Trophy Girl 

by Marlis Manley


Trophy Girl will please its readers as the story on its pages is well conceived and equally well written.

The protagonist is a young girl who, after finding her late mother’s scrapbook, sets out to find the man she believes to be her birth father knowing that he’s likely never even been aware of her existence. That he happens to be a seasoned and respected race winning dirt track jalopy driver simplifies her being able to find him. And that sets this fine work of historical fiction, with nary a misplaced word, in motion. 

Readers taste the flavor, smell the smells, and witness dirt track jalopy racing in the Midwest during the mid-1950s to mid-1960s just as author Marlis Manley had experienced it firsthand. Her own father had been an SCCA racer out west and then her step-father had been a championship dirt track jalopy racer in the Midwest on some of the very tracks where she set her story. A bit more about those two men, Frank D. Manley and Frank J. (who went by Frankie) Lies, is enlightening because of the experiences they gave Marlis that lent background and provide much of the historic aspect of her first novel. 

Father Frank went to work for Boeing Aircraft in Wichita May 1939, actually Stearman then as it was prior to it becoming Boeing. He traveled the world as a field service engineer for Boeing fulfilling both domestic and foreign assignments before his 1987 retirement. He had been a lifelong member of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and had taken his daughter for hot lap rides around Seattle International Raceway in his Dino Ferrari, raced his Deutsch-Bonnet up and down the West coast and even restored a super rare Abarth Zagato.

At the time Frankie Lies did win that inaugural National Championship for Jalopy stock cars in 1957 in Oklahoma City’s Taft Stadium he was Marlis’ stepfather-to-be but she had been there too and seen it all firsthand. For her story she was able to draw from lovingly and carefully kept family scrapbooks, racing history websites such as kansasracing/ and other racing archives along with her very own memories and experiences being around those tracks and the cars and racers.

It’s no surprise either that Manley’s book earned an Honorable Mention in a William Faulkner Literary Competition for Novel as well as an MFA with Distinction in fiction writing from Wichita State University, where she had been an MFA Fellow. Her writing skills have been honed teaching English—including creative writing—at several universities. She is also a founder of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and has published award-winning short fiction. And, she’s had over 100 poems published in literary magazines including Kansas Quarterly, Crosscurrents, and Kansas Women Writers.

So a bit more about the book and its story; but not too much as the pleasure of discovering the story details on the book’s pages should be for readers to find while reading. Marlis Manley was likely an awesome educator for the tauter the action being related the more she keeps her reader engaged, turning page after page following the action. It’s such a nicely constructed and told tale that this commentator happily read on late into the night as the characters came to life with believable dialog and engaging events and action. 

Marlis Manley (Broadhead), true to the memory of her two dads, gets the car and race and racing facts right too. That winning car was indeed a jalopyed ’34 Ford five-window coupe. And in her acknowledgements she freely pokes a bit of fun at herself as she thanks a friend of Frankie “who saved me from the faux pas of installing a Jiffy Lube in Oklahoma several years before the company existed.”

Reward yourself with a copy of this totally pleasurable read.

Trophy Girl 
by Marlis Manley
Black Rose Writing, 2021
342 pages, softcover 
List Price: $20.95
ISBN 13: 978 1 68433 773 6

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