"The Boy Who Lived in a Tree" is an easy and interesting read. Its target age group are boys 9-13, but young girls are reading and liking the book as well, said Martin, who described the book as an action adventure story similar to the Mark Twain classics "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn."
Set in the 1830s, the story opens with 12-year-old David in the midst of an impromtu journey from Missouri to Arkansas to reach his uncle's home after his father had died "in a tragic accident."
Martin reveals that David's mother died years earlier in childbirth — neither mom nor baby survived — but he cleverly holds back any details about what "accident" took David's father's life. It's one of the questions that kept me reading.
The answer is revealed toward the end of the story as David shares his experiences with a tribe of Indians.
Pulling the story along is how young David and his dog, Smokey, manage to survive their journey which begins in mid-November and doesn't end until the spring. The winter is especially harsh with frigid temperatures and heavy snowstorms.
Having left his old home hastily to escape harsh treatment from his new guardians, David doesn't even have so much as a coat, hat or gloves to protect him from the elements. Just when things are beginning to look their bleakest, David and Smokey discover a large hollow sycamore tree on the bank of a river.
The rest of the story tells of David's struggle to survive using nothing more than his wits and the natural world that surrounds him. He employs many survival skills that, while common events of frontier days, are intriguing and education for a 21st century reader.
Martin said he didn't have to do much research for "The Boy Who Lived in a Tree." Instead, he relied on his own childhood experiences and education.
"They say write about what you know, so that's what I did," remarked Martin.
That may surprise some people. As co-founder of Steamboat Financial in Washington, Martin is more well-known around town for his experience in money matters than in literature. But on the subject of frontier life and nature, he's well-versed.
Martin holds a degree in wildlife conservation and an ROTC commission as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.
Some of his favorite authors include people like Silas Turnbow, who wrote short stories on the Civil War in Arkansas, and Henry R. Schoolcraft, whose journal is said to be the first written account of an exploration through the Ozarks.
Martin's childhood also provided information for the book. He grew up on a small farm in Searcy County, where hunting and fishing were a necessary part of everyday life. As a child he hunted squirrels and rabbits with a .22 caliber rifle and his dog, Smokey, by his side. He fished on the Buffalo River with his Uncle Charley Crow, a Choctaw Indian.
Details of these experiences are woven into the book. Even some of the characters are named after Martin's relatives and pet.
"Some of my personal life is in the book," said Martin. "It's set in the Missouri-Arkansas Ozarks, where I grew up, and all of the places mentioned in the book are places I've been to and seen.
"There's also some family folklore in the book," he said. "I had a relative who was almost killed noodling a fish (catching it with bare hands), and there's a similar scene in the book."
Even the hollow sycamore tree is based on a real tree that used to stand near Cape Girardeau but was felled by a tornado a couple of years ago.
"It was 7 1/2 feet in diameter and completely hollow," said Martin. "Hogs were using it as a shelter."
He estimated the tree was between 200 and 300 years old when it fell.
Martin hopes young readers who pick up "The Boy" find it to be more than just an interesting story, but educational. He's included end notes to further explain and offer additional information on several details in the book.
"It's designed to teach something," Martin remarked.
"The Boy Who Lived in a Tree" isn't Martin's first literary attempt. He's written a number of short stories and a previous novel. None of his work has ever been published until now.
"Writing is a hobby," Martin commented, with a smile. "In the wintertime, when it's cold outside, I go upstairs in our house and write."
Martin admits "The Boy" is different from his other writing. When he sat down to write the novel, his intention was to write a story to be published. He worked on the book for about a year before it was ready.
Martin had his wife, Candi, read and edit his first draft of the book. More than just a supportive spouse, Candi read the manuscript with the careful eye of a fellow author.
She has written a series of young children's books about the love of an adopted dog. The main character, Spencer, is based on the Martins' Bischon Frise dog by the same name.
Candi's books are not published yet. She's currently looking for an illustrator.
"I know what I want the pictures to look like," said Candi, "I just can't draw them myself."
The Spencer series includes:
"Spencer Gets a Family," "Spencer Goes to Day Care," "Spencer Goes to School," "Spencer Goes to Work" and "Spencer's Friend Jordan."
'The Boy' Will Continue
People who enjoy "The Boy" will be happy to know David's adventures don't end here. Martin has more planned for the young boy.
"My intent is for this to be a series," said Martin, noting he has already started on the second installment.
"The Boy Who Lived in a Tree" was published by Martin through Author House out of Bloomington, Ind.
Martin has donated copies to Washington grade schools and local libraries. Copies also will soon be available for order at any major bookstore and online at amazon.com.
People also may call Steamboat Financial to order a copy.
The book (ISBN 1418434272) sells for $10.25.