Overview

Two weeks before Christmas, Duncan Wagner gets into his car for another attempt at kidnapping the son of his most despised enemy, State Representative Win Booker.
When he drives into the wealthy Boston suburb, he is surprised to find the boy hitchhiking. So begins Wagners quest for revenge as he finds himself face to face with a real boy, and without a clue about how to run a kidnapping. Wagner, a self-styled charity Santa Claus, comes to realize that eleven year old Gabriel ...
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A Jolly Good fellow

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Overview

Two weeks before Christmas, Duncan Wagner gets into his car for another attempt at kidnapping the son of his most despised enemy, State Representative Win Booker.
When he drives into the wealthy Boston suburb, he is surprised to find the boy hitchhiking. So begins Wagners quest for revenge as he finds himself face to face with a real boy, and without a clue about how to run a kidnapping. Wagner, a self-styled charity Santa Claus, comes to realize that eleven year old Gabriel Booker is truly a runaway, much more curious than scared. Gabriel has no idea who Duncan Wagner is or could be.
In an old apartment in downtown Boston, the odd pair makes an unforgettable team, providing each other with what they have been missing in life. Author Stephen V. Masse captures the friendship with a blend of suspense and humor, showing that love is a resource which can bring redemption to the most damaged souls.

A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW received the Silver Medal in the 2008 Independent Publishers Book Awards, Best Fiction Northeast Region.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934614341
  • Publisher: Calderwood Books
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 158
  • File size: 211 KB

Meet the Author

Stephen V. Masse was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Educated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he studied writing and historical biography, and was the author of a weekly column, Out of Control. His first novel, Shadow Stealer, was published by Dillon Press in 1988. When not writing, he restores and renovates homes in the Boston area, and serves as an ambassador in the Santa Claus Anonymous fundraising benefit.
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Read an Excerpt

TAPE ONE

He's out there hitchhiking. I'm driving back up West Border Parkway in the morning snow, and I know right off it's him because I watched him come out of his house three times last month, and just saw him go in the variety store all alone about twenty minutes ago, hanging around while the school bus came and then took off without him.

He looks in the car window quickly, then opens the door and piles right in. He rubs his hands together and breathes on them. I can see they're pretty red from the cold. He's smaller than I thought he might be, like I could push or pull him with one hand. I look at his face, all rosy with a few snowflakes melting, though his eyes look unhappy or mad or something. "You okay over there?" I ask. "What's with the hitchhikin'--you forget somethin' at home?"

"Me? No. Just trying to get a ride."

"Where to? You skippin' school and goin' to the mall?"

He says nothing, just wipes his face with his hand.

"You really shouldn't be out there hitchhikin'."

He shrugs. Then he puts his fingers right in the defroster vents and shifts his feet, kicking the roll of duct tape on the floor. "Maybe I should just get out and try another ride." He puts his hand to where the door lever should be, but finds the stem part broken off.

"Let's not get hasty here," I says. "You're in outa the snow, you got nice warm heat. It's just not every day some kid jumps in my car. How's those hands? Warmer, I bet."

He looks at his hands. I can see they picked up some dust from the dashboard. He wipes them on his coat front, and it makes a kind of whistling sound. "This is a pretty old car," he says. "I never knew anybody that drove such an oldcar." Kid starts telling me his father has a brand new Jaguar XKR convertible that makes my car look like some dog butt jalopy.

"You're gettin' a little harsh there, don't you think? This car's a classic--a Dodge Dart with slant six engine. I'll betcha there's only five or six people that have one of these. How many hundreds have a Jag? Besides, you shouldn't be talking like that."

"Like what?"

"When I was a kid, I never said that kind of stuff in front of respectable adults. Think you'd have a careful mouth, coming from such a high class town as you do."

I can see he's a little scared. He keeps looking at me like he thinks I'm going to hurt him or something. Maybe he can see I'm scared too, with him suddenly here before my eyes.

Pretty soon we come up to a red light, and before I know it, he's fiddling with the broken door handle. I jam the brakes hard. "Whatta you think you're doin'?" I says.

"I--I was just trying to close the door tighter."

"Can't you see it's busted?" I says. "Don't you try that stuff, or else you'll get hurt. You get that?"

"What's everybody's problem with me today?" he says. "If you don't mind, your stinking door's loose and I don't feel like falling out."

Just as the light turns green, I catch a look at his face and see some tears. Now I feel kinda bad. "You don't need to cry," I says. "Just don't be messin' with the door, you won't get yourself in trouble."

"Easy for you to say. I'm already in trouble."

"For what?"

