Sunday, April 20, 2014

"The Reluctant Jesus" by Duncan Whitehead

The Reluctant Jesus
by Duncan Whitehead

The Reluctant Jesus is a wild and romping comedy from the author of the bestselling and award winning novel, The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club (read my previous blog post).

The year is 1999 and the millennium is fast approaching. Baseball fan and thirty two year old confirmed bachelor and architect, Seth Miller, is content with his life, as long as the Yankees win and his mother stays away from his Greenwich Village apartment. Seth's life though, is turned upside down when he is informed by his overbearing and overprotective mother, that he is actually God's youngest son; and by default the second coming of Christ.
Initially convinced that his parents are crazy, his thoughts of their committal to a suitable care facility are superseded when he receives an unsolicited telephone call from God himself. With Armageddon fast approaching, and due to some poor editing and proofreading of the Bible, Seth must assume the role of Christ and fight God's corner in the 'Final Conflict' between good and evil. Despite his initial reluctance and attempts to shirk his new responsibilities, God is insistent and Seth is cajoled into undertaking the role of Messiah.
With his best friend, and chief follower Bob Nancy, Seth embarks on a calamitous sequence of miracle doing and disciple gathering, all of which fail to inspire the legions of followers expected by God, but leads to a bout of food poisoning for a troop of visiting boy scouts and a suspected attempt on the life of Mayor Giuliani.
God, a somewhat nonchalant character, is far more preoccupied by the lack of IT and administrative support he is receiving in heaven, than actual events on Earth; and is already planning to move on to other planets that he and Lucifer are in the process of developing for 'future projects'.
Enter Maggie De Lynne, as Seth's second disciple and love interest, who adds her own perspective to Seth's predicament; which is only compounded when a just as unsuitable anti-Christ, suffering from IBS and with a penchant for dressing up as cartoon characters, visits his apartment.
Throw a 'gangsta' rapping guardian angel and Walter the talking cat - who used to be quiet as a mouse - into the mix, and the scene is set for a hilarious tale of one man's reluctance to save the world and join the family business.

Chapter 1
I feel it is important, just to make sure that there are no misunderstandings, especially at this initial stage of our acquaintanceship that I point out that I was, and still am, an ordinary guy. I blend into a crowd; I am one of life’s extras and never destined to be a major protagonist in any scene, drama or act. You see people like me every day but you do not notice us. I was just; well, to put it bluntly, there. If I ever committed a crime, which, to the best of my knowledge, I never have, and a witness was requested to describe me I am sure the word boring would be used, probably more than once.
I do not ever recall doing anything that could be described as remarkable. I kept myself to myself and not only did I like it that way but I am sure that others did also. I went about and minded my own business; I went through the motions of a boring and uncomplicated life, I came and I went, I worked as hard as the next man but I did not over assert myself. I got along just fine. My ambitions were healthy and realistic and I knew my limitations. To my recollection, I had never performed any act of bravery, kindness, or selflessness that would stand me out from any other rational human being nor, by the same notion, had I ever performed any act of cowardice, unkindness or selfishness. I was not overly generous but I was by no stretch of the imagination mean. I always tipped the required fifteen percent in restaurants and bars and on occasion had been known to go as high as twenty, for the exceptional waiter, server or bar tender. I had in the past donated to charity and I am sure clothing I once wore is now clad upon a deserving recipient as delegated by the Salvation Army, however I did not give to beggars on the sidewalk nor did I tip for fast food.
According to friends I was a stereotypical confirmed bachelor with no emotional responsibilities or ties. I did not have any other human being reliant on my income, my goodwill, my moods, the contents of my fridge, my apartment or my television remote control. I was able to come and go as I pleased. No one questioned me, and in turn, I did not question others. I lived and let lived and considered myself a free spirit. I had no sexual hang-ups and the stack of Playboy and Hustler magazines that were under my bed, though not hidden, were a clear indication that I insisted that my sleeping partners always be of the female variety.
I worked for money and that money provided me with an apartment in New York City and all the trappings of a bachelor life that revolved around my love of sports, primarily baseball and the New York Yankees, TV, drinking beer and enjoying myself.
I shared my one bedroom but extremely desirable and comfortable apartment in Greenwich Village, Manhattan with a house trained and totally undemanding ginger tom cat named Walter, who used the litter box provided, shed minimal hair and was an extremely good companion as he never said a word. Walter, who let me come and go when I pleased, was, I am told, probably the most low maintenance feline known to man.
My name is Seth Miller, and though my surname does not suggest it, I am Jewish by birth though I cannot recall the last time I attended temple. When it came to religion, I could take it or leave it, so I left it. I enjoyed my rather unremarkable but happy and contented life. I did not consider that life was passing me by but that I was merely pacing myself and if I equated my life as it was, to a marathon, then I was comfortable in the pack, with my eye on the pacemaker but do not fear, if you are betting on me, for I am not letting the pacemaker out of my sight and when the time comes I will change gear and break away from the pack, but only when I am good and ready.
The New York City summer of 1999 was not an unusually hot one. However, that particular Wednesday seemed hotter than usual. The Manhattan Streets were flooded with secretaries and (female) office workers in short skirts and skimpy tops which contained less cotton than a Tylenol bottle. Delivery men and couriers were wearing shorts and T-shirts, the street vendors were selling ice-cold cans of Coke and Pepsi by the dozen. All welcomed the cool breezes that emitted from shop doorways, office blocks and apartment complexes as air conditioning met nature. It was indeed a hot day….. the day Mother called and changed my life forever.
I had a breakfast meeting with Henry Peel, my boss, and senior partner of the well-respected construction firm that I worked for in my capacity as senior architect in residence. My field of expertise was office blocks, those towering skyscrapers you see that complete the panoramic view of every major city in the world. I designed them, drew up the proposed plans, located and researched potential sites. It was a responsible and highly paid career which I enjoyed, mainly because I was good at it and it provided me with little stress. I had arranged to meet with Henry to discuss a potential contract and proposals by a Japanese consortium that wanted to create office space on the Upper East Side. I was excited and very happy to be alive. I loved to start new projects and this was going to be an exciting and adventurous structure which would not only help my own reputation but also the firm’s.
That Wednesday I rose earlier than normal, I allowed Walter to sit on my lap for a few minutes or was it Walter who allowed me to have the pleasure of him sitting on Seth? I never knew with Walter. I fixed some coffee and drank it, maybe a little too quickly, before grabbing my briefcase.
Harvey, my apartment building’s doorman, with whom I had a unique relationship (more of Harvey later), hailed me a cab and if I recall correctly I arrived promptly at The Barking Dog Diner on 3rd Avenue for my breakfast meeting with Henry and the Japanese consortium’s representative Mr. Hyomoko, who had flown in from Tokyo the previous evening. That meeting, I am pleased to say, was successful and hands were shaken and a deal proposed. I felt I had ascertained a good idea of what was required and I agreed to meet Mr. Hyomoko later that week at the proposed site which his consortium had recently purchased, in close proximity to the Guggenheim Museum on East 87th and 5th. Once we had eaten breakfast Mr. Hyomoko left to relay the details of our meeting to whomever he had to report to, leaving Henry and I to grab another coffee, congratulate ourselves on a deal well done and to stroll leisurely back to the offices of Peel and Associates situated on 93rd and Lexington, a ten minute walk from the diner Henry and I arrived at the office at eleven or thereabouts. I answered a few e-mails, I drank coffee, I chit chatted with some of my co-workers about nothing in particular. There was a general feeling of excitement in the office that morning as news of the deal secured by Henry and I had already filtered back to my colleagues, which meant the mood was good. I wasn’t too busy so I decided that I might as well begin work on what was now known as ‘Project Hyomoko’.
I called Bob Nancy, my best friend, who you will meet later, to tell him about the lucrative contract secured that morning and to invite him for a celebratory drinking session on Friday night. Life was easy, simple and good and I had the perfect life, of course, that was before Mother called……

