Legend of the Moonlight Mustang
ACTION ADVENTURE MYSTERY MELODRAMA SUSPENSE/THRILLER ROMANCE
COMING OF AGE
1960s & '70s
AMERICAN GRAFFITI, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
TOBY: 19-20. LEAD. CHARISMATIC AND RECKLESS.
LISA ANN:17. TOBY’S MAIN ROMANTIC INTEREST.
FREDDIE: 21. TOBY’S BEST FRIEND FOR CRUISING
BILLY: 20’S. LISA ANN’S POSSESSIVE AND JEALOUS EX-BOYFRIEND.
DEPUTY SHERIFF CLINE: LATE 20S. TOBY’S MENTOR.
PETE: 20S. TOBY’S BROTHER.
In 1971, Toby Owens, a popular young man, drove his racy Mustang Mach 1 over the "red-line," to eternity. "Young Love, Fast Cars and...Tragedy!!!" Inspired by real events, this is his story...better "buckle-up," it's gonna be a "Wild Ride!!!"
Target Gender: Universal,Female Leaning,Male Leaning
A regular American town of the early 1970's, with their own "cruisin' strips" of young folks looking for a good time.
Based on a True Story
Status: Yes: with a Publisher
Publisher: AMAZON KINDLE EDITION
Year Published: 2021
It's the early 1970's. America's "baby boomers" celebrated their new-found freedoms "cruising the nights" in powerful hot rods, searching for the loose life of "sex, drugs and rock n' roll." They're about to crash head-on into the Vietnam War, and no promises of tomorrow. Toby's one of them....
Toby and his Mustang have many exciting escapades, with ever-increasing "close calls" due to his bravado and flirting with disaster...One night, however, his daring becomes his ultimate downfall as he pushes the limits over the edge...and takes three passengers with him to eternity.
Baby Boomers who experienced the light and dark sides of life in 1969 -1971.
Hard Copy Available
Mature Audience Themes
Extreme Violence, Language/Profanity,Substance Abuse,Nudity
Plot - Other Elements
Coming of Age,Twist,Other
Plot - Premise
Main Character Details
Name: Toby Owens
Key Traits: Adventurous,Badass,Confident,Engaging,Heartthrob,Masculine,Sexy,Funny,Romantic,Seductive
Additional Character Details
Name: Lisa Ann Johnson
Key Traits: Charming,Engaging,Faithful,Heartthrob,Insecure,Naive,Sexy,Selfless,Romantic,Seductive
Additional Character Details
Name: Deputy Sheriff Bob Cline
Key Traits: Aggressive,Confident,Heroic,Educated,Leader,Masculine,Patriotic,Skillful,Strong Moral Code
Additional Character Details
Name: Freddie Thompson
Key Traits: Adventurous,Clumsy,Crazy,Insecure,Naive,Underdog,Funny,Sarcastic
With millions of young at heart “Baby Boomers” longing to return to their “glory days and nights” of youth, one very universal emotion pulls at them all…Their memories of “cruisin’” in their personalized 4-wheeled chariots, all gleaming in chrome and intoxicating in their sexiness, in search of fun and romance, and the freedom to enjoy sometimes "forbidden fruit" have returned! Maybe now, being retired with leisure time and money, they’re able to again, do as they please! Some will even taste the sweetness of some new romances, as these hearts and souls turn back their “odometers” and re-live those warm summer nights. There are many who will return to relive those memories, buying replicas of those hot cars they used to have, and now the songs of those times becomes the "soundtrack" of their lives. This story is all about those lush velvet nights of "Young Love, Fast Cars and...Tragedy!!!" “Legend of the Moonlight Mustang,” could have happened in any town or city across America, for it mirrors all the things “the Woodstock generation” knew well, including those sometimes dark and whispered “secrets.” It's the rumble of dual exhausts over rock music, the smell of hairspray and reefer smoke! Yes, ask anyone who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s and they’ll tell you they loved “cruisin’ and meeting up with friends on those hot summer nights! ...And every one of them will also say “they knew a ‘Toby,’ who drove the fastest car in town”…
ACTION, SUSPENSE, ROMANCE, DRAMA
A 19-year-old young man is given a one-of-a-kind sports car for his high school graduation. Instead of work or college, he devotes his life to the “cruising” lifestyle. He spends his nights drag racing and picking up girls, and he meets interesting people and has small adventures along the way. Finally he meets a girl he actually wants to stick with, but both of their lives are tragically cut short when living fast catches up to him.
Authors Writing Style: FAIR
Franchise Potential: FAIR
Accuracy of Book Profile
Yes, the Book Profile accurately reflects the book and the author’s enthusiasm comes through.
