Summary: ''Monster'' is what the prosecutor called 16-year-old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience-store owner. But was Steve really the lookout who gave the ''all clear'' to the murderer, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? In this innovative novel by Walter Dean Myers, the reader becomes both juror and witness during the trial of Steve's life. To calm his nerves as he sits in the courtroom, aspiring filmmaker Steve chronicles the proceedings in mov
ie script format. Interspersed throughout his screenplay are journal writings that provide insight into Steve's life before the murder and his feelings about being held in prison during the trial. ''They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can't kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment.''
Summary: ''Monster'' is what the prosecutor called 16-year-old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience-store owner. But was Steve really the lookout who gave the ''all clear'' to the murderer, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? In this innovative novel by Walter Dean Myers, the reader becomes both juror and witness during the trial of Steve's life. To calm his nerves as he sits in the courtroom, aspiring filmmaker Steve chronicles the proceedings in movie script format. Interspersed throughout his screenplay are journal writings that provide insight into Steve's life before the murder and his feelings about being held in prison during the trial. ''They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can't kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment.''...show less
Edition/Copyright:99 Cover: Paperback Publisher:Harper Tempest Published: 12/28/2004 International: No
View Author Bio
Meyers, Walter Dean :
Walter Dean Myers is the author of many highly acclaimed books, including Scorpions, a 1989 Newbery Honor Book; Now Is Your Time: The African-American Struggle for Freedom, winner of the 1992 Coretta Scott King Author Award; The Mouse Rap, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and Brown Angels:An Album of Pictures and Verse. In 1994, he received the ALA's Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. Mr. Myers lives in New Jersey with his family. In His Own Words...
I am a product of Harlem and of the values, color, toughness and caring that I found there as a child. I learned my flat jump shot in the church basement and got my first kiss during recess at Bible school. I played the endless street games kids played in the pre-television days and paid enough attention to candy and junk food to dutifully alarm my mother.
From my foster parents, the Deans, I received the love that was ultimately to strengthen me, even when I had forgotten its source. It was my foster mother, a half Indian-half German woman, who taught me to read, though she herself was barely literate.
I had a speech difficulty but didn't view it as anything special. It wasn't necessary for me to be much of a social creature once I discovered books. Books took me, not so much to foreign lands and fanciful adventures, but to a place within myself that I have been constantly exploring ever since.
The George Bruce Branch of the public Library was my most treasured place. I couldn't believe my luck in discovering what I enjoyed most -- reading -- was free. And I was tough enough to carry the books home through the streets without too many incidents.
At sixteen it seemed a good idea to leave school, and so I did. On my seventeenth birthday I joined the army. After the army there were jobs -- some good, some bad, few worth mentioning. Leaving school seemed less like a good idea.
Writing for me has been many things. It was a way to overcome the hindrance of speech problems as I tried to reach out to the world. It was a way of establishing my humanity in a world that often ignores the humanity of those in less favored positions. It was a way to make a few extra dollars when they were badly needed.
What I want to do with the writing keeps changing, too. Perhaps I just get clearer in what it is I am doing. I'm sure that after I'm dead someone will lay it all out nicely. I'd hate to see what kind of biography my cat, Askia, would write about me. Probably something like "Walter Dean Myers had enormous feet, didn't feed me on time, and often sat in my favorite chair."
View Sample Chapter
The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help. That way even if you sniffle a little they won't hear you. If anybody knows that you are crying, they'll start talking about it and soon it'll be your turn to get beat up when the lights go out.
There is a mirror over the steel sink in my cell. It's six inches high, and scratched with the names of some guys who were here before me. When I look into the small rectangle, I see a face looking back at me but I don't recognize it.
It doesn't look like me. I couldn't have changed that much in a few months. I wonder if I will look like myself when the trial is over.
This morning at breakfast a guy got hit in the face with a tray. Somebody said some little thing and somebody else got mad. There was blood all over the place.
When the guards came over, they made us line up against the wall. The guy who was hit they made sit at the table while they waited for another guard to bring them rubber gloves.
When the gloves came, the guards put them on, handcuffed the guy, and then took him to the dispensary. He was still bleeding pretty bad.
They say you get used to being in jail, but I don't see how. Every morning
I wake up and I am surprised to be here.
If your life outside was real, then everything in here is just the opposite. We sleep with strangers, wake up with strangers, and go to the bathroom in front of strangers. They're strangers but they still find reasons to hurt each other.
Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. It is a strange movie with no plot and no beginning. The movie is in black and white, and grainy. Sometimes the camera moves in so close that you can't tell what is going on and you just listen to the sounds and guess.
I have seen movies of prisons but never one like this. This is not a movie about bars and locked doors. It is about being alone when you are not really alone and about being scared all the time.
I think to get used to this I will have to give up what I think is real and take up something else.
I wish I could make sense of it.
Maybe I could make my own movie. I could write it out and play it in my head. I could block out the scenes like we did in school. The film will be the story of my life.
No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll write it down in the notebook they let me keep. I'll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me. Monday, July 6th MONSTER!
FADE IN: INTERIOR: Early morning in CELL BLOCK D, MANHATTAN DETENTION CENTER. Camera goes slowly down grim, gray corridor. There are sounds of inmates yelling from cell to cell; much of it is obscene. Most of the voices are clearly Black or Hispanic. Camera stops and slowly turns toward a cell.
