IR Verdict: Superbly written, THE BOY AND THE BASTARD is a gripping read from beginning to end.
A father’s continual search for his kidnapped son leads to the unexpected.
Gus Delaney has a successful career as an analyst. Wishing he could say the same about his family life, the only thing that brings the divorced Delaney joy is spending time with his children, Lily and Jack. Fortunate to have his kids for Christmas, Gus’s holiday is cut short when Jack suddenly disappears while trying out his new bike. A massive search leads nowhere and many presume Jack to be dead. Gus, on the other hand, believes deep down in his gut that his son is still alive. Emotionally crippled from his loss, Gus’s life takes a nosedive. But just as he gets his bearings, Gus learns the horrible truth about his son.
Newell spins a chilling story that not only reflects a parent’s worse nightmare, but also a surreal journey into the spiritual. Neatly divided into three parts, Newell’s debut features not one, but two principal characters. Newell’s third person split narratives zero in on the lives of an emotionally messed-up father and the traumatic happenings of a seven-year-old boy caught in a religious cult. Covering a ten-year span of time, Newell keeps his plot fluid by alternating concurrent and drama-filled character scenes from chapter to chapter while tightly weaving in an underlying feeling of tension. Also critical to the movement of his plot is the colorful foiled cast that has abilities to either make or break Gus and Jack.
Set initially in the late 1970s, Newell’s storyline takes a quick glimpse into the case of Patty Hearst. While younger generational readers may not think twice about her life, those who lived through that era will have flashbacks to the reports of a young woman who was abducted and then reappeared 19 months later not as a victim, but as a fugitive wanted for crimes in her involvement with the Symbionese Liberation Army. While not the same scenario in Jack’s situation, both represent perfect examples of brainwashing and the Stockholm Syndrome (when hostages express positive feelings toward their captors).
Superbly written, THE BOY AND THE BASTARD is a gripping read from beginning to end.
- See more at: http://indiereader.com/2015/10/a-bike-ride-on-christmas-day-turns-into-a-mysterious-disappearance-in-the-boy-and-the-bastard/#sthash.zrvfAgnT.dpuf
When his son goes missing, a successful young businessman searches for him as his own life falls apart.
Newell’s taut, well-constructed debut family drama centers on 32-year-old Gus Delaney, the youngest hedge fund manager in Boston’s Elysium Fund. In 1977, he’s a well-intentioned but vain and somewhat strutting young father of two children, Jack and Lilly, who spend most of their time with Gus’ ex-wife, Victoria, a shrill woman still bitter about the divorce. The novel opens on one such tense scene: it’s Christmas Eve, snow has started falling, and Victoria is hours late arriving to Gus’ house with the children, which causes an awkward family scene once she and the children finally show up. Gus and Victoria are blindsided when Jack disappears the following day, abducted by a messianic religious cult. Giving Jack the new name Augustine, the cult’s overseers forcibly induct him into their ranks, telling him his mother is dead and that only his obedience to their orders will guarantee the continued survival of his father and sister. As a police investigation in the suburb of Boston ramps up and gradually turns its attention to Gus as a possible suspect, Newell skillfully cuts back and forth between the dismantling of Gus’ life and the construction of Jack’s new life. Some of the secondary characters can seem a bit flat as the narrative moves them around the chessboard of a plot, but more effective are the portraits of Gus—his deterioration, then the slow climb to a new understanding of himself—and especially the cult and their creepy inner workings. Jump-cutting between scenes keeps the story gripping even in more utilitarian chapters, and the police investigation and missing child case—conducted without the aid of modern technology—feel authentic in every detail.
First-rate thriller in the vein of Joseph Finder.
Russell Newell, who grew up in Billerica, has released his debut novel, The Boy and the Bastard, a thriller set in Billerica and Cape Cod. Courtesy photo
Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
BILLERICA -- Readers are about to head on a wild ride through the Yankee Doodle Town.
Russell Newell, who grew up in Billerica, has released his debut novel, The Boy and the Bastard, a thriller set in Billerica and Cape Cod.
Once a speechwriter for then-Gov. Jeb Bush (who's running for president), Newell, 44, now works for Disney/ABC Television -- and found time to publish his first novel.
A missing child, his determined father and a mysterious religious cult come together in the book, now available in print and digital versions.
The Sun recently had an opportunity to ask Newell 10 questions about this novel with local ties, and about his time in the area:
Q: Why did you incorporate Billerica into this story?
A: I have such great memories of my childhood there, and I wanted to show the child in his childhood setting.
The Boy and the Bastard is Russell Newell's debut novel, a thriller set in Billerica and Cape Cod. Courtesy photo
Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
I wanted to write about the swamp I grew up near and go back in time. It's nice to take readers back to that time, a much simpler time.
Q: What are your memories of Billerica and Greater Lowell?
A: I remember learning how to swim at the Lowell YMCA, and growing up on Kingsbury Lane in North Billerica, heading to Faulkner Kindergarten and Hajjar Elementary School. It was a great neighborhood to grow up in, where all the kids were the same age. Then I moved when I was 9, and I remember being devastated. It took me a long time to get over that. I had such great friends, and I'm actually still friends with that group.
