According to Dr. Darold A. Treffert of the University of Wisconsin, there are fewer than one hundred reported cases of prodigious savants in the world. Those few who possess the savant syndrome all have an island of brilliance that allows them to excel in some remarkable talent. Unfortunately, they all share various developmental disabilities.
Imagine going to sleep one night as a normal person of average intelligence and waking the next day in possession of several genius level abilities. In 1962 Vermont, seventeen-year-old Gavin survives a horrendous explosion, six hours of brain surgery, and thirty days in a coma, to awake possessing not just one savant talent, but several, including art, music, mathematics, and memory, and all without suffering any of the usual mental disabilities associated with head trauma.
His newly acquired abilities thrust him into the public eye as the amazing ‘Whiz Kid’ from Burlington; a moniker he detests. At first excited by his new celebrity, he eventually drifts into deep depression, burdened by a domineering father, his paranoia that someone’s trying to kill him, and his increasing tendency for violence.
His genius, paranoia, and increased hallucinations result in some strange and extraordinary encounters with the icons of the 60s, including Bobby Fischer, Nikita Khrushchev, Edward R. Murrow, John Chancellor and even a tragic meeting with John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Gavin’s odds look slim that he will survive not only his external trials, but also his inner conflict keeping him from the one thing he desires most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.
The voice came from a car traveling behind him. Gavin whirled around on the snowy sidewalk to see someone hanging out of Carol Garner’s passenger window. A chocolate shake smashed into his lower leg, spilling down his boot onto the sidewalk. He read the writing on the cup in the dim light. It was from the Lure, a popular hangout in South Burlington. He hadn’t recognized the boy who threw the shake, but saw Carol’s silhouette backlit in the car from the lights of the IGA sign across the street.
The car circled back and another missile flew. Gavin sidestepped the soda cup, grabbed a handful of icy snow, and hastily threw it at the car. The teenager in the car yelled “You freak!” as the car sped away.
Gavin started toward the church when he—or maybe God—had an idea. He doubled back and walked over to the payphone outside the grocery store. He put a nickel in the phone and dialed.
Pamela Garner answered. “Hello.”
Gavin lowered his voice and cupped his mouth. “Mrs. Garner?”
“Is your daughter Carol Garner?”
“Yes, she is. May I ask who’s calling?”
“I’m Officer Pinter of the state police, Mrs. Garner. Your daughter’s been involved in an automobile accident off of Williston Road and—”
“Oh my God, is she all right? Is she hurt?”
“I think you should come down to the Mary Fletcher Hospital and—”
“Oh God, no. Oh God.”
“The doctors will talk to you and your husband there. I’m sorry.”
He heard the phone drop and the distraught woman’s muffled sobs. Were they muffled by her own hands, or by the shoulder of her supportive husband? He didn’t know and he didn’t care. The only thing that upset Gavin was that Carol wasn’t really dead. One thing he knew for sure. There wouldn’t be any more chocolate shakes thrown at him for a while.
A half-hour later at the church, Gavin chewed on the wooden pew in front of him as he knelt, faithfully reciting the prayers in unison with the old priest.
“Hail Mary, full of grace—” the priest droned in his monotone voice. Gavin stopped praying in order to hear God. That’s why he had come. Not to recite mindless, useless prayers, chronicled with the glass rosaries he and the other six parishioners in the dark church manipulated with their fingers.
He wanted God to speak to him, and after an interminable amount of time, the voice spoke softly. It was what he had hoped to hear, that he had done nothing wrong. There was no need for forgiveness. In fact, God assured him there would be many more needs for his services—just as they had been needed in New York City.
He walked away from the church back in the direction of his house. The snow had stopped falling, but cold air blew through his nose and warmed quickly in his lungs. He exhaled the warm fog into the deepening darkness. He turned sharply into Pierre Tatroe’s snow-covered dirt driveway, which snaked several yards to a dilapidated clapboard. He saw only the glow of the television in the window at the far end of the house. A bulldog ran out of a small doghouse and barked loudly at him. A window slipped open and the sound of a television set bled into the night air.
“Shut up, Butch!” Mrs. Tatroe yelled.
Before Butch could resume the defense of his territory, Gavin pulled the red meat from his pocket and dangled it in front of the agitated dog.
“Here you go, Butch. Here you go.”
The dog sniffed at Gavin’s stolen steak. Within seconds, Butch enjoyed his late-night snack, and Gavin had made a friend forever. He stroked the stubby-haired bulldog and played with his alert, flitting ears. “What a wonderful pup you must be to the boys,” Gavin whispered.