Once again, Mr. Whitehead delivers. This witty, dry, satire is one of the funniest books I've read in a long time, but make no mistake, there are many layers to this books. The writer skews a number of beliefs and groups along the way.
The characters are simply wonderful. I'll be thinking about Bob for a long time! This is a book where the reader must suspend disbelief and judgment. Once that's done, you won't be able to put the book down! Armageddon cometh? Better read this book! A treat on so many levels and one of the few books I've ever read where I want to sit down with the author and say, where did that plot come from? Simply brilliant!

About the Author
Duncan was born in England in 1967. After a successful career in the military where he served in British Embassies throughout South America and saw service in the Gulf War he joined the world of super yachts as a Purser onboard some of the world’s largest private vessels, working for many high profile individuals, being fortunate enough to visit some of the world’s most luxurious and exotic places. Eventually retiring to Savannah, Georgia, he began to partake of his greatest passion, writing. Initially writing short stories he finally put pen to paper and wrote The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club, inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness of his new environment, the book, a thriller, which boasts an assortment of characters and plot twists, set in the leafy neighborhood where he lived. His passion for comedy saw submissions to The Onion and a stint performing as a stand- up comedian.
He is a former boxer, representing the Royal Navy and an English under 19 team as an amateur and is a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language as well as a former accomplished children’s soccer coach.
In 2011 Duncan returned to South America, spending six months in Brazil and a few months in Paraguay before travelling to the Middle-East and Europe before returning to the United States to settle in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and lists his hobbies and passions as cooking, the Israeli self-defence art of Krav Maga and the pressure point martial art Dim-Mak.
Duncan has written over 2,000 spoof and comedy news articles, under various aliases, for an assortment of web sites both in the US and UK.
As well as his other activities he performs volunteer work, as a hospice volunteer visitor and teaches English to refugees arriving in South Florida.
Duncan has penned a further novel, The Reluctant Jesus, a comedy set in Manhattan. His acclaimed short story, An Actor's Life, is FREE. He is currently working on the script for a potential sit-com and the second and third books in The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club trilogy.