Santa and Pete: A Novel of Christmas Present and Past


Who would ever guess that the beloved legend of Santa Claus involves a seldom-told tale of faith and friendship between two men -- one white and one black? Long ago, Santa Claus had an African partner named Pete and together they brought the spirit of Christmas to America's first settlers. These two forever changed the way families celebrate the holiday. But through the years, Pete's contribution was forgotten.

Now Santa & Pete restores the legacy in delightful style and ...

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Who would ever guess that the beloved legend of Santa Claus involves a seldom-told tale of faith and friendship between two men -- one white and one black? Long ago, Santa Claus had an African partner named Pete and together they brought the spirit of Christmas to America's first settlers. These two forever changed the way families celebrate the holiday. But through the years, Pete's contribution was forgotten.

Now Santa & Pete restores the legacy in delightful style and delivers an inspiring message of hope and harmony among people. The story starts with a bus driver who takes his grandson along on Saturdays as he travels a historical route in New York City. What unfolds is a series of wonderful adventures that culminate on Christmas Eve, when the bus gets stuck in a snowstorm. That's when the grandfather's running genealogy lesson, based on author Christopher Moore's own family history, arrives at its final destination: the story of Santa and Pete. A truly magical tale, Santa & Pete will take you and your family back to the heart of Christmas.

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Editorial Reviews

Destined to become a Yuletide classic.
Publishers Weekly
This heartwarming holiday story ... delivered with humor and easily assimilated historical details, is inspirational in the best sense, grounded in truths of human nature and ethical conduct. In a genre where a blatant tug on the heartstrings often takes the place of substance, this affecting and illuminating story is a standout.
Library Journal
In this biracial Christmas novel, Commissioner of New York City Landmarks Moore and Johnson, a senior editor at Essence magazine, tell the story of Pete, the long-forgotten African partner of St. Nicholas.
Destined to become a Yuletide classic.
Kirkus Reviews
The Commissioner of New York City Landmarks (historian Moore) and a senior editor of Essence (Johnson) team up for a bi-racial Christmas story about white St. Nick and black Pete, who stand side-by-side atop Terrence's Christmas tree in Harlem. Terence, now married to Cassandra, was only seven when his silver-haired grandfather took him on as co-pilot of his city bus on its 12-mile route and related to the boy the history of various African, Indian, and Dutch landmarks, especially those—such as St. Nicholas Avenue—tied to blacks. Terence, raised in black culture with Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" playing in the background, has attended Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun.' His mother is a librarian at the Countee Cullen branch of the New York City Library. Grandfather still mourns his wife's death and doesn't attend family functions. As Terence discovers, St. Nicholas was born 1,600 years ago, while Pete, born a slave in Spain under the Moors, was a kind of all-purpose genius who earned his freedom at 18, went through various occupations and studies in Seville, and (during the Inquisition) fell in with St. Nick—who had been imprisoned as a spy. Pete, his jailer, helped him escape and joined him as an equal partner, eventually coming to New Amsterdam. Now Pete's genius is put to good purpose in helping Nick provide gifts to the needy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684854953
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/12/1998
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.39 (w) x 7.34 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is the bestselling author of You Suck, A Dirty Job, The Stupidest Angel, Fluke, Lamb, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, Bloodsucking Fiends, and Practical Demonkeeping. Visit the

official Christopher Moore website at


A 100-year-old ex-seminarian and a demon set off together on a psychotic road trip...

Christ's wisecracking childhood pal is brought back from the dead to chronicle the Messiah's "missing years"...

A mild-mannered thrift shop owner takes a job harvesting souls for the Grim Reaper...

Whence come these wonderfully weird scenarios? From the fertile imagination of Christopher Moore, a cheerfully demented writer whose absurdist fiction has earned him comparisons to master satirists like Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams.

Ever since his ingenious debut, 1992's Practical Demonkeeping, Moore has attracted an avid cult following. But, over the years, as his stories have become more multi-dimensional and his characters more morally complex, his fan base has expanded to include legions of enthusiastic general readers and appreciative critics.

Asked where his colorful characters come from, Moore points to his checkered job resume. Before becoming a writer, he worked at various times as a grocery clerk, an insurance broker, a waiter, a roofer, a photographer, and a DJ -- experiences he has mined for a veritable rogue's gallery of unforgettable fictional creations. Moreover, to the delight of hardcore fans, characters from one novel often resurface in another. For example, the lovesick teen vampires introduced in 1995's Bloodsucking Fiends are revived (literally) for the 2007 sequel You Suck -- which also incorporates plot points from 2006's A Dirty Job.

For a writer of satirical fantasy, Moore is a surprisingly scrupulous researcher. In pursuit of realistic details to ground his fiction, he has been known to immerse himself in marine biology, death rituals, Biblical scholarship, and Goth culture. He has been dubbed "the thinking man's Dave Barry" by none other than The Onion, a publication with a particular appreciation of smart humor.

As for story ideas, Moore elaborates on his website: "Usually [they come] from something I read. It could be a single sentence in a magazine article that kicks off a whole book. Ideas are cheap and easy. Telling a good story once you get an idea is hard." Perhaps. But, to judge from his continued presence on the bestseller lists, Chris Moore appears to have mastered the art.

Good To Know

In researching his wild tales, Moore has done everything from taking excursions to the South Pacific to diving with whales. So what is left for the author to tackle? He says he'd like to try riding an elephant.

