FULTON – “Oh lot of people around here probably remember me because I did a lot of bad things a while back.”
Fulton’s Tim Turner offered a sort of curt apologetic laugh.
From a couch just inside the front door of his Fulton home, Turner reached over and rapped his knuckles against a coffee table to punctuate his words.
“You hear a lot of sad stories,” he said, “but I’m man enough to take responsibility for my mistakes. I’m not blaming anybody. I preach that to a lot of youngsters. You can be what you want to be. I’m trying to show this. I dedicated myself to writing and now I love it, man.”
Now in his mid-50s, Turner recently changed the direction of his life.
Back in the 1980s, he was a self-professed drunk, drug addict and thief with a list of sins too long to write here. He sold dope and broke out of jail; robbed banks and snatched purses. He calls himself a “functional screw-up.”
“I’ve been a drug addict – shot heroin, done cocaine. I was a functioning alcoholic for years. You name it, I’ve done it,” he said. “I was homeless on the street for four months. I slept inside cardboard boxes, in the woods and under bridges. I was out there and didn’t have nobody, man.”
But all that changed during his incarceration in Parchman Penitentiary in 2004. From his cell in Building C, Turner picked up a pencil and a piece of paper and began to write.
It was a move that changed his life.
“I used to read books a lot, you know,” he said, his graveled voice reverberating with excitement. “And even back then as a kid I thought I could write a better book than some of them.”
Locked in his cell, Turner began to hand-write pages, dozens by the day. After four months, he had his first novel, “Terror Down South.”
He said his fellow inmates loved it.
“I had the best critics in the world: convicts,” he said. “They didn’t do anything but read.”
Turner said other prisoners, and guards as well, would blow through hundreds of his pages a day and return asking for more.
So, he wrote more. Much more, in fact – novels and novels worth of content. It became an obsession.
“I couldn’t sleep unless I wrote that day,” he said. “I just couldn’t deal with it.”
Turner leapt from the couch and disappeared through a door into the back of his house. Minutes later, he returned with a large cardboard box cradled in his arms. He set this down on the table in front of him and began pulling stacks and stacks of pages out of it, all filled from top to bottom with his handwriting.
“These are my books,” he said, handing over an entire ream of paper. The cover sheet read, “Terror Terror.”
All of these novels were written during Turner’s incarceration. Most are thrillers, “page-turners” as he calls them. He said writing came easily for him, despite the chaotic setting of prison.
“When I’m writing, that’s all I can see,” Tuner said. “Sometimes I’d write out in open areas. I’ve got 100 guys walking around me making noise, but I can block all of that out. Everything that I’m writing, I can see, and it was the only thing I could see.”
When he was released from prison, he said he let writing fall by the wayside. Instead, he slipped easily into his old nasty habits.
“I just got caught up in that world again,” he said. “I was hanging out with the wrong people.”
He was arrested again, this time for violating the terms of his parole. Back in prison for 26 months, Turner began to write again. The result was “Elber Stone: Vengeance,” a historical thriller about a young white man in 1958 Mississippi who seeks violent revenge against a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan after they kill his best friend, Odie.
Turner called it a story about love.
“It’s about how you can love someone, no matter what color you are or what color they are,” he said.
When he was released from prison this past July, Turner took the next step in turning his life around. He sent the novel off to be published.
“When I got out before, I did nothing with my books,” he said. “This time, I decided to do something.”
Once again, he rapped his knuckles against the coffee table. On it sat a printed copy of “Elber Stone: Vengeance.” Bound in black with a three hooded Klansmen illustrated on the front, the novel certainly grabs one’s attention.
It’s currently available on Amazon.com and selling fairly well, Turner said. He’s got an agent and editor, now, and the support of his friends and family. He’s out clean: No parole and no probation. If he were to turn around, he might see his old life diminishing in the distance.
“I’ve got more,” he said, naming several: “Terror Terror,” “The Stranger,” “Mr. Riddler,” “The Take,” “Fatal Justice” and “Trapped.”
“I don’t think there are any writers out there better than me,” he said, beaming. “I’m not saying I’m better than them; I’m just saying I can write just as well as they can if I try.”
His eyes dropped to the stacks and stacks of pages sitting before him.
“I’ve done so much wrong. I just,” he began, but trailed off. “But now, my dream has come true; I have made this dream come true by applying myself.
Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times