Q: What was your inspiration for this book?
A: When Molly Bish disappeared (in 2000, when she was a 16-year-old lifeguard in Warren, Mass.
), that first started my interest in this story. It struck me how the heck that happened on a public beach, and how awful that must be for her parents. It must be the worst thing any human being can go through. If your kid dies, that's one thing, but it's another if you don't know if they're alive or not. How can you move on if your kid is still out there? So I thought it'd be fascinating to write about a boy going missing, and the father being singularly focused on trying to find his son.
Q: Did being a father have anything to do with the story idea?
A: I wasn't a father at the time, actually. I am now, and I can't think of a worse thing for a human to go through than having their child disappear like that. It'd be just horrific to not know what happened. The guilt the parent must feel.
Q: What are the themes in your book?
A: It's about redemption and faith. It's about accepting fate versus making your own destiny. It also explores the loss of childhood, and the loss of innocence.
Q: What will readers experience in this novel?
A: They will go through a dark, angry, sad, scary story. It tells the story from the father's point of view and then the son's point of view. I wanted to capture what it'd be like from both sides -- on one side getting captured by a cult, and then the father's side searching for him.
Q: Why should people read your book?
A: It's a coming-of-age and love story all within one. I describe it as Finding Nemo meets Gone Girl. In Finding Nemo, the dad is searching for his kid, but this is darker than the Disney movie. It also explores how organized religion can corrupt, and how faith can help you get through difficult times.
Q: What have you enjoyed about writing your first novel?
A: It's really fun to write your own work and get all the reactions from people reading it. It's a great learning experience.
Q: What was it like to write for Jeb Bush?
A: It was a great opportunity to write about the economy, health care and all sorts of issues that a governor has to deal with. It was a really good experience, and I learned a lot from him. He really makes you raise your game.
Q: How close are you with the presidential candidate?
A: I'm still in touch with him. I was in Iraq for 14 months with the military, and I saw a bunch of kids playing soccer without shoes. So I emailed the governor because he used to be a part-owner of the Tampa Bay Bucs, and I asked him if he could donate some equipment. Three huge boxes of soccer equipment showed up soon after.
To purchase the book, visit www.extraordinaryordinaryheroes.com.
On the surface, my childhood home in Billerica was nothing to write a novel about — a single-story, three-bedroom ranch sitting squat on a little hill in an ordinary development. But for a boy in the 1970s, this home boasted as much magic and intrigue as Peter Pan’s Neverland, mainly because the neighborhood was filled with kids my age seeking adventure.
We readily found it in the slimy, mucky swamp next to my yard. It teemed with frogs and fish and, at one time or another, every toy I owned. For some reason, I didn’t play with my toys. I threw them in the swamp.
Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle spent time there, as well as a rubber King Kong from the 1976 movie, and all of my Star Wars figures. Thirty-five years later, I suspect some are still there. So if you are looking for a vintage Boba Fett with the rocket that launches, head to the swamp near Kingsbury Lane. He’s in the muck there, somewhere.
We explored every inch of that swamp — and the woods, the creek, and the deep ditch behind it — from morning until dark, even in most frigid winters.
One of my fondest memories was the Blizzard of ’78. That old swamp swelled. The creek overflowed. We marched for hours through the thick snow and woods, marveling at Mother Nature’s fury. After a short break of hot chocolate to warm our bones, we’d head right back out to dig deep tunnels and caves in the snow that had piled high around our shoveled driveways. We spent hours chasing one another through them until they collapsed and we had to dig out.
Summers were even better. We built secret forts and played games like kick the bucket, bloody murder, capture the flag, and freeze tag. The only requirement for most of our activities was imagination. We biked everywhere on our Huffy Sting-Rays, exploring woodland trails that crisscrossed the train tracks and stopping at a five-and-dime to buy Swedish fish for a penny.
On warm nights, all the kids piled into the Mahoneys’ Pinto station wagon for a short drive to Meadowlands Homemade Ice Cream. We’d climb the boulders on the edge of the meadow, licking our pistachio cones and pointing at the bats that skipped in the sky over the grass.
Those were perfect days.
Until my parents told me we were moving to Hamilton.
I was 9 years old, and I was devastated. We moved to a street with no kids my age. I hated it. For years, I’d call my old friends to ask whether our house was for sale so I could persuade my parents to buy it back.
As time went on, I made new friends and memories in Hamilton and grew to love it, but I will never forgot my old house or my childhood friends. Today, 40 years later, we still keep in touch. In fact, I saw them all on Oct. 1 at the Billerica Public Library, where I had gone to discuss my first novel, a book set in my hometown.
The magic of childhood can be as elusive to adults as Boba Fett hidden in the swamp. Death, divorce, illness, and the cares of the world intrude upon the sense of wonder and possibility we carry when we’re young. I was grateful to recapture that magic with my old friends at least for one night.