"Well, for your information, primarily, blowing off school. Then, in case you didn't notice me out there hitchhiking? My mother'll kill me, and my father will ground me until I'm twenty-one. And plus, I'm stuck in this old car with you, and no airbags, and I don't think I should be doing this."

"Just don't worry," I says. But I realize I'm the guy with the worries. I figured and calculated a dozen different possible things, but never imagined him just jumping in my car.

We drive a while more and get into downtown by and by. He gets busy looking at the holiday decorations all around the city, and seems to calm down. "Now," I says, "you're in my car and not in your old man's hotshot convertible, which if you think about it, ain't too practical on a snowy day. And besides, if you love his car so much, how come you were so quick to take a ride with a stranger?"

"Can we just drive?"

"We are driving."

"If you really want to know, I was cold. And besides, nobody stops to pick up a kid."

"Except maybe a school bus?"

"Duhh--does it look like I want to be in school?"

"Don't look much like you want to be anywhere. Not school, not home, not in my stinking rattletrap jalopy, and I'm beginnin' to wonder how I got so lucky to get you, the Booker kid, all to myself."

His eyes jump right to me. "Hey! What the--how do you know who I am? Do you work for my father?"

"I just know your name's Booker," I says.

"Do you work at my school?"

"Hardly, kid. So what's your first name?"

He don't answer me, just wrinkles up his forehead and shifts in his seat.

"Ain't you got a name, kid?"

He's irritated now, like he's more mad I'm trying to pry out his name than he is about getting driven off by a stranger. "Okay, it's Gabriel," he says almost too soft to hear.

I reach out my hand for a handshake, and he looks at it like he don't know what to do, so I wiggle my fingers until he finally puts his hand in mine and I shake it. "Nice to meet you," I says.

We drive a half block more and nobody talks. Then suddenly he says, "Pretty hammy name, isn't it? That's my mother's idea. Gabriel--sounds gimpy."

"How old are you, anyhow?"

"Eleven," he says, then he looks out the window again.

"Just like I thought," I says.

* * * *
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Characters, Unusual Plot, A Different Kind of Christmas Story

    An unexpected story, growing into a memorable and thought-provoking ride. What happens when you mix the holiday season, and a confused young boy with a troubled grifter searching for a sure thing, the big bankroll? This unlikely plot delivers one of the best novels I have read in some time.

    Richly drawn characters, slowly revealing their inner demons and dreams to each other, offer a fascinating view into the human psyche. You'll care about them, and hold your breath more than once while reading this unusual tale of a kidnapping, a lonely man and a young boy.

    A welcome mix of humor, suspense, twists and turns, you'll enjoy this book, whether at Christmas time or a sweltering summer day.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Jolly Good Fellow

    It's almost Christmas and times are tough, Duncan Wagner needed money to live off of so he concocted a plan to get one hundred thousand dollars by kidnapping and ransoming off the kid of State Representative Winthrop Booker. After several attempts to put the plan in motion, Duncan watches as Gabriel Booker misses his school bus and then, as he is hitchhiking down the road, gets into Duncan's car. No snatching, no screaming, no tying up, just gets in, sits down and says 'Just trying to get a ride'. All this made the first part of the plan so much easier than expected. Turns out the kid was running away from home an decides that Duncan seems nice enough to spend a few days with and will go ahead and play along with the whole kidnapping thing for a while, it might even be fun. Duncan wonders if the rest of his plan will work this well also or if he is going to get caught and go to jail.

    A story of friendship and finding a way to move on, get over and get through life. Kind of cute even though it is predictable for so much of the main plot. I enjoyed the way Gabriel was written, a young boy at a difficult age, a boy very independent and with signs of his intelligence already creeping through but still having kid problems and in the end, he misses his mom and dad (how great is that). This was a different style of writing than I am used to , not just because the narration was written as if Duncan was thinking everything (first person), but it was set in Boston (nothing wrong with that) and some of the grammatical slang or dialect maybe, is what gave me difficulty. It was the 'by the by' and the 'so I says to him' (with the S on say, and not using said) even in the narrative. It caused a distraction for me (grammatically speaking) and I wasn't able to get past it enough to enjoy the story more. I do typically like the happy endings and this one had mixed messages there. No real closure, for the most part it left the characters almost in a sad state and the expected answer was avoided.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2008