One of the most memorably weird moments in Moore's body of work is no fictional invention. The scene in Bloodsucking Fiendswhere the late-night crew of a grocery store bowls with frozen turkeys is based on Moore's own experiences bowling with frozen turkeys while working the late shift at a grocery store.

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    1. Hometown:
      Hawaii and San Francisco, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 5, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Toledo, Ohio

Table of Contents

A magical novel of Christmas, family, and harmony among all. . . .Christopher Moore and Pamela Johnson have gifted us with the opportunity to create a whole new Christmas tradition. -- Author of The Christmas Box, Timepiece, and The Letter
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First Chapter

"Your father and I want you to get to know him better. He is your only living grandparent," she explained as she surveyed the chaos with her arms folded across her chest. Clearly, my room was nowhere near as clean as I'd claimed when I'd talked her into letting me play outside for an extra half hour. Though still in her twenties, my mother wore her long black hair in a bun, and her cateye glasses low on her button nose. She worked as a librarian at the Countee Cullen branch of the New York Public Library. That, her way with crossword puzzles, and her huge vocabulary had me convinced that she was the smartest person on the planet.

"What more do I need to know about him?" I asked her, trying to kick a couple of toys under the bed with the back of my heel. I had zero interest in their babysitting plan, figuring my grandfather didn't know a thing about boys my age. Not that he was a mean man. In fact, people throughout the neighborhood praised his kindness and his willingness to lend a hand. He often showed up at a new neighbor's home with his toolbox, helping to transform many a dilapidated brownstone into an urban palace. But to spend every Saturday with him? Since church took up most of Sunday, I wouldn't have enough time over the weekend to play with my friends!

I hadn't spent much time alone with my grandfather, though he and my grandmother had visited our home often when I was younger. They brought a lot of laughter with them, although they sometimes joked that they had to "hold hands to keep from fighting." My grandmother died when I was five, and a sadness rushed in and claimed my grandfather. Without laughter, his towering stature intimidated me and his thunderous voice made me quake.

"There's plenty you don't know about him," my mother told me, watching my crafty footwork without comment. "And some things I'm sure he'd like to know about you. So if it's okay with you, then, you'll ride with him tomorrow."

I sat there stumped for a moment. I wanted to tell her that my friend Basil and I were supposed to fly kites the next day. Or maybe I could tell her that I had a stomachache that I was certain would stretch well into the next week. Or I could just tell her the truth: that my grandfather made me nervous.

"Just don't tell him about my room," I yelled out as her shoes clicked against the hardwood floor all the way down the hall.

"Then clean it up," she yelled back laughing.

The next morning, as my parents fixed breakfast, I eavesdropped on their conversation from my favorite hiding place under the stairwell. It was the cubbyhole where I kept my marbles and my Broadway program from A Raisin in the Sun. I liked to sit there, listen in, and pick up good gossip -- although I was often at a loss to make any sense of it.

This particular morning, however, as my father scraped butter across a slice of toast and Miles Davis's "Sketches of Spain" played in the background, I learned two things. First, our roof needed to be replaced, and second, my parents' decision to match up my grandfather and me was more for his benefit than for mine. As I listened, they went on about my grandmother's passing, and my grandfather's lingering grief

"All he does is work," my mother said. "He didn't even come to Thanksgiving dinner because he volunteered to cover someone else's shift. It's like he's avoiding the holidays and family altogether." Still shaken by her mother's death, she seemed worried that she was losing her father, too.

I heard the spatula tapping the plates and imagined them loaded with bacon, eggs, and toast. When hunger finally snared me into the kitchen from my perch, my parents both looked at me silently, then each of them tripped over the other asking me if I was excited about spending the day with my grandfather.

What could I say after everything I'd heard? I wasn't thrilled. But my grandfather needed me -- and I needed a few things from Santa. With Christmas only four weeks away, this was no time to mess up.

Copyright © 1998 by Christopher Moore and Pamela Johnson
Illustrations © 1998 by Julie Scott

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 1999

    A Wonderful Christmas Book!

    Finally, a book that tells the true story of Santa! Jolly Old St. Nick was a real life person, as authors Moore and Johnson, realize early on in this fabulously well-told tale about St. Nick and his long-forgotten partner, Pete the Moor. My only regret is that the childish title may cause serious minded folks to bypass this finely crafted tale. Santa & Pete properly reveals the way America's oldest Christmas tradition began in New Amsterdam -- now known as New York City. With fantasy and fun very much intact, the book makes every adult and child feel apart of Christmas. In times of racial polarization, this book is a standout in showing us the many ways we are all one family. I recommend this book to everyone!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2000

    outstanding We all loved it

    It was very nice to see christmas in a different way other than just santa going to just bring children gifts. Their was a plot to what they were looking for.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2000

    Santa Claus for the New Millennium

    'Santa and Pete' was sent to me as a Christmas gift from Barnes and Noble from my very best friend. She thought that I, the world's greatest fan of Saint Nicholas, would enjoy this new little book about my old hero. She was so right! What a delightful time I had reading this book. This is a great story for anyone who believes in helping Santa, and Pete is just the dude to do it. I recommend this story to anyone who wants to learn about the real St. Nick. Telling it through the voice of an Afrian American, whose ancestors were slaves during the time Dutch settlers brought the original story to America, is absolutely thrilling and wonderful! That author Christopher Moore would grow up to love St. Nick (as he does obviously) is especially moving. I would thank the authors for the story and thank my dearest friend for this wonderful gift.

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