John McHenry 5227001938074


1960s & '70s

John McHenry

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Mac and Weber every inch college slackers, hitchhike from Ohio University (Athens) to the Kentucky Derby in 1967. Their odyssey becomes a coming of age story set in the turmoil of the Vietnam Era and the Civil Rights movement.


Young Adult,Drama,Epic

Short Summary

With final exams just a couple of weeks away Mac and Weber impulsively decide to hitchhike to the Kentucky Derby. Imagining riches betting on the horses their first ride is with a pot smoking friend who drives them to the edge of town.

Weber is beaten to death by cops. Mac returns to Athens traumatized and wastes the summer sitting by the train tracks. Fall comes. He joins the Army.


Ohio, Kentucky

Based on a True Story


Plot - Premise

Internal Journey/Rebirth,Tragedy,Quest

Plot - Other Elements

Coming of Age,Philosophical Questions

Mature Audience Themes

Extreme Violence

Main Character Details

Name: Mac

Age: 20

Gender: Male

Role: Emotional

Key Traits: Narcisstic,Clumsy,Desperate,Insecure,Naive

Additional Character Details

Name: Weber

Age: 20

Gender: Male

Role: Emotional

Key Traits: Confident,Unapologetic,Badass,Narcisstic,Sarcastic,Masculine

Additional Character Details

Name: Peace Feather

Age: 20

Gender: Female

Role: antagonist

Key Traits: Underdog,Complex,Crazy,Engaging,Insecure,Secretive

Additional Character Details

Name: Lara Lay

Age: 20

Gender: Female

Role: emotional

Key Traits: Badass,Charming,Sexy,Blunt,Empathetic,Outspoken,Seductive

Development Pitch

KIRKUS REVIEW Mac and Weber are every inch the slackers everyone from their Ohio University fraternity expects. Their biggest concerns are the next party, the next conquest, the next gut-busting prank. And it’s in precisely this tradition that they embark on the classic hedonistic pastime of hitchhiking to the Kentucky Derby. But even on this kind of adventure, life catches up with the participants. They are tested, witnessing death, police brutality, and all manner of people at their worst. The specter of the war hangs over it all, as they encounter mentally ill veterans and see the consequences of the conflict much more closely than they had on their fraternity’s TV. For Mac, the trip is a quest for maturity and growth. The act of gaining it sets him on the beginning of an even more difficult path. The tale delivers wit and wisdom. It is a meandering and wild tale. The down-to-earth prose and the quality of the pacing give you the feel of something that the reader is hearing about at a bar from one of the regulars, an organic sensibility that is the book’s greatest strength. Mac’s introspection and self-loathing seem incredibly real and more personal than one might get from oral tales. His struggle with his lack of experience and cowardice is a frequent presence but not an overbearing one, giving the reader a sense of camaraderie with both him and Weber and a vested interest in how their saga ends. An entertaining romp with a complex emotional core

About The Author

John McHenry is currently an attorney but in 1966 was a not-so-serious student at Ohio University who with a friend hitchhiked to the Kentucky Derby. His book Derby is set in 1967 during the social turmoil of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. For John 40 more Derbys followed. He lives with his wife on 17 acres in Southern Ohio and has eight chickens. Goats are planned for.

Target Audiences

Age: 18-34,35-54

Target Gender: Universal

Group Specific

Information not completed

Publishing Details

Status: Yes: self-published

Publisher: Create Space

Year Published: 2008

Hard Copy Available







Mac and Weber set off from college to watch the Derby during the Vietnam War. After defying death through dangerous hitchhiking shenanigans, the two strike it rich and win $3000. Luck is not on their side as the two get robbed and the cops kill Weber. Mac languishes back at college before deciding to join to army for direction to his guilt.

Overall Rating


Point of View


Narrative Elements

Authors Writing Style: GOOD

Characterization: FAIR

Commerciality: FAIR

Franchise Potential: FAIR

Pace: GOOD

Premise: GOOD

Structure: GOOD

Theme: GOOD

Accuracy of Book Profile

The logline and development do reflect the narrative. It might be better to adjust the character details to show which are the protagonists and detail different characters that are not the two females at the end to better focus on mirroring the story. The short summary's abrupt ending also reflect the change in the narrative, but it might be better to focus more on a general overview of the story as the logline also mentions the ending.

Draw of Story

Mac and Weber have a simple goal that is complicated by their environment rather than their inner conflicts. They have to figure out who they are by how they react to danger and in the end their growth causes them to have ideals and honor.

Possible Drawbacks

The depiction of women is largely relegated to sexualized roles. Indeed the protagonists are college men of a certain mindset but making more women dynamic rather than static would help even out the unequal representation.

Use of Special Effects


Primary Hook of Story

The hook is that Mac and Weber are hitchhiking in the South and face racism and draft dodging accusations in 1967. They try to stay to themselves as somewhat pacifists but trouble finds them.

Fanbase Potential

As a road movie dealing with similar politics to the present world issues, this could definitely appeal to a large audience with further character development and a differentiated structure.

Awards Potential

This could potentially have awards potential with adjustments to character development and clearer inner conflicts to add depth to the simple external conflict.

Envisioned Budget


Similar Films/TV Series


What’s New About the Story

The originality of the characters stems from the soul searching they are forced to do in the specific time period they lived that confronts war and racial justice. Focusing the events more on the issues and showing a longer resolution might help the reflections feel more cohesive and transitory towards the inner conflicts.

Lead Characters

Mac is methodical but lack direction. Weber is opinionated but stifled by society due to disagreeing with the majority and what was socially acceptable during that time.

Uniqueness of Story

This has a lot of great themes but needs further character work to maximize the emotional investment in the external conflict.

Possible Formats

Film: Studio, Indie, Streaming

Analyst Recommendation



While the story has many positive points, it has room for improvement (see possible paths below). If you can't change the story at this point, my suggestion is using your notes as a guide to highlight the best aspects of it when taking the next steps, either putting a pitch page together, a treatment, or a presentation.

Tips for Improvement

By creating inner conflicts for Mac and Weber more apparent earlier in the story there will be greater emotional investment in their external objective. The tension that Mac feels after Weber's death is unique and could be expanded.