While the historically significant area around St. Petersburg’s 22nd Street South – the Deuces – is undergoing a renaissance, a local author highlights its recent, grittier past.
Charles Davis is now “99.8%” done with his second book revolving around the troubled life of its eponymous protagonist, Tyrone Jenkins. Davis self-published the series’ first entry, Tyrone I Din Do Nuffin, in 2019.
The book is semi-autobiographical fiction, based on a teen auto theft ring in St. Petersburg in the early 1990s. Davis, 32, lives in a trailer custom-wrapped to promote his book, while he saves money for a house
“I’m still blessed,” Davis said. “But at the same time, it’s a struggle. To be honest with you, I do get depressed sometimes about being in this situation.”
Davis started writing I Din Do Nuffin in 2018. Its setting is “Pineburg,” an amalgamation of Pinellas County and St. Petersburg.
As noted in the book’s Amazon description, Tyrone, 13, frequently finds himself on the wrong side of the law. In addition, teachers “hate him” and “his mama can’t stand ’em.”
Tyrone doesn’t fit in with his peers, and the neighborhood’s older drug dealers don’t like him. Even the local radio hosts have dubbed the character a societal menace.
Davis said he writes from experience and believes many young people “are out of control.”
“I put my blood, sweat and tears in this book,” he added. “I’ve been getting pretty good feedback from it, not everybody. If they ain’t into cursing and stuff like that, then my book is not for them.
“It’s a lot of cussing in that book, but I’m just talking about what’s going on in the city.”
I Din Do Nuffin’ includes local landmarks, like the Deuces corridor and the historic Mercy Hospital. A St. Petersburg native, Davis was born at Bayfront Hospital.
Davis hopes to preserve forgotten southside history. He said most average residents lack a voice.
He also highlights struggles between the Black community and the St. Pete Police Department. Davis referenced Tyrone Lewis, who was shot and killed by officers near the 18th Avenue South and 16th Street intersection in October 1996.
Protests and riots followed. Dozens of buildings in Black neighborhoods burned, and the situation replayed three weeks later when a grand jury found the shooting justified.
Davis often sells and advertises his book on 18th Avenue, near 28th Street South. He said he “has nothing against police,” who are “pretty good people at the end of the day.”
Davis then spent several minutes describing his “run-ins” with local officers. He called them “liars” and “A-list actors.”
However, he reiterated that his issue is with certain people rather than the profession. “Hell, we need them,” Davis said.
“Because we do got some lunatics around here,” he added. “Some of them (cops) are just not fair at all. It’s the same thing in my book.”
After three years of writing, Davis is nearly ready to publish his second book based on Tyrone’s misadventures. He is also trying to raise $5,000 for a two-minute cartoon that he believes could go viral.
Davis stressed the importance of the character for anyone living in the city and said, “There’s a lot of Tyrones in St. Pete.”
Davis said he sold over 1,000 copies of Din Do Nuffin on 18th Avenue alone. He hopes to increase those numbers with the latest entry in the series, which he said is “beyond adventurous.”
He noted the first book is “all the way hood” and believes the second has more crossover appeal. While it still includes South St. Pete’s history and happenings, readers will also find monsters, UFOs and a Gulfport-based “ghost cat.”
Moving forward, Davis has two goals: Seeing his books in a brick-and-mortar store – preferably on the southside – and buying a house.
He said his rent soared from $850 monthly to nearly $2,000 after the pandemic. He stayed with friends until he saved enough money to buy the trailer, which he compared to a tiny house.
Davis said he sleeps well and owns a car but refuses to pay $2,000 monthly when he could put that toward a mortgage downpayment. He encouraged anyone in a similar situation to focus on their goals and persevere.
“That’s one thing I had to learn,” Davis added. “There was times when I wanted to give up. You got to keep going, man.”