Reviews: The Rock Hill Gazette

By William E. Peschel |   Special to The Gazette

There are some books too good to describe. Believe someone who has seen a lotta books pass before his eyes these many years.

Most times, I can tell you the skinny about the book, describe its parts, maybe read you a few lines and try to come up with a snapper of an ending so you’d come back for more.

Not this time.

“Greek Boy” defeated me.

It caught me unaware when it landed on my desk. First thing I saw was that it’s huge and heavy, in all three dimensions. Taller and wider than a sheet of paper and 590 pages thick.

“Greek Boy” had something going for it. It was shrink-wrapped, which indicates a level of care. The cover design look pretty cool, too.

Now, artwork as a rule does not indicate how good a book is. Never judge a book, yada yada yada yada. Except


“Greek Boy” looked cool. A hand-tinted picture of a Myrtle Beach cafe called the Kozy Korner Grill, circa 1950, overlaid with a black and white cutout picture of, what else, a Greek boy, hands on hips and insolent glare at the camera. Presumably the author, Dino Thompson


And on the back, in color, a full-length shot of Dino the adult, in sort of the same pose.

But on the back cover, through the shrink-wrap, was hidden a little land mine of a booby trap, and the reason why you’re reading about “Greek Boy” instead of a self-help book."

I don’t remember which of the excerpts it was. Probably about Miss Magnolia:
“Lemme see how to say it without reddin up yo ears... Miss Magnolia was put on this earth to pleasure men. She’s a one in a million. Smart, smells good, handsome to look at. Jes seein a woman what looks like Miss Magnolia is worth more’n money to most men. Every square inch of the woman is nearbout perfectious.”

Or maybe it was the part about his father:
“My ole man was just my ole man... Never think your ole man is a for-real person. Never think your ole man’s got feelings, dreams, needs. He’s just the ole guy you live with, tells you what to do, buys you stuff, reels you back in when you veer off on a tangent. He’s a lotta things but he aint’a for-real person. Leastways that’s what I useta think before that day on the fishin pier.”

Then there’s Dino’s description of 1961:
“Yea... 1960 was a scrapbook kinda year.
But 1961...was jam up and jelly tight.”

This chronicle of Dino’s life, started when his family drove through Myrtle Beach in September 1946, stopped for lunch and ended up buying the Kozy Korner. A life jammed with incidents, characters and full-blooded stories, told in Dino’s signature style that’s half slanguage, half Southern shoot-the-breeze talk. I don’t even know if it’s all true, but when Dino is riffing on about goofing off in the movie balcony, or shooting pool or getting in and out of numerous health-threatening scrapes, who cares?

I could go on, but I don’t think I can tell you just how much fun this book is to read. This is a book that beats the odds, and passing on it would be denying yourself the pleasure of finding a truly wonderful writer.

On their way from Newport News, Va., to Florida, the Thompson family stops at a small cafe in Myrtle Beach and talk with the owner:

“Where y’all headed?” asks Tom, napkinin off his two-tone shoes.

“On our way to Florida,” Tony says.
“Whaddayou planning doin down there?”
“Find a business, start a new life.
We heard things were good there.”
Tom waves his hand.
“Gotta goin business right here. It’s for sale.”
Tony glances around.
“I only have fifty two hundred dollars.”
Tom smiles, slaps the table
“Whaddayou talkin? That’s the price.”
“Any other Greeks live here?” asks Tony.
“Yea... there’s Papa Chris, George Anthony, Louie Achilles, John Gravis, Baroutsos, Charlie Kordas and... plentya Greeks.”
“Mind if I look around?” Tony says, as a red lipstick’d waitress packed in a snug uniform and a toothy hey-how-yall smile, slips the pencil from behind her hairnetted ear to take our orders.

An hour after meetin Tom Haley, Tony’s introducin himself to the waitresses and cooks. “Hello, my name ees Tony. I’m the new owner.“

He informs mom. She slaps her head, crosses herself. “What d’you mean you bought this restaurant? I don’t even know the name of this town. There’s nothing here. No customers, no nothing.” Mom’s tryin not to cry. “Where are we going to live?”

“Upstairs apartment comes with the deal.”

Hour after lunch, mom’s upstairs tossin out the last tenant’s stash, knee-scouring the apartment with Ajax and tears, movin us into what’s gonna be home for the next thirteen years.