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Prodigious Savant

Prodigious Savant

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Prodigious Savant

5/5 (9 ratings)
327 pages
4 hours
Oct 11, 2014


In Burlington, Vermont, 1962, seventeen-year-old Gavin Weaver survives a dreadful 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.The odds are slim that Gavin will survive both the internal and external conflicts, which keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.
Oct 11, 2014

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Prodigious Savant - JJ White

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.

In Burlington, Vermont, 1962, seventeen-year-old Gavin Weaver survives a dreadful 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.

The odds are slim that Gavin will survive both the internal and external conflicts, which keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.


In Prodigious Savant by J. J. White, Gavin Weaver suffers a severe head injury caused when a dynamite shed explodes. After being in a coma for several weeks, Gavin wakes up with horrific headaches and profound abilities that label him as a savant. But he also hears God and Jesus giving him instructions that lead him into dangerous and uncharted territory. Being super smart and famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Gavin soon discovers that it will cost him the girl he loves. Prodigious Savant is intense, fast-paced, and the plot is super-strong. This one is a page-turner, so be sure you have the time to read it before you pick it up, folks, because you won’t be able to put it down once you start. ~ Taylor Jones, Reviewer

Prodigious Savant by J. J. White is a first class thriller. It revolves around a young high school athlete, Gavin Weaver, who is seriously injured in an explosion caused by his friend shooting at a skunk near a shed full of explosives. When he awakes--after hours of surgery and weeks of being in a coma--he’s a different person, with abilities he neither understands nor particularly desires, especially since these new abilities make it difficult to deal with other people. We all think we’d love to have special talents, but sometimes there’s a darker side that is hard to handle. I thought the book incredibly well-written for a first novel, intricate, and realistic. The plot is strong, the action fast-paced, and there are plenty of surprises awaiting the reader. If you are looking for something to take your mind off your own problems, you can hardly go wrong with Prodigious Savant. ~ Regan Murphy, Reviewer


Thanks to my good friends, Mary Brotherton, Athena Sasso, Hank Rhodes, and Matt Frakes, for all their help and encouragement. Thanks also to Jeanie Loiacono of Loiacono Literary Agency, Dr. Darold Treffert, Mary Ann de Stefano, Kathy Patria, Rosemary Prebor, Patricia Thomas, Dennis and Ann Cooper, Joshua Linder Photography, Stewart O’Nan, and especially my brother, Edward White, for the great cover.


J. J. White

A Black Opal Books Publication

Copyright © 2014 by J. J. White

Cover Design by Edward White

Author Photo by Joshua Linder Photography

All cover art and photography copyright © 2014

All Rights Reserved

EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-626941-86-1


Gavin knew he could win the Russian chess match...but was it really worth it?

The pimp looked sadly at Tatiana’s corpse, nodded to the tall Russian, and left, closing the door behind him.

Tatiana’s killer grabbed a dishtowel hanging from the stove and used it to wipe down the gun. Satisfied, he threw the pistol to Gavin, who instinctively caught it. Gavin turned the pistol on the man.

I’m not a fool, Weaver. It only had one round in the chamber. Let me introduce myself to you. I am Lieutenant Viktor Lenchinko of State Security. You probably know it as the KGB. I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Tatiana Mariska Ivanova, a young Moscovite of ill repute.

You know I didn’t kill her.

Yes, that is true. I know you didn’t kill her, but I am afraid others will think you did. When your fingerprints are lifted from that pistol and the gentleman bartender testifies that he arranged your tryst with poor Tatiana, I think there will be enough evidence to try you. I haven’t even mentioned the taxi driver and Tatiana’s poor bereaved boyfriend outside.

This is ridiculous. I’m leaving right now. You can’t frame me for her murder.

Gavin stood from the chair. Lenchinko pushed him back down and pulled another pistol.

I will tell you when you can leave. I have four men waiting outside to take you to the Moscow prison, where you will spend the next few months awaiting your trial. At the trial, you will be found guilty of murder, and because you are an American, you will only spend the next twenty years in the Soviet prison system. That is, unless you cooperate.

Cooperate how?