INTERIOR: CELL. Sixteen-year-old STEVE HARMON is sitting on the edge of a metal cot, head in hands. He is thin, brown skinned. On the cot next to him are the suit and tie he is to wear to court for the start of his trial.
CUT TO: ERNIE, another prisoner, sitting on john, pants down.
CUT TO: SUNSET, another prisoner, pulling on T-shirt.
CUT TO: STEVE pulling blanket over his head as screen goes dark. VOICE-OVER (VO)
Ain't no use putting the blanket over your head, man. You can't cut this out; this is reality. This is the real deal. VO continues with anonymous PRISONER explaining how the Detention Center is the real thing. As he does, words appear on the screen, just like the opening credits of the movie Star Wars, rolling from the bottom of the screen and shrinking until they are a blur on the top of the screen before rolling off into space. MONSTER! The Story of My Miserable Life
Starring Steve Harmon
Produced by Steve Harmon
Directed by Steve Harmon
(Credits continue to roll.) VO
Yo, Harmon, you gonna eat something? Come on and get your breakfast, man. I'll take your eggs if you don't want them. You want them? STEVE (subdued)
I'm not hungry. SUNSET
His trial starts today. He up for the big one. I know how that feels. CUT TO: INTERIOR: CORRECTIONS DEPT. VAN. Through the bars at the rear of the van, we see people going about the business of their lives in downtown New York. There are men collecting garbage, a female traffic officer motioning for a taxi to make a turn, students on the way to school. Few people notice the van as it makes its way from the DETENTION CENTER to the COURTHOUSE.
CUT TO: PRISONERS, handcuffed, coming from back of van. STEVE is carrying a notebook. He is dressed in the suit and tie we saw on the cot. He is seen only briefly as he is herded through the heavy doors of the courthouse.
FADE OUT as last prisoner from the van enters rear of courthouse.
FADE IN: INTERIOR COURTHOUSE. We are in a small room used for prisoner-lawyer interviews. A guard sits at a desk behind STEVE.
KATHY O'BRIEN, STEVE's lawyer, is petite, red-haired, and freckled. She is all business as she talks to STEVE. O'BRIEN
Let me make sure you understand what's going on. Both you and this King character are on trial for felony murder. Felony murder is as serious as it gets. Sandra Petrocelli is the prosecutor, and she's good. They're pushing for the death penalty, which is really bad. The jury might think they're doing you a big favor by giving you life in prison. So you'd better take this trial very, very seriously. When you're in court, you sit there and you pay attention. You let the jury know that you think the case is as serious as they do. You don't turn and wave to any of your friends. It's all right to acknowledge your mother. I have to go and talk to the judge. The trial will begin in a few minutes. Is there anything you want to ask me before it starts? STEVE You think we're going to win? O'BRIEN (seriously)
It probably depends on what you mean by "win." CUT TO: INTERIOR: HOLDING ROOM. We see STEVE sitting at one end of bench. Against the opposite wall, dressed in a sloppy-looking suit, is 23-year-old JAMES KING, the other man on trial. KING looks older than 23. He looks over at STEVE with a hard look and we see STEVE look away. Two GUARDS sit at a table away from the prisoners, who are handcuffed. The camera finds the GUARDS in a MEDIUM SHOT (MS). They have their breakfast in aluminum take-out trays that contain eggs, sausages, and potatoes. A Black female STENOGRAPHER pours coffee for herself and the GUARDS. STENOGRAPHER
I hope this case lasts two weeks. I can sure use the money. GUARD 1
Six days maybe seven. It's a motion case. They go through the motions; then they lock them up. (Turns and looks off camera toward STEVE.) Ain't that right, bright eyes? CUT TO: STEVE, who is seated on a low bench. He is handcuffed to a U-bolt put in the bench for that purpose. STEVE looks away from the GUARD.
CUT TO: DOOR. It opens, and COURT CLERK looks in. COURT CLERK
Two minutes! CUT TO: GUARDS, who hurriedly finish breakfast. STENOGRAPHER takes machine into COURTROOM. They unshackle STEVE and take him toward door.
CUT TO: STEVE is made to sit down at one table. At another table we see KING and two attorneys. STEVE sits alone. A guard stands behind him. There are one or two spectators in the court. Then four more enter.
CLOSE-UP (CU) of STEVE HARMON. The fear is evident on his face. MS: People are getting ready for the trial to begin. KATHY O'BRIEN sits next to STEVE.
How are you doing? STEVE
I'm scared. O'BRIEN
Good; you should be. Anyway, just remember what we've been talking about. The judge is going to rule on a motion that King's lawyer made to suppress Cruz's testimony, and a few other things. Steve, let me tell you what my job is here. My job is to make sure the law works for you as well as against you, and to make you a human being in the eyes of the jury. Your job is to help me. Any questions you have, write them down and I'll try to answer them. What are you doing there? STEVE
I'm writing this whole thing down as a movie. O'BRIEN
Whatever. Make sure you pay attention. Close attention.
The foregoing is excerpted from Monster by Walter Dean Myers. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
"Myers grapples with complex moral questions that will definitely make readers stop and think."
--Booklist, Editors' Choice 1999
"The main character is a teenage boy accused of having participated in a crime that ended in murder, but the intriguing moral questions at the root of this award-winning book cross age boundaries."
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