Draw of Story
The promise of action and adventure in the cruising scene is an immediate draw into the story. The action sequences are well written, and they’re incredibly engaging. The audience instantly knows what kind of world they’re entering. The world itself is also clearly drawn, and it pops right off the page. Toby sitting in his car eating strawberry pie is such a specific and vivid image, and it sets the tone.
Unfortunately the female characters in the book are ineffective. Toby’s treatment of them also leaves something to be desired, but even the simple fact that his mom has no life outside of feeding him, his brother, and his father is cliche. Toby is jealous that Lisa Ann has an ex-boyfriend, yet when he’s falling in love with her he’s still having sex with other women whenever she’s not there. The women and girls in this novel are flat and sexist interpretations, which is of course not the intent of the book. An adaptation needs to take care to make them feel fully fleshed out, especially the ones who are important to the plot. All of the characters suffer from this to some extent, and perhaps Freddie is the only other character who has a rich inner life.
Use of Special Effects
THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS
Primary Hook of Story
The racing elements are riveting, and those have proven to be a hook in for other movies in the past. Anything that can be done to lean more into the drag race scenes in an adaptation would be helpful in hooking an audience. These moments are exciting and suspenseful, and they help the book to transcend.
As the author astutely points out on the Book Profile, it’s easy to see this garnering a large audience of baby boomer fans who see themselves and their own friends in these characters. This could be a great nostalgia hit for that generation.
Thanks to the time period, it’s possible to see this having awards potential. This is especially true if the characters were strengthened, as the right casting could make or break this potential. The narrative would have to be much stronger, as well.
Similar Films/TV Series
AMERICAN GRAFFITI, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW
What’s New About the Story
The nostalgic 1970s post-high school setting is very original, and it totally comes to life on the page. This feels like an authentic late-70s North Carolina town, which is fantastic. The characters feel like contemporary teens and young adults, who truly belong in this time period. These elements are fantastic, and they help the novel to stand out in spite of the aspects that are weaker.
Toby has everything quite literally handed to him, and yet he looks down on those around him and seems content to do nothing with his life. He doesn’t listen to his parents or even the sheriff, or even really his friends. He’s also often unlikable because of the way he treats women and girls. He does come off extremely predatory, specifically trying to pick up girls he can have sex with. His teenage girlfriend is worried that if she tries to turn him down for sex he’ll break up with her, which is a giant red flag, especially considering it seems to be implied he gave her an STI. If he were picking up consenting women of age, especially after getting in trouble multiple times for dating minors, this element would be totally fine.
Uniqueness of Story
The setting does make this a rare gem, and nostalgia is all the rage in TV and feature. Setting a show or feature in this time period could be really successful, which has been proved by other media. Some of Toby’s little adventures are really unique, such as when he escorts a pregnant woman and her husband to the hospital. Parts of Toby’s story are fun and memorable, it’s just that the whole is not as strong.
Film: Indie, Streaming
WORK IN PROGRESS
This novel has a great setting, but it’s lacking in both protagonist and storyline. This makes adapting it especially difficult, and a lot of work would need to be done in order to make it a more viable property. The budget also comes into play, as this would be a moderately expensive feature or show to make thanks to the racing aspects and the fact that it’s a period piece. The narrative arc is largely missing, and the book is a series of anecdotes for a long time. Though this could be interesting, and those smaller stories strung together, they don’t add up to a satisfying bigger picture.
Tips for Improvement
Toby would need to be a more relatable and empathetic character. Though he has moments where his kindness and youthful enjoyment shine through, it’s difficult to connect with him because of his privilege and the way he treats women and girls. Everyone within the book is obsessed with him, and the female characters’ lives almost entirely revolve around him. It’s also frustrating that the crash at the end is entirely his fault. If it was due to Billy running them off the road, for instance, it could work, or even if Toby was the only one who died. As it is, it’s his fault, and it kind of renders the whole story pointless. He’s not redeemed, and this would likely anger an audience. He doesn’t grow or really have a character arc, and he’s selfish even in his last act on Earth.
After he’s given a one-of-a-kind sports car for his high school graduation, a young man devotes his life to the “cruising” lifestyle. He spends his nights drag racing and picking up girls, though it’s not until a year later that he meets a girl he wants to stay with. His life is tragically cut short when living fast catches up to him.
What We Liked
The protagonist, Toby, is able to go on the adventure of a lifetime while barely leaving his hometown. He taps into that risk taking spirit inside all of us and explores it to the best of his ability, putting aside any responsibilities so he can focus on being young and having fun. Who hasn’t wanted to be Toby at some point in their life? His passion for his car is tangible and exciting, and it embodies the spirit of his time. It’s clear on every page that the author knows what they’re writing about, and that lived experience adds a depth to Toby’s journey.
