The Salt & Pepper Gang: a memoir

Kenneth E Arthur

Book Cover

GENRE

MEMOIR COMEDY DRAMA

    Core Theme

    TRIUMPH OVER HARDSHIP THROUGH FRIENDSHIP.

    TIME PERIOD

    1980s & '90s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    GREEN BOOK. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.

    CHARACTER LIST

    KEN ARTHUR. 9 AND 41. LEAD. HARD WORKING, GOODIE-BOY, OFTEN FEELS LIKE A VICTIM BUT TRIES NOT TO.

    RAZZ. 9-40. FORMER FOSTER CHILD, KEN'S BEST FRIEND, DRUG-ADDICT, STROKE SURVIVOR.

    MR. PRICE: 40-50S, A FATHER FIGURE AT BOYS RANCH.

    MRS. ARTHUR: KEN'S MOM, AN IMPULSIVE, UNEMPATHETIC PARENT.

    CHELSEA: 17, KEN'S DAUGHTER, AUTISTIC, POSITIVE.

    JEANNIE: 40S, RAZZ'S DRUG ADDICTED GIRLFRIEND. ENABLING, RECKLESS.

    Logline

    In 1972, two small boys, one black, one white, arrive in the Texas panhandle at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, where hundreds of boys live year around. They become lifelong friends even as one suffers a stroke and is severely disabled.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    Cal Farley's Boys Ranch, Amarillo, Texas; Florida; Bonnaroo Music Festival

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: self-published

    Publisher: Suncoast Books -- Self Published

    Year Published: 2020

    Starting Description

    Runt, who comes from a broken home, is mostly a goody two shoes. Razzberry, an orphan going into the fourth grade with him at Boys Ranch, is a troublemaker. Inseparable and forever impish, they get branded the Salt and Pepper Gang.

    Ending Description

    25 years later, when Razzberry has a stroke and the entire left side of his body is paralyzed, he is broken in body and spirit. Runt finds him at long last and takes him to Bonnaroo and other music festivals across the American southeast so that music and the beauty of life can work their wonders.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    0578804999

    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Meaningful Message

    Plot - Premise

    Internal Journey/Rebirth

    Main Character Details

    Name: Ken Arthur (Runt)

    Age: 8 and then 42

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Funny,Heroic,Underdog,Empathetic,Charming,Adventurous

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Razzberry (Raymond Hill)

    Age: 9 and then 43

    Gender: Male

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Crazy,Criminal,Empathetic,Unapologetic,Adventurous,Underdog,Masculine,Badass,Clumsy

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Mr. Don Price

    Age: 34 and then 69

    Gender: Male

    Role: mentor

    Key Traits: Masculine,Badass,Complex,Confident,Decisive,Blunt,Honorable,Strong Moral Code,Leader

    Additional Character Details

    The author has not yet written this

    Development Pitch

    Genre

    DRAMA, COMEDY, RELIGION

    Brief

    Two boys from different types of broken homes meet at the Boys Ranch boarding school in 1970s Texas. Through trials and trouble they form a close bond that's broken when one is taken out of school. Reunited in their forties the two embark on a journey through southern music festivals while they seek to heal their dispirited souls.

    Overall Rating

    FAIR

    Point of View

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Mostly accurate, it could give some hints into life on the ranch and at festivals. Show the color in the story.

    Draw of Story

    The story is told like a diary, there is a first person immediacy and an honesty to it. The specific details bring about a clear picture and emotions.

    Possible Drawbacks

    Many of the smaller details get into little asides that are not very interesting. A curated diary would be better than a stream of consciousness. Step back and consider what is necessary to the overall story.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY DOES NOT RELY ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    Despite an extraordinary story there are many moments and emotions that resonate as part of childhood and adulthood. A movie would live in those moments and explore them.

    Fanbase Potential

    It will most likely resonate with adults who grew up in this same time period. A story with these tough subjects usually takes come convincing for people to try.

    Awards Potential

    If it was done by the best people to the best of their ability, maybe. There are some strong ingredients here.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    GREEN BOOK. STAND BY ME. LION

    What’s New About the Story

    Originality comes from the personalities. From the poems, from the games they play, the jokes they have with each other. These would need to be fashioned into a cohesive story without losing the fly-on-the-wall feel.

    Lead Characters

    Their perseverance in the face of great difficulty.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This is an unpolished gem. At this point it is a collection of anecdotes that happen one after the other rather than a well told story. Sometimes dwelling on minor event and other times skimming over major ones. To be adapted it needs a clearer beginning, middle and end, with each event building on the ones before.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Indie, Film - Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    WORK IN PROGRESS

    Justification

    It needs a clearer structure and it needs a point that the story is making. We have the events but it needs more reflection on what those events mean to the main characters.

    Tips for Improvement

    This is currently a lot of raw footage, it needs to be edited and organized around a hard story structure. It needs the Joseph Campbell treatment. While it has the story elements for that, it does not yet have the story.

    Brief

    Two boys from different types of broken homes meet at the Boys Ranch boarding school. Through trials and trouble they form and strong bond. Reunited in their forties they seek healing for the dispirited souls in music and friendship.

    What We Liked

    Compelling characters live a colorful childhood that comes back to aide them through the unforeseen challenges of adulthood.

    Film: It gives a window into a strong friendship and how it can endure over time and hardship.

    TV: It gives insight into the unpredictability of life over time.

    Key points: Likeable characters. Real life authenticity. Funny moments. Important subjects. Life affirming.

    Synopsis

    In 1973, Eight year old Ken Arthur is called inside without warning and told to say goodbye to his sisters. His mother loads him onto a bus at night to get him away from his father during their divorce. After an all night ride he lands in his new home: Boys Ranch.

