The boy’s early history is shortened down to a couple pages, setting Maniac, an orphan who ran away from an unhappy home to the town of Two Mills, two hundred miles away. And the running is literal. Maniac’s running is part of his legend; he can outrun just about anyone. Other unusual skills pop up later to distinguish him from the usual gang of kids.
This kid is a sort of innocent. He has no understanding of bigotry or racial segregation. So when he plops into the Black side of town, he doesn’t get what he is up against, from both Blacks and Whites. He is a kid alone, who just needs a family, and it doesn’t matter much what color the folks are.
There are frustrating and sad moments in the story, as Maniac struggles to find his place among the people of Two Mills, while at the same time enhancing his legendary status with both sides, sort of like a tragic superhero.
I enjoyed the book well enough, though I wouldn’t say it was in my top group. His interactions with the Black folks on the other side of the tracks were fun and interesting, and sometimes thought provoking. But for me, I couldn’t feel close to Maniac; I couldn’t get to know him until near the end of the book. It seemed to me that the point of the book was more important than the thoughts, feelings, “innards” of the boy.
I picked this book up at Goodwill for a buck fifty.