My Last Days as Roy Rogers

Pat Cunningham Devoto’s first book is the story of one Tabitha “Tab” Rutland, a fifth-grade girl living in a small town in northern Alabama. Several different story threads run through the novel.

First, there is the story of the hideout Tab builds with her best friend, a light- skinned African American girl named Maudie-May, and her two little brothers, known throughout the story only as “The Brothers”. The hideout, which they name Fort Polio, is near the residence of a bootlegger called Old Man Jake, and they overhear a lot of his deals with customers.

Another thread of narrative involves Grace Poovey, an apparently rich old woman who runs a group called the Ladies Help League, which pays for medical care for children with polio.

About midway through the story, Mrs. Poovey suddenly leaves town, reportedly to a rest home, and Tab’s parents buy her huge house, at a bargain price. In a secret hiding place in her new bedroom, Tab finds a mysterious book that appears to be a ledger. This leads to the climax, in which it is discovered that Mrs. Poovey lost her money long ago. She had been extorting money from the Ladies Help League for her own survival and for the support of her one African American servant, Old Ben.

My Last Days as Roy Rogers is an enjoyable romp through a special childhood in a bygone era. The characters, good and evil, are well drawn and intriguing. The book’s one major fault, however, is that the great mystery involving the ledger, Mrs. Poovey’s disappearance, and various related sub-plots, is easy to see halfway through the novel. While the climax is satisfying, the buildup is somewhat overdone.