To Pamela


One thing by itself rarely triggers a disaster. Had the construction worker not dropped his banana peel between two boxes of the dynamite he had loaded into the shed, the rat might not have gnawed on the wooden crate, thinking the wonderful aroma was inside and not between the boxes.

And had the rat not left a small pile of sawdust and wood shavings near the box of dynamite, then the bullet might have passed harmlessly into the wood floor of the construction shed.

And had the teenager actually hit his intended target, a curious skunk, then the bullet from his .22 would not have hit the steel box strap, igniting a minute, smoldering fire of the rat’s wood shavings--a fire now creeping ever closer to the box of blasting caps adjacent to sixty-five boxes of dynamite.


The morning air cooled Gavin’s face as he maneuvered his English racing bicycle effortlessly over the small hills on Williston Road. With the Green Mountains behind him and Lake Champlain in front, he coasted downhill. The speedometer pegged its limit of sixty kilometers per hour as he traversed the last hill into South Burlington. He was returning to his point of origin, the campus of the University of Vermont.

This had been his exercise routine for the last four months. In April, he had purchased the bright green Peugeot from Bove’s Cycle downtown. He told Tony Bove how he thought it strange that a French bike could be called an English racer, but as Tony explained, Peugeot had all the latest technological advances of the English racers used in tournaments throughout Europe in the 1961 to ’62 racing season.

Gavin hesitated at the seventy-dollar price, but he eventually capitulated when he saw the perfectly taped ram-horn handlebars and the sophisticated derailleur.

Each weekend since taking ownership of the bike, he set out before sunrise for the University of Vermont to start his excruciating two-hour trek of twenty miles from Burlington to Williston and back again. By the time he reached his turnaround point, his hamstrings ached. With most of the journey finished, he rested ten minutes before heading back on the exhilarating ride toward the campus.

Gavin had just crossed the city line between Williston and his hometown of South Burlington when he buzzed by Sharon Bennett’s Studebaker, also heading toward Burlington. He looked back and smiled at her, then slowed and pulled over to the side of the road, hoping she might do the same. He was crazy about her for several reasons, not the least being that she stood only five feet tall.

He had always liked short girls. Strange, considering he was over six feet. Her other attributes, a good sense of humor and a great figure, certainly helped.

Sharon eased her car to the shoulder of the road. She glared as if she were upset with him for passing her.

The cops will ticket you if don’t slow down, Mr. Weaver.

You’re the one the cops should ticket. That car can do a hundred and you never drive it over forty.

God, she’s cute. He stooped over and ogled her through the window. She wore a man’s white, long-sleeved dress shirt tied in a knot that exposed her midriff and lifted her breasts. She had on tight blue jeans, the cuffs rolled twice in the latest fashion. Her bare foot rested on a block of wood taped to the accelerator pedal. She probably couldn’t reach it any other way.

What in the world are you sitting on?

Phone books. Father taped the block of wood to the pedal and Mother strapped three old phone books together for me to sit on. If we had more people in this cow town, I’d only need one book.

Just be happy you don’t live in Rutland. You’d need four then.

Ha--funny. Is that a new bike? It’s ugly as hell.

What do you know about bikes? It’s a Peugeot, the fastest French touring bike made. That’s why I passed you so easily. He clicked the gear into first, hoping she’d notice the complicated derailleur. What got you up so early?

I’m going downtown to the Free Press Building. Their delivery truck broke down, so my brother asked me to drive into town and pick up the bundles for him. You going home when you’re through?

Yeah. It’s tough riding toward Williston, but easy heading back until I reach the campus hill. He lowered his gaze to the road. You going to the sock hop at Allen Hall?

I guess I might go. Is Carol going to be there?

I don’t see why she would. I didn’t mention it to her. I’d like you to come if it’s okay with your parents.

I’ll be there, she said, "as long as Carol’s not. She slid her index finger down his shirt. Maybe I’ll come by your house later and say hello."

Gavin smiled.

Race you into town, she said.

Gavin sped off on his bike toward the college. It took Sharon just a few seconds to catch and pass him. His comment about her driving must have had something to do with her newly acquired lead foot. As she drove by, she blared the horn and waved her arm excitedly.

