started, and with wheels and newfound freedom, the Colby group ventures toward Fairview, the home of their football archrival, a town loosely based on Cape Girardeau. While they are coming to terms with the opposing team and the Fairview school's cheerleaders -- and the Fairview boys' opinion of Colby boys dating Fairview cheerleaders -- the boys have another plot hatching: They want to drive a car along the railroad tracks through a tunnel.

"I actually did that," Crader said.

And so did others before him. The passage of time might diminish the thrill of the event, but the thrill is replaced by the feeling that comes from knowing you've matured into a fraternity that remembers surviving adventurous risks.

Figuring into the story is an old beat-up pickup truck that was once used to deliver groceries, then later was demoted to hauling empty cardboard boxes from the store to an incinerator.

"Those who worked at the grocery store will remember the truck with higher esteem than they held for it then," Crader said.

Reading "The Longest Year" is like getting back in touch with old friends for those who read "The Bridge" and "Paperboy," Crader's previous books. He said he wrote all three books so that people will look back and remember their years growing up.

"The characters are completely fictional, but you feel like you know them," Crader said.

Writing the book gave Crader a greater insight into the generation gap, he said. It's a gap he says will always be there, and that's not such a bad thing.

"How funny it is to look back and know your superiors were able to read your mind when you thought you were being so clever," he said.

Crader is already thinking of book titles and says that tells him there will be another book. He said writing one book was on his bucket list when he wrote "The Bridge." Then people kept asking what happened to the boys in the book, so along came "Paperboy."

"They can go to college, they can get jobs, stuff they're going to do could be interesting," Crader said. "I'll probably have some more fun with it."

Crader donates the profits from each book to a charity. With "The Longest Year," he plans to help support Resurrecting Lives, a new organization based in Dublin, Ohio, that focuses on treating veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Veterans often return from battle and show signs of bipolar disorder when actually what they have is a brain injury, he said. With the proper diagnosis and treatment, veterans with traumatic brain injury can eventually live a fulfilling life.

"The Longest Year" is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and Jer's Restaurant in Marble Hill. Crader will sign copies of his book Dec. 15 at The Mustard Seed in Marble Hill and Dec. 7 in Cape Girardeau during the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri's First Friday event. Local artist Dodi Conrad, who designed the cover for "The Longest Year" and "Paperboy" will also be at the Mustard Seed on Dec. 15 with her work.

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