I haven’t read the first book in this “Richard the Paperboy” series, but I loved the second one Lyin’ Like a Dog. It was fun and filled with the nostalgic, typical-little-boy antics of Richard Mason and his best friend John Clayton as they’re growing up in the small town of Norphlet, Arkansas in the ’40s. This took me back to my youth in the Midwestern state of Ohio. I can picture my brother Bucky and his little friends doing many of the things that these lovable, but mischievous boys do. (I was Bucky’s main sidekick, but I won’t tell what we got up to…) 🙂
But as much as I loved the first one, The Yankee Doctor is far more exciting. I could not put this one down. If you think Richard and John Clayton had trouble in “Lyin'”… well, their troubles in this book are much worse.
They’re just sitting around on the “breadbox” outside the country store, weaving their little-boy tales, worrying about Walter Winchell’s accounts of WWII and planning some innocent mischief when “The Yankee Doctor” moves into town.
Doctor Carl goes around charming everyone with his winning ways and donating large checks to the church, so everyone thinks he’s a saint. But Richard and John Clayton soon discover what a rat he really is when they overhear him talking to his nurse, Miss Tina. They know he’s up to no good, but with their penchant for getting into trouble, they also know that no one will believe them.
All hell breaks loose when Doctor Carl finds out they know “more than they should.” He and Miss Tina start a campaign to get them sent to reform school. It made my blood boil to see what that doctor does to those innocent boys…and how everyone lets him get away with it.
Even their own parents don’t believe they’re innocent when the doctor says he sees them do bad things. (One example, breaking out windows in an old, boarded-up hotel). The boys get repeatedly switched “to within an inch of their lives” by their fathers who believe every word the conniving doctor says.
Richard and John Clayton tell a few trusted people what they know and suspect, but no one believes them except a bar owner Peg and a “Hotel Girl” Emma. Both have personal reasons why they can’t step forward and help the boys. The situation escalates to the point that the doctor even threatens to kill them, so they are scared half to death.
With no help in sight, guess what Richard and John Clayton come up with to try to run the doctor and nurse out of town? It’s hilarious in a sad, twisted kind of way, but those boys are certainly ingenious. They bring in roaches, hornets and snakes to aid them, but…
Well, I can’t tell you any more without giving the entire plot away, but I will say that I could not wait for that mean old doctor to get his “come-uppance.”
This is a rollicking good read, reminiscent of a later-day Tom Sawyer. R. Harper Mason is a good writer and manages to keep within the parameters of a young boy’s voice. An easy read and a charming story. You will come to love these realistic characters and cheer for them every step of their growing-up years.
Even though this seems like a “boy’s book,” it’s not! I know a lot of men who have read it and loved the journey back into their own past. As for women and girls, well I’m a bit of both and I enjoyed it immensely, so don’t be fooled by the boy narrator voice of The Yankee Doctor. I think you will all like it!