At the crest of the last hill into South Burlington, Gavin saw the airport. He thought of two years earlier, when Jack Kennedy had shaken his hand on the tarmac as the Massachusetts senator passed through Burlington on his presidential campaign tour. It was exciting that his country now had a president of Irish heritage. No one was prouder of Jack Kennedy’s accomplishments than Gavin’s mother. She had two pictures on her living-room wall--a portrait of Jesus Christ and a photograph of JFK.

Gavin sped by Al’s French Frys and the Grinder House. Al’s opened after the war and was popular with the teenage crowd. For fifty cents, Al sold you a paper cone of vinegar-soaked fries and a Coke. The Grinder House was better known to Gavin as the hangout where he and Carol made out behind the building, more so than as the place to get the best submarine sandwiches in town.

He slowed the bike when he saw the roofs of the elegant university buildings. To his left was the huge Interstate-89 construction site.

A cloverleaf connection to Williston Road, his mother said.

His father, Big Bob, called it Ike’s tank road because, in his opinion, Eisenhower wanted it built to move his tanks from one end of the country to the other without stopping for any damn stoplights. Why did he have to think of his father? Couldn’t he have one goddamn day of peace?

Over his shoulder, he saw his best friend, Steve, with what looked like a BB or pellet gun. He was shooting toward the construction area. It was a Saturday, so Gavin knew little harm would come from Steve’s mischief, since there wouldn’t be any construction workers around to be peppered by BB shot. Gavin walked the bike up the embankment to join his friend.


The Little League game between the South Burlington Braves and the Milton Reds was tied in the sixth with one man on and no outs. Braves manager, Harry Lampson, had no pitchers left in the bullpen. He called Charlie Lawton in from right field.

Charlie. You ever pitched?

No, sir, Charlie said, staring down at his glove.

Listen, son. Your dad said you’ve got a pretty good arm.

My dad said that? He took the ball from his manager and squeezed it nervously. He just knew he’d throw up in front of the whole team. He had a sour taste in his throat. I guess I can try, but I’m not sure I can reach home plate.

Just do your best, son. We don’t have much choice. They won’t let me pitch, that’s for damn sure. Now, throw as hard as you can.

Lampson walked off the field, shaking his head. Charlie had never felt so alone in the world. Atop that mound, he could feel dozens of eyes on him. Just don’t puke, he kept telling himself. The batter stared impatiently, waiting for Charlie to throw warm-ups.

The umpire stood and yelled, C’mon, kid, throw the ball!

The batter stepped out of the box to let Charlie throw a few to the catcher. All five fell well short of home plate. Charlie looked over to the dugout and saw his manager covering his face with his hands.

The umpire swept the plate, pointed to Charlie, and yelled, Play ball!

Charlie checked the runner at first, went into his wind-up, and flung the ball as hard as he could toward home plate.


Gavin and Steve stood on a hill overlooking the cloverleaf construction site. Steve fired his .22 at anything that moved. They were unaware of the small fire he had caused in the shed with his earlier wayward shot.

There it is again, Steve said, pointing to a black blur near the shed. He took aim and fired three times. The dirt in front of the shed kicked up where the bullets hit.

That’s a cat, Gavin said. You’re gonna kill some little girl’s pet.

It’s a skunk, wisenheimer. I think I know the difference between a skunk and a cat. Can you imagine what it’ll smell like down there if I hit it?

Yeah, it’ll smell like a dead cat.

Like Steve, Gavin had finished his junior year at South Burlington High. He was a three-sport athlete, tall, square jawed, and blond, with the Irish good looks of his father. He knew he was bright, but he had little enthusiasm for schoolwork. Though he was a C student, most of the faculty thought he’d get accepted to UVM because of his athletic ability.

His proudest memory to date was going all the way with Carol Garner, the school’s head cheerleader. His fame for that feat, so far, overtook his heroics on the field. Steve was also popular, but he wasn’t gifted in sports like Gavin. Gavin knew Steve had also slept with Carol, but he still considered him his friend.