    Literarily Book Reviews: A Jolly Good Fellow

    In A Jolly Good Fellow, Stephen V. Masse gives us a truly heartwarming story that manages to avoid feeling light and fluffy or resorting to holiday clichés.<BR/><BR/>Duncan Wagner is a lovable, bumbling criminal. Masse puts the reader right inside Duncan's head and it is impossible not to like him, as we see his mixed emotions about the kidnapping, the easy-going affection he quickly comes to feel for sweet Gabriel, how he acts tough and gruff to cover it up. This book may be about a kidnapping, but it isn't dark or menacing in any way. Duncan's half-hearted, often naive approach to the crime he is commiting prevents that, and it is obvious from the start that Duncan would never physically harm Gabriel.<BR/><BR/>The novel is narrated by Duncan in the first person. The highly readable narrative gives a distinct flavor to the book. Duncan's dialect evokes hard-scrabble, working class Boston perfectly. <BR/><BR/>Masse's plot is subtlely intricate and perfectly paced. Though I knew Gabriel wouldn't be hurt and would ultimately be returned to his parents, Masse kept me guessing until the end about Duncan's fate. Would he get the ransom money he sought? Or would he get caught?<BR/><BR/>A Jolly Good Fellow can be read and enjoyed regardless of the season and whether you celebrate Christmas or not. That said, it would make a perfect holiday read for anyone who loves a great story with characters you won't want to say good-bye to when you turn the last page.<BR/><BR/><BR/>More book reviews at http://blog.literarily.com

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2007

    A reviewer

    I Purchased A Jolly Good Fellow because I love Christmas stories. Ive read allot the other ones that are classics and i have a feeling this will be the next classic. it has such a great story and the way the author wrote it makes you feel like you know the characters. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2007

    A reviewer

    What¿s so special about Stephen V. Masse's A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW is its immediate presence, its deceptive simplicity, and the compelling aliveness of its characters. It begins in the snows of a Boston suburb, and like a car accident it brings two unfamiliar persons together in a relationship that neither one could anticipate. Duncan Wagner has been stalking eleven year old Gabriel Booker with intent to kidnap him, ostensibly for cash from his father, State Representative Winthrop Booker III. An unexpected twist is provided by the boy, in that he has chosen this snowy day to run away from home by hitchhiking. Once Wagner has pulled his car to a stop, he immediately realizes all his plans for the seizure of the boy have become superfluous. The boy is more curious than scared, and Wagner is unsettled by his availability. If the reader is also unsettled, it is about Wagner¿s interest in the boy. There is a discomfort, a palpable threat of harm to this vulnerable child, and Wagner seems ever close to the edge of safety. Wagner narrates his story in tape recordings. His working class Boston lingo is obvious, and it deepens the contrast in class and character between him and his charge. But it is the unwitting love that pounds constantly within Wagner¿s heart, buried under twelve years of self-imposed loneliness, rejection and despair, which keeps showing itself in every clumsy transaction with Gabriel. The boy is a fountain of possibility, representing all that could go right in a world full of darkness and danger. He not only brings the freshness of a boy to the world, but he elicits springs of goodness and love from the heretofore chained-up soul of Duncan Wagner. Gabriel plays well as Wagner¿s charge, constant in his need for Wagner¿s fatherly attention. Apparently he is getting something from Wagner that he isn¿t getting at home. Early on, the reader suspects something more complex than cash ransom. But even though such suspicions remain unanswered, the sense that everything will deflate into a banal Hollywood resolution continues to run side-by-side with the competing hope that the author will come through with the goods. The great power of this story is its consistent march toward ultimate ambiguity: Love is not genetic, Love is a resource that will have expression even if it is crime which opens its floodgates. That A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW takes place around Christmas is not lost upon the reader. The text is fraught with references to the deeper meanings of the season. Wagner often refers to his Saint Joseph statue, and lectures Gabriel on the significance of this ¿underrated saint,¿ who is used by superstitious people to help them sell their houses. At one point Wagner tells Gabriel, ¿I want something green for Christmas,¿ meaning ransom money ¿ although ironically missing the reality that he has gifted himself with not only a Christmas tree for his stale home, but with Gabriel himself. Gabriel, like the Christ child, brings light into Wagner¿s darkness just as Christmas celebrations bring light into the darkness of winter. The ending is well worth the reeling trip through Boston with these characters. Absolutely a top list book. Don¿t miss it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2009

    Fantastic Characters, Off-Beat and Unusual Storyline, Outstanding Read!

    An unexpected story, growing into a memorable and thought-provoking ride. What happens when you mix the holiday season, and a confused young boy with a troubled grifter searching for a sure thing, the big bankroll? This unlikely plot delivers one of the best novels I have read in some time.

    Richly drawn characters, slowly revealing their inner demons and dreams to each other, offer a fascinating view into the human psyche. You'll care about them, and hold your breath more than once while reading this unusual tale of a kidnapping, a lonely man and a young boy.

    A welcome mix of humor, suspense, twists and turns, you'll enjoy this book, whether at Christmas time or a sweltering summer day.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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