Michael McKay’s A Big House for Little Men
By Suzy Geers - Vitality and Pulse Magazine
This isn’t just a corruption book. This isn’t just a prison book. This is, in my opinion, the be all, and all of crime and punishment books about the inside of our Massachusetts prison system. It’s a story of survival ~ and it happened right in our backyard. It is about my neighbor and yours.
This book IS violent. Very violent, in fact, I had to re-read pages because I just couldn’t fathom what I was digesting. But, it is a life story ~ someone’s tragic life story.
Imagine being born without a chance. No chance to be a kid, to be loved unconditionally by a mom and a dad, no chance to join Little League ~ but instead being drawn into burglaries and murders, seeing your siblings off to prison, not college. This is the sad way of life for main character Cody in the intense and often shocking A Big House for Little Men. Dorchester native and current North Attleboro resident Michael McKay penned an eye-opening fictional story of Cody’s rise from juvenile offender to the most powerful criminal in Boston.
Time to elaborate: This book is based on a real story which had to be written as a fictional account of murders that occurred within Walpole State prison in the late 1970s. So, although it is listed as “fiction,” it is based ~ oh so closely ~ upon real events.
McKay explains, “80% is fiction and the 20% are embellishments. I have all the facts to back it up ~ written documents and reports. If I made this a work of non-fiction, I would have troopers, D.A.s and prison officials wanting to know the who, the when, the how…and I don’t want to deal with that, if you know what I mean.”
Cody is the notorious real life Mikey Thurber and the crimes he commits are atrocious. Thurber was the most talked about and feared creature of the 1970s. One of the most heinous and brutal (alleged) murders he commits while in prison involves an ice pick and a castration (and there’s much more to it), retaliation for a fierce act of vigilante prison vengeance (specifically, someone strangling his friend). Riots at Walpole State Prison shook the Bay State in 1972. The facility gained national notoriety when prisoners took guards hostage in 1978; several murders within the prison made national headlines in 1979, after which the correction officers (scared for their and their families’ lives) had enough and walked out of the prison in protest. At Walpole, the prisoners ran the show. Thurber ~ and in A Big House for Little Men, Cody ~ was its virtuoso.
As evil as Cody is, Michael McKay has superbly ~ if not perfectly ~ hand-crafted a character that gains readers’ sympathy, that lets us have compassion for Cody. I actually felt for this person who had committed such vile crimes; I wanted him to win, to beat the system and get some sort of normalcy, a fresh start, a chance. I felt in a strange way that the state owed it to him, that maybe any of us who grew up loved and loving owed it to him.
Cody is now walking the streets ~ your streets, my streets. He was released ~ yes, released ~ with life parole (to tell you how and why now would be doing a disservice to McKay’s magnetic storytelling, so all I shall do is urge you to read A Big House for Little Men for yourself!) but his sentence was eventually greatly reduced by a crooked ex- Massachusetts State Trooper
(Cody’s old acquaintance from the neighborhood) turned head of the Massachusetts Parole Board.
McKay’s fiction, so heavily infused with often bone-chilling non-fiction, is a magnetic character study not just of a character named Cody, but of characters named The MA Judicial System and Where We Come From. Pick up a copy and set aside some time to read A Big House for Little Men from cover to cover. It is a thought-provoking dose of “fictional reality.”