What do you think of Sharon? Gavin asked.

Sharon who?

Sharon Bennett. What other Sharon do you know?

I dunno. She’s got big bazoobas and kind of a pretty face. Nose is kinda pointy. I guess she’s all right. Why? You like her or something?

Maybe. A little bit. I think so, anyway. I mean, she’s great, you know. She’s smart and smiles all the time. Did you ever notice how she smiles all the time? Even when she’s mad or surprised, she’ll smile. It’s cute. And her teeth, they’re bright white so when she smiles it makes you want to smile with her.

Yeah, I guess.

And her head, it always bobs back and forth when she’s talking and--

Yeah, like a chicken.

No, you know what I mean. Like she’s keen on everything. Really listening to what’s going on, you know?

Jesum Crow, you’re hooked.

Naw--we’re just going to the hop, that’s all it is.

Aren’t you uckfaying Carol? She’s good looking, and she puts out. Why would you wanna give up Natalie Wood for Doris Day? Sharon won’t go to third base. Not a hell’s chance of that, dumbass. Don’t be such a square. Sharon’s a brainiac. Stick with Carol.

Maybe I don’t want to. Besides, Carol’s not funny like Sharon. Sharon can make a joke out of anything.

Funny like Milton Berle funny, or what?

No, you know. Like if somebody trips or something she’ll say, ‘Wow, that guy’s got feet like a duck.’


She is to me. I may ask her to go steady.

Do what you want to, jerkwad. If you don’t want Carol, I know somebody who does--me.

You can have her.

Steve sighted his rifle. It went behind the shed. He fired twice, both shots hitting the window and shattering the panes. Black smoke poured out.

It’s on fire, Gavin said. Why’d you do that? Somebody could be sleeping in there.

There’s nobody in there. If there was they would’ve woken up by now.

Gavin lay on the ground, narrowed his eyes, and studied the shed. A second later it transformed into a massive ball of soil, concrete, and fire.

Steve never saw it disintegrate. One of the planks on the west side of the shed flew the hundred feet up the hill, decapitating him where he stood, his rifle still clutched in his hands. Gavin, because of his prone position, also didn’t see the explosion. The mound directly below him formed into a wave of dirt, propelling him backward down a steep embankment and slamming the left side of his head against a boulder blown out by the blast.


Charlie Lawton couldn’t tell whether the ball he had just thrown to home plate made it all the way there or not. The shockwave of the explosion knocked him off the pitcher’s mound. He felt the ground heave upward slightly as his face lay next to the white rubber strip. A few seconds later, the sound wave boomed over the field, breaking bulbs in the field lights.

Charlie rolled over to see his entire Braves team also lying on the field in shock. Then all eyes turned to stare at the huge cloud of dirt and fire towering above the north end of the ballpark. Several parents ran to their cars and drove off in the direction of the catastrophe.


As Dennis Daley walked out of the First National Bank he was also knocked to the ground when the dynamite exploded. The roar of the blast reached him at almost the same time as the shockwave. He saw an old man lying on the grass lawn in front of the bank. The man’s arm shook as he pointed to the sky above Dennis.

Small rocks and dirt pelted the roof of the bank and the surrounding area. Dennis had moved out from under the old poplar tree to get a better look at the shower when a small black spot in the sky caught his attention. He stared at it, mesmerized by its speed.

Before he had time to react, a large boulder slammed into his chest, rocketing him into the base of the tree. He fell forward onto the boulder then rolled off it, landing face down on the sidewalk.


The crater formed by the explosion became Vermont’s most popular tourist attraction. More people had visited it in the three days since the explosion than had visited the Shelburne Museum, the Ticonderoga Ferry, and Ethan Allen’s homestead in all of 1961. It wasn’t until the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department figured out the curious onlookers were destroying a crime scene that they decided to rope off the site and post security around the perimeter.

Sheriff Joseph Schifilliti and Tarmac Highway Construction general manager Pete Hancock surveyed the destruction. Schifilliti was trying to piece the events together while Hancock worried about how to continue with the project.