    They call him runt. He’s the smallest boy in his dorm. At this boarding school where they teach you to ride bulls, that’s the last thing you want to be. Homesick and picked on, Ken is sure he is the unluckiest boy in the world. Then Razz arrives. Same age, different skin color, he chose the ranch overstaying in the foster care system. Mr. Price, the dorm ‘dad’ tries to tell Ken that life is just hard and you have to make the best of it. Then just in case, he brings Ken a puppy named Zappa to cheer him up.

    Razz and Ken gradually form a strong bond forged over long days, a beat up bicycle, camping trips and even a Christmas where Ken’s mother doesn’t bring him home. It’s also a bond forged over getting spanked for misbehaving, hitting each other in the nuts and calling each other SOBs. Ken begins to blossom, he wins a contest for a tender poem about Jesus the shepherd and is mocked for it. These are boys on a Boys ranch, but they become blood brothers.

    Their bond continues to grow and becomes complex but they understand each other more. The years pass by quickly and there are conflicts between the boys. After they split a bag of Starburst on a trip to Amarillo the adults find a can of chewing tobacco inside and both get punished. Mr. Price dubs the criminal outfit ‘the Salt and Pepper gang’. Razz later confesses to Ken that the can was his, and though Ken says he won’t rat on him, Razz owns up to the authorities and takes another punishment.

    Next Christmas a disappointed Mr. Price takes down a drawing Ken drew of himself going home for Christmas and Razz left behind looking sad. His Christmas poem this year is a comedy about a robber disguised as Santa. Sarcasm is very popular. When he arrives home for Christmas the home is wonderful but relations with his family are awkward. He has hard time relating to his sisters and their foreign ways. At the big family reunion he tells everyone he can about life on the ranch and how much he’s been through in hopes that someone will take pity and rescue him. They’re all so proud and he realizes he’s going back.

    As they become adolescents life changes at the ranch. Instead of chores around the ranch the boys now have jobs. Ken maintains the cemetery, even though it’s empty. He gets a girlfriend he writes to that he met at a weeklong Bible camp. He matches Razz’s accomplishment in becoming a rodeo clown, earning the adulation of the crowds and of an overly friendly Boys Ranch donor, Mr. Seymour.

    It’s in the middle of class in ninth grade when the principal calls him out of class. His mother plucks him from the school as suddenly as she sent him. His mother has cut herself off from the extended family and one of his sisters, which he now must be too. It’s Razz’s birthday but he can’t stay long enough to say goodbye to him or any of his friends. Mr. Price they take Zappa the dog, but his mother drives them back to the ranch and ditches him by the road.

    Ken and his remaining family bounce around the country. Amarillo, Lubbock, Orlando, Virginia, it’s the same dysfunction wherever they go. His only visitor is Mr. Seymour, who Ken kicks out of the house after realizing he’s a molester. Before they leave Texas he and another former rancher sneak back to campus. Ken can make a few goodbyes, but Razz is out with the cows and Zappa has died. His life there is gone.

    In 2005, Ken has not seen Razz in 27 years. He’s going through a divorce of his own. Trying to figure out how to manage to still be a dad to two teenagers, one of whom is autistic. After a couple close friends die, Ken is finally able to reconnect with Razz through the ranch alumni group. Razz has recently had a stroke, was left alone in the hospital for a week, became homeless and was taken in by his old employer to watch dogs.

    Ken flies Razz to Atlanta for an emotional reunion. Razz has trouble walking and a degenerative spine condition. Ken knows they need to do some healing, spiritually. They go camping and Ken is surprised to see Razz clamber off without his cane after fireflies, the first he has seen since the ranch.

    They go on a music tour of the south, something that has helped Ken in the past. As they do Razz slowly reveals the story of his life, one dominated by drugs and hardship. It started before he even left the ranch, as older boys find more harmful forms of mischief. After graduating he boozed and partied until a friend suggested he join the Navy. Immediately realizing his mistake Razz spends basic training petting an invisible dog until he is discharged for psychological reasons and goes right back to partying. They have a difficult conversation about ‘why me’ and accepting the hard blows life deals. Something Ken first felt at the ranch and what Razz must overcome now.

    Eventually the drugs filled lifestyle has its consequences. Razz is arrested for drug-dealing. He skips town, gets caught and sentenced to two years. After release, he gets a woman pregnant, married her and became an absent drug addicted father. He manages to start a landscaping business, but can’t manage money his habit. He gets sent to a mental institution for rehab. Escapes but ends up homeless

    As present day Ken and Razz travel through increasingly overcrowded festivals and moving music the story continues downhill. Razz shows Ken some poems he’s written in this time in his life. Many addressed to a woman with whom his drug-fueled relationship eventually got him sent back to prison. Still his poems long for her, the last good time in his life. Soon after his release they brook up and he had his stroke.

    Ken brings Razz to his house to meet his kids. He gets to hear some poems that Chelsea, the autistic daughter wrote about her dad. Despite what he’s been through Razz says their time together has been healing. They search for the silver linings. The stroke has helped Razz get his life together. If not for it he would probably be homeless or in jail. And it brought them back together. As he takes him to the airport Ken gives Razz a bag of Starburst with chewing tobacco inside as gift.

    Not long after, Ken gets a phone call. Mr. Price has died. Ken flashes back to saying goodbye to him at a recent reunion. The best man in the world. Ken gives one of the eulogies at the funeral. They return to bury his true father figure in the cemetery he took care of as a boy before there were headstones. Though at first they can barely speak, before they part Razz reads him a poem about their trips together and what it meant to him. How it helped him heal.

    About The Author

    Ken Arthur is a man of Boys Ranch, Texas. He continues to live the lessons he learned there as a father and a friend.