Film: It’s easy to see an adaptation of this novel bringing the world of 1970s car culture to the big screen in a way that makes an impact. The fact that Toby’s story ends in tragedy makes it perfect fodder for a film that could teach a lesson — but still make sure audiences had a great time. The production design and costuming alone would fill theaters, and the largely younger ages of the characters makes space for a wide audience, from baby boomers who remember this time period to the young adults of today. Toby’s story is relatable to people of all ages and generations.
TV: The book covers over a full year of Toby’s life following his high school graduation, so there are plenty of characters and anecdotes to draw out into multiple seasons worth of storylines. The longer format would allow some of the supporting characters to shine more, and it’s easy to see arcs divided into Toby’s relationships, both romantic and familial. Toby slowly loses himself both in the cruising scene and in alcoholism, and it’s easy to see that developing over an entire season (if not two), making it feel like the realistically slippery slope it is.
Key points: 1. 1970s nostalgia
2. Exciting car races
3. Tragic ending
4. Bad boy (with a heart of gold) protagonist
5. Love story
When TOBY graduates from high school in 1970, his PARENTS buy him a brand new Mustang Mach 1, which he’s had his eye on. Toby has already dabbled in the “cruising” scene, driving around, hanging out in cars, and drag racing with friends down on Colonial Road. Now he can do it in his own car. It’s yellow, and a GIRL who’s taken a shine to Toby says it looks like moonlight. He starts calling it the Moonlight Mustang, and the name catches on. Toby is taking time off before considering college, as he already graduated late at 19 thanks to an earlier illness. He’ll keep living with his parents and save some money. Toby gets into a habit of going down to Colonial Road, getting food at the carhop, and riding around with whomever he meets that night.
He’s careful with his car at first, but eventually he can’t avoid the temptation of drag racing. Once he gets involved in the circuit, he becomes the car to beat. Toby’s dad is upset that Toby is already putting so much wear on the car. Toby’s mom is worried he’s not being safe. Toby spends less and less time with the family, going to work, coming home for only a bit, and then staying out all night with his Mustang. Eventually he puts off work too much, and he’s fired. He has sex with plenty of cute girls, like MARTHA who’s 16. He nearly gets in trouble with Martha as he’s 19, and his dad warns that he’ll get in trouble for statutory rape. Toby continues to hook up with underage girls, even as he turns 20, but he’s not worried about it.
With the help of friends who are over 21, he drinks harder stuff than the lower alcohol content beer he can get as a teenager. He also thoroughly explores the world of marijuana, which someone always seems to have on hand. Toby meets CINDY, and after having sex in the woods they’re interrupted by a creepy laugh. They flee in the Mustang, and Cindy leaves behind her underwear and shoes. Her DAD confronts Toby when he brings her home, as she’s only 16. Toby ends up having to for over money to replace Cindy’s shoes. Toby and FREDDIE go to Virginia Beach for July 4th, though the weekend is marred by tragedy. Jim Morrison of The Doors, who is something of an idol to Toby, dies. That night they witness a deadly car wreck of young people just like themselves.
Following Jim Morrison’s death, Toby begins to drink more and more, inspired by a “live fast, die young” mentality. He meets LISA ANN, who he’s instantly enamored with. Though he continues to sleep around when Lisa Ann isn’t available, he thinks he could love her. Lisa Ann is only 17, and her MOM is wary because Lisa Ann’s ex BILLY is also older and is still stalking her. The couple manages to sneak away to have sex in a hotel, but Billy follows them and calls Lisa Ann’s mom. She’s furious, and now the only way they can hang out is if Lisa Ann lies to her mom. Lisa Ann makes plans with her friend PATTY where they both pretend they’re staying the night at each other’s houses so they can stay out all night.
Toby has to find another guy so it’ll be a proper double date, which is difficult as everyone has Labor Day plans. Finally he finds WILLARD, who’s a couple years older than him. Toby is already drunk by the time he meets up with Willard and the girls. Billy attacks them at a restaurant and gets kicked out, and then he confronts them again with a gun. Willard disarms him, saving everyone. They stumble upon Freddie, who ended up not being able to leave town because of a problem with his car, so he joins their foursome. Toby takes over driving when they head to a party as they’re out past the teenagers’ curfew. Toby has to swerve to avoid TWO SKATEBOARDERS, and the Mustang flies off the road. It wraps around a tree, killing Toby, Freddie, Lisa Ann, and Patty. Willard is left alive, but badly injured.