The wonderful Leon Garfield spent the 1970's writing wildly inventive litaterature for children, and "Black Jack" is his masterpiece. Funny, frightening, and ultimately a deeply touching love story, this terrific little novel is perfect for young adults or intelligent pre-teens.
The plot, such as it can be described, concerns a young boy named Tolly who inadvertently revives a notorious murderer who has just been hanged in the village gallows. The criminal, a fearsome giant nick-named Black Jack, promptly coerces Tolly into a life of crime, very much against the will of the decently noble young man.
Thereafter the novel builds steam as Jack and Tolly meet up with an escaped asylum inmate, join a carinval troupe, encounter various eccentrics and villians and finally witness the end of the world (well, sort off). The final thunder-bolt of an ending is almost unbearingly suspenseful and leaves the reader breathless.
As always, the fun of Garfield's writing is his ability to stack surprise after surprise without loosing credibilty. Despite the crazy goings-on , Garfield always makes his characters seem like real people and their development over the course of the book is complex and moving. If you enjoy intriguing stories with superb dialogue and wild plot twists, don't hesitate to buy "Black Jack". If you like this novel I also recommend Garfield's "The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris" (which introduces one of his finest literary creations, best friends Bostock and Harris) and "John Diamond".
Every serious reader (and especially writers!) owe it to themselves to discover the genius of Leon Garfield, and "Black Jack" is a great place to start.