As Butch chewed on the last of the steak, Gavin grabbed the dog’s mouth, clamping down hard. With his other hand, he covered Butch’s nostrils, cutting off the dog’s air supply.
Butch struggled with his new friend, shifting his torso back and forth and jerking his head, fiercely seeking the cold Vermont air. Butch struggled for a long time. Gavin had to straddle the muscular dog to restrain him. He felt the dog’s heartbeat change from a rapid pace to dead still. It was over.
He silently recited a Hail Mary.
"J.J. White's thriller, Prodigious Savant, is an exciting and well-written story set in Vermont in the early 1960s. White faithfully recreates the culture and lifestyles of that era, including the Cold War, the aftermath of the Second World War, and the enthusiasm of Americans for their young Irish president. Prodigious Savant is well-written and fast-paced, and is recommended for fans of the thriller genre."
-Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
"This is not your typical suspense thriller but the author does really well at building the suspense until the very end. I was sure I knew what was going to happen until the end where there is a twist that throws everything on its head! A good read with lots of colourful characters."
-Crime Book Club -UK
“J. J. White has
masterful work of
intrigue, a journey, an
odyssey, and a story
for the ages. Highly recommended.”
NY times Review of
"J.J. White spins a unique character in the form of Gavin Weaver, the stuff of both human drama and fantastic imagination. Gavin's a protagonist you'll come to root for and loathe, a hero to keep you guessing through the final pages of "Prodigious Savant."
—Ben Solomon, author of "The Hard-Boiled Detective 1"
Loiacono Literary takes on my new novel, A Promise To Lena
My interview on Many Books
I'll be at the Meet The Author bookfair in the Eau Gallie Civic Center, Nov 19 and 20. http://tinyurl.com/hmqm3yx
My interview with Donna Seebo of Warriors For Peace. Select 636-2 and click on box
My guest post on writing about other cultures : http://tinyurl.com/hb3b78z
Also, please vist Jackie Minniti's Fabulous Florida Writers blog to read my Nisei guest post.http://tinyurl.com/hqnpscg
Please vist S J Francis Writer's Blog to read my guest post http://tinyurl.com/jy7badm
I will be discussing my book, NISEI in the Jane Von Thron room at the Cocoa Beach Library, Wednesday, July, 20 at 6 pm.
Read my guest post about Engineers and Creative Writing on Cecile Sune's Book Obsessed site: http://tinyurl.com/glcy5sg
My psychological thriller, Prodigious Savant,has been reduced in a Kindle Promotion from $3.99 to 99 cents.
You can order my new novel, Deviant Acts, on Amazon.
My interview on S.J >Francis' blog :http://tinyurl.com/h97okxg
My interview on Authors Talk About It: http://tinyurl.com/hxstpwa
My guest post on Marilyn's Musings: Five Common Mistakes made by New Writers: https://lnkd.in/dy8QcWj
My short story: "Lucky bastard Club" was included in the The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2016 -
My recent interview on Carolyn Johnson's New Book Review:
My recent interview on Crime Fiction.FM: http://tinyurl.com/pf86654
A guest post I wrote for BookBrowsing: Is The First Page All That Important When Deciding Which Book To Buy?
My short story, "The Lucky Bastard Club," is a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest.
The Penitent was shortlisted in the Words with Jam competition.
A nice article about Pam and me in the Viera Voice. http://tinyurl.com/mfjcxxa
I will be giving a presentation on "Story versus Style" at the Cocoa Beach Library on Wednesday, May 13 at 2 pm. Ya'll come. All proceeds from sales of my book, Prodigious Savant, go to the "Friends of the Library." http://tinyurl.com/nwd7krk
Check out an article about me in the Island Reporter Page 6 http://tinyurl.com/p7gwxcz
Listen to my interview on the Red River Radio-No Limits show with questions from Barbara Hodges about me and my novel, Prodigious Savant. My interview is in the last half hour. http://tinyurl.com/k768fq4.
Prodigious Savant is now available on Amazon Kindle.
Prodigious Savant, Deviant Acts , and Nisei have been acquired by Black Opal Books.
My story,"The Adventures of The Nine Hole League" was published in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #13
Nisei has been selected as the Grand Prize Winner in the Columbus Creative Cooperative novel competition.
Great Police Procedure blog by Micki Browning---Plotting The Perfect Crime And Getting Away With Murder
Wonderful poetry blog by Nilanjana Bose--Madly-In-Verse