Talking with Bill
A Boy Called Combustion:
a memoir by Bill Keeton, M.D.
​               Here, few of the questions most commonly asked about A Boy Called 
Combustion. Bill is glad to answer other reader questions about the book, which may
be submitted using the Contact form here or on the book's page on Facebook.

​Q. What was inspiration for writing these stories? 

A. Many of the stories in the book have been told by me and my family for as long as I 
can remember. They always seemed to be well received. Reading Robert Fulgham’s 
All I really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten was inspiring for me. I really 
enjoyed his life’s stories and decided I would write some of my own. I wrote them as 
they came to mind over the next few years. 

To my astonishment, I really enjoyed writing. This was quite a surprise, as I had always 
avoided it like the plague. As a matter of fact, the chapter of A Boy Called Combustion 
called “Freshman Year” tells how I conned a classmate (I won’t mention his name, but 
his initials were Charles Alexander) into writing the essays required for my Freshman English class.

I was also inspired by reading the letters that my father wrote. Daddy neither finished school nor read fine literature. But he spoke very well, and wrote many excellent letters. I decided if he could write so excellently without the benefit of the education he ensured that I had, I should be able to do so as well.

Q. Are the stories true? 

A. These stories are all true—and despite what you may think, none are even exaggerated to any significant degree. Yes, I really did get into all those scrapes as a kid, even the most unlikely ones. As my cousin Dave Montgomery said to his niece Jennifer, “I can assure you, all of these stories are absolutely true and he didn’t even tell some of the worst ones!” And as my cousin Ken Goodrich wrote in his foreword to the book (we decided to call it the “Forewarning,” which seemed more apt), “You just can’t make this stuff up.”

Q. Fondren, MS is described often in the book. What was it like when you were growing up?

A. When I was a young child growing up there, Fondren Grocery—which I describe in the book—seemed to be the center of things in its part of Jackson. There wasn’t much else around except a service station a block or so away, a hardware store, the Pix movie theater, and three churches.

While we considered ourselves “city folks,” ours was a small community. And of course, this was in the 1940s. At 5, I could walk by myself to the store; by the time I was eight or nine, I would take a city bus downtown to go to a movie.  {continued here}

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