Storytelling school

JOAN SULLIVAN: “The Good Thief” is good storytelling

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Sonny McClusky is about to turn 18, about to graduate from trade school with his certification as a mechanic, and ready to work full-time at the family business, Charlie’s Auto.

He lives in Pouch Cove, just outside of St. John’s. It’s 1967, the summer of love, a season of military escalation in Vietnam.

The band he leads, Johnny Fabrella and the Acid Test, is having a real moment, thanks in large part to its lead singer and American-born cousin of Sonny. “Everyone wants a music career. Johnny has the best chance of succeeding.

And he is about to experience his first serious romantic relationship, with the seductive Arlene. “Everything is improving. We like the same things. I love the fact that she loves motorcycles and mechanics. When she was nine years old, she wired an alarm from her front door to her bedroom so she would know when her parents came home.

But Sonny is also plagued with problems and tensions. Starting with his father, Charlie.

We know from the opening lines of the novel “The Good Thief” that Charlie is planning to die and needs Sonny’s help to do so in the way he longs for, a way that will allow him to join Lucy, his wife. and Sonny’s mother. , who had died years earlier. “I need your help, son. I’m not asking you to shoot me like an old horse with a broken leg. Just watch the thing, that’s all.

Johnny, whom Sonny considers a brother, is draft eligible and insists on enlisting for service in Vietnam.

The Good Thief By Leo Furey Flanker Press $21.00 282 pages – Contributed

The charming, lazy, “handsome Johnny” supposedly works in the garage, at least Charlie pays him cash once in a while, and dropped out of school and got into the drug scene.

Arlene’s father, Mr. White, owns the local gas station and has long campaigned to merge his business with Charlie’s.

So, Sonny feels doubt in Arlene’s professions of feelings for him – is she right after the garage?

Above all of this, and foreshadowed by the title, is Charlie’s doctrine of fairness and justice. He sees the rich getting richer and the poor staying poor and he knows his moral and spiritual heroes, Jesus and Robin Hood, would act.

The McCluskys have a vocation, the garage.

But in this garage they have a secret calling, powered by a printing press that produces counterfeit money, usually $20, but sometimes $100 as well.

Charlie taught Sonny the meticulous process of producing bills to issue, and the careful, careful method of exchanging bad for good, then using that good for anonymous gifts or generous loans, don’t worry about to reimburse.

Charlie can scrupulously support this action to the end.

Almost everything he says is implicitly or tacitly about morality. “I am a big fan of Jesus. The McCluskys have always been on the side of the underdog. We have been politicians, union leaders, clerics and outlaws; we never worked for the rich. Never! This is the McClusky method.

He tallies his spiritual foundations in a ledger, and Sonny, too, often lays out his issues in columns of pros and cons.

Charlie also draws his ethics from the works of Louis L’Amour, an author Sonny is also fond of, if only because it’s a connection to Charlie; Sonny also frequently turns to “Robinson Crusoe” and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for guidance.


“I am a big fan of Jesus. The McCluskys have always been on the side of the underdog. We have been politicians, union leaders, clerics and outlaws; we never worked for the rich. Never! This is the McClusky method.


Mr Crenshaw, nicknamed ‘Comrade’, ‘a tall, middle-aged man in his fifties… A broad, defiant face, a large nose that looks as if it had been broken at some point.

He teaches mechanics at the trade school.

At least that’s what’s on the agenda – what he does mostly is espouse Marxism, undermine the sanctity of official currency and decry the policies of US President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Another star is his wife, Flo, a bodybuilder who wants to perform with Acid Test. “A native of New York, there is a rumor that she killed her first husband during a wrestling match.

Additionally, two local groups cast their own murky shadows.

One is Eden Farm, a community of hippies that seems steeped in dope and hashish (and drug laws in the late 1960s were pretty rigid and unforgiving).

The other is the Doctor Club, which Charlie belongs to (as does Crenshaw), billed as a forum for philosophical debate, but there are rumors to the contrary.

Leo Furey’s second novel immerses the reader in an intense, complicated and authentic universe, and from the first words the stakes for Sonny are high.

It’s packed with cultural detail, palpable environments, and fully realized characters.

The narrative is part hug or spree, part coming of age, and part good storytelling.


Joan Sullivan is the editor of Newfoundland Quarterly magazine. She reviews both fiction and non-fiction for The Telegram.