This was a disaster waiting to happen, the two-term sheriff said. Why in the world would you store that much dynamite in one spot? One spark in that shed on a weekday and hundreds could have been killed.

That was how much we needed to finish the highway through to Barre, Hancock said. You should be blaming those damn teenagers.

Schifilliti stared blankly at Hancock and then shifted his gaze to the crater.

You ever seen a crater that big before? Hancock asked.

Once. In London, in ’43. Two miles from where I stayed a V-2 plowed into an alley next to Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital. It killed a hundred or so, including Bobby Rosinski. Radio man, good buddy of mine. The sheriff rubbed the stubble on his chin. Pete--I believe this accident happened on a Saturday because God wanted to prevent more loss of life.

You think God had a hand in this, Joe? You don’t think those boys were just trying to shoot up my property?

God was trying to tell your company and the U.S. government that you can go ahead and build your fancy highway through this country, but He’s not going to make it easy for you. He wants you to toil and suffer for every inch of land you spoil.

I’m glad you personally communicate with God, Joe, because I swear if those boys had been shooting in the woods where they’re supposed to, maybe this goddamn mess never would’ve happened.

The sheriff frowned and threw a rock into the sewage water at the bottom of the crater. I wish you wouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain in front of me.

Sorry. I work construction. I’m considered chaste compared to the rest of my crew. Hancock changed the subject. Where were you stationed in the war?

Rattlesden, 8th Air Force, 447th Bomber Group. When the V-2 hit, I was on leave. How about you? Where’d you end up?

The other end of the world, Hancock said, relieved the conversation had shifted away from religion. Pacific theatre--Guam, Tarawa, Okinawa. This stuff was pretty common out there. But I never saw a hole this big.

I think it turned out pretty well, considering, the sheriff said. Only two dead and maybe fifty injured, most cut from glass. The Weaver boy may be the third fatality by the end of the week. Your company doing anything for the families?

Hancock threw part of a plank into the water at the bottom. The insurance company sent some reps to the Simpsons’ yesterday.

God bless his soul.

Yeah, same here. They offered to pay for the kid’s burial and settle for ten thousand. A lot more money than they should have offered.

How much do you think a life is worth in God’s eyes? Ten thousand? Ten million? It means nothing in the afterlife.

Apparently ten thousand was good enough for the Simpsons’. Louise Daley didn’t quite see it that way, though.

Louise is like that. That boy was her life. She’ll never get over it.

Yeah, I guess. From what the rep told me, she was pissed off. When they came to her door, she screamed at ’em until they drove away. I told them to talk to the old man. He’s a pretty calm guy, and he’d probably take the money.

Hancock slid ten feet down the crater wall and stood on a concrete post that had bent metal bars sticking out the end. Would you believe this was a drilled pier we poured twenty feet underground? It held the supports for the cloverleaf exit off the road. The dynamite blew this completely out of the ground, and then it fell right back into the hole. Now that’s a hell of an explosion. No wonder the boulder that killed the Daley kid was thrown a quarter mile. Help me out of here, will ya, Joe?

Hancock reached his hand up and the sheriff pulled him out effortlessly.

It looks like this is going to hold us up for a couple of months, Hancock continued. "What you said earlier--about God making it difficult

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  • (5/5)
    A Fascinating Thriller by J.J. White: Five out of five stars! Pages fly by quickly...

    This thriller by J.J. White is a page turner. From the very first sentence the reader is drawn into the world of Burlington, Vermont in 1962. Once you start reading you won’t want to put it down. I read it all in one night. It is a very quick read. Teenager Gavin Weaver is injured in an explosion all because of one small act of teenage stupidity. Because of that act, his life is changed forever, and not necessarily all for the better. Waking up from a thirty-day coma, not only does he not suffer the usual disabilities from a head injury, he wakes up possessing several savant talents in music, art, math and memory. At the same time, his personality changes for the worst. He leans toward the dark side. Can Gavin survive the internal and external conflicts which keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s love since childhood? You’ll have to read it to find out. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t.
    Overall, Prodigious Savant is a worthwhile read, for any avid book reader and especially for the thriller lover. I highly recommend it.