“Growing up in a single-parent household, trying to identify some of the habits and rhythms I had, my mother would say I was just like her dad. He was an entrepreneur and a go-getter who looked outside the lines of life,” Cedric tells EBONY.
“I thought he was just this very interesting character, and I would imagine the machinations about who he was and what he did in a day. That's the motivation behind this fictional tale.”
Inspired by a couple of pictures of his grandfather—one in his army uniform and one in a suit—Cedric formulated his novel. “Those were the images I had in my head: him suited up standing outside in front of this car,” he shares.
Flipping Boxcars tells the story of Babe, who is about to make the deal of a lifetime involving a liquor shipment on a boxcar train in the 1940s.
“I was intrigued about how a man navigated when business and things were stacked against you. How did you live? How did you dream? How did you stay motivated.” Being only two generations removed from his grandfather, Cedric was also moved by how opportunities for himself have changed just two generations later. “That his grandson could be everything that I wanted to be in the world…My grandfather wanted to be everything he thought he was, but he was relegated to what was in front of him in a small town, the underworld and the hustle. And yet, here I am a couple of generations later in his come through. I want to want people to see that in the book.”
Cedric adds during that time, “They didn’t have the interstate system. So people in these river cities had a lot more bustling activity, even though they were small towns,” he explains.
Growing up in Missouri, Cedric tapped into real-life events and spaces to build out characters and events. “The Fourth of July, the town mayor and the sheriff, we dug in on those relationships,” he says. “The streets, locations and places are very vivid to me as a kid. My mother and uncles would tell us, ‘That door has a certain bolt on it, and you can't even get in that door unless you knock this many times.' That's crazy to see a building and have a different experience than how I grew up seeing it.”
With all its twists and turns, Flipping Boxcars is a fast-paced read that leaves you crying out for more. “I want to create a series of books because I see Babe as a person with many of these stories and a lot of life,” Cedric declares. “That's what we have fun with. There are three kinds of cliffhangers at the end of this, so hopefully, people are so intrigued that they insist that I get the chance to write another book.”
Cedric also hopes this fictional ode to his family motivates others to uncover more about their past. “Nowadays, we just don't fall into our family history anymore,” he surmises. “Being able to sit and have access to my uncles and some of my older relatives to have them tell the stories, it’s something that I want the book to motivate people to do: to go and research and find out their family history by talking to your elders.”
Flipping Boxcars is available at Amazon.