Ever come across a situation that simply wasn't right—where someone was getting the dirty end of the stick and you wished you could make things right but didn't know how? Fourteen-year-old Jack knows how. Or rather he's learning how. He's discovering that he has a knack for fixing things. Not bikes or toys or appliances—situations….
It all starts when Jack and his best friends, Weezy and Eddie, discover a rotting corpse—the victim of ritual murder—in the fabled New Jersey Pine Barrens. Beside the body is an ancient artifact carved with strange designs. What is its secret? What is the secret of the corpse? What other mysteries hide in the dark, timeless Pine Barrens? And who doesn't want them revealed?
Jack's town, the surrounding Barrens, his friends, even Jack himself…they all have…Secret Histories.
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About the Author
F. Paul Wilson is the New York Times bestselling author of horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, and virtually everything in between. His books include the Repairman Jack novels, including Ground Zero, The Tomb, and Fatal Error; the Adversary cycle, including The Keep; and the young adult series featuring the teenage Jack. Wilson has won the Prometheus Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Inkpot Award from the San Diego ComiCon, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers of America, among other honors. He lives in Wall, New Jersey.
F. Paul Wilson is the New York Times bestselling author of horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, and virtually everything in between. His books include the Repairman Jack novels—including Ground Zero, The Tomb, and Fatal Error—the Adversary cycle—including The Keep—and a young adult series featuring the teenage Jack. Wilson has won the Prometheus Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Inkpot Award from the San Diego ComiCon, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers of America, among other honors. He lives in Wall, New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Jack: Secret Histories
By F. Paul Wilson
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
They discovered the body on a rainy afternoon.
"Aren't we there yet?" Eddie said, puffing behind him.
Jack glanced over his shoulder to where Eddie Connell labored through the sandy soil on his bike. His face was red and beaded with perspiration; sweat soaked through his red Police T-shirt, darkening Sting's face. Chunky Eddie wasn't built for speed. He wore his sandy hair shorter than most, which tended to make him look even heavier than he was. Eddie's idea of exercise was a day on the couch playing Pole Position on his new Atari 5200. Jack envied that machine. He was stuck with a 2600.
"Only Weezy knows," Jack said.
He wasn't sweating like Eddie, but he felt clammy all over. With good reason. The August heat was stifling here in the Pine Barrens, and the humidity made it worse. Whatever breeze existed out there couldn't penetrate the close-packed, spindly trees.
They were following Eddie's older sister, Weezy — really Louise, but no one ever called her that. She liked to remind people that she'd been "Weezy" long before The Jeffersons ever showed up on the tube.
She was pedaling her banana-seat Schwinn along one of the firebreak trails that crisscrossed the million-plus acres of mostly uninhabited woodland known as the Jersey Pine Barrens. A potentially dangerous place if you didn't know what you were doing or where you were going. Every year hunters wandered in, looking for deer, and were never seen again. Locals would wink and say the Jersey Devil snagged another one. But Jack knew the JD was just a folktale. Well, he was pretty sure. Truth was, the missing hunters were usually amateurs who came ill equipped and got lost, wandering around in circles until they died of thirst and starvation.
At least that was what people said. Though that didn't explain why so few of the bodies were ever found.
But the Barrens didn't scare Jack and Eddie and Weezy. At least not during the day. They'd grown up on the edge of the pinelands and knew this section of it like the backs of their hands. Couldn't know all of it, of course. The Barrens hid places no human eye had ever seen.
Yet as familiar as he was with the area, Jack still got a creepy sensation when riding into the trees and seeing the forty-foot scrub pines get thicker and thicker, crowding the edges of the path, and then leaning over with their crooked, scraggly branches seeming to reach for him. He could almost believe they were shuffling off the path ahead of him and then moving back in to close it off behind.
"See that sign?" Eddie said, pointing to a tree they passed. "Maybe we should listen."
Jack glanced at the orange letters blaring from glossy black tin:
No big deal. The signs dotted just about every other tree on Old Man Foster's land, so common they became part of the scenery.
"Well," he said, "we're not doing the first three."
"But we're doing the fourth."
"Criminals is what we are!" Jack raised a fist. "Criminals!"
"Easy with that." Eddie looked around. "Old Man Foster might hear you."
Jack called to the girl riding twenty feet ahead of them. "Hey, Weez! When do we get there?"
She usually kept her shoulder-length dark hair down but she'd tied it back in a ponytail for the trip. She wore a black-and-white — mostly black — Bauhaus T-shirt and black jeans. Jack and Eddie wore jeans too, but theirs were faded blue and cut off above the knees. Weezy's were full length. Jack couldn't remember if he'd ever seen her bare legs. Probably white as snow.
"Not much farther now," she called without looking around.
"Sounds like Papa Smurf," Eddie grumbled. "This is stupidacious."
Jack turned back to Eddie. "Want to trade bikes?"
Jack rode his BMX. He'd let some air out of the tires for better grip in the sand and they were doing pretty well.
"Nah." Eddie patted the handlebars of his slim-tired English street bike. "I'm all right."
"Whoa!" Jack heard Weezy say.
He looked around and saw she'd stopped. He had to jam on his brakes to keep from running into her. Eddie flew past both of them and stopped ahead of his sister.
"Is this it, Smurfette?" he said.
Weezy shook her head. "Almost."
She had eyes almost as dark as her hair, and a round face, normally milk pale, made paler by the dark eyeliner she wore. But she was flushed now with heat and excitement. The color looked good on her. Made her look almost ... healthy, a look Weezy did not pursue.
Jack liked Weezy. She was only four months older, but his January birthday had landed him a year behind her in school. Come next month they'd both be in Southern Burlington County Regional High, just a couple of miles away. But she'd be a soph and he a lowly frosh. Maybe they'd be able to spend more time together. And then again, maybe not. Did sophs hang with freshmen? Were they allowed?
She wasn't pretty by most standards. Skinny, almost boyish, although her hips seemed to be flaring a little now. Back in grammar school a lot of the kids had called her "Wednesday Addams" because of her round face and perpetually dark clothes. If she ever decided to wear her hair in pigtails, the resemblance would be scary.
But whatever her looks, Jack thought she was the most interesting girl — no, make that most interesting person he'd ever met. She read things no one else read, and viewed the world in a light different from anyone else.
She pointed to their right. "What on Earth's going on there?"
Jack saw a small clearing with a low wet spot known in these parts as a spong. But around the rim of the spong stood about a dozen sticks of odd shapes and sizes, leaning this way and that.
"Who cares?" Eddie said. "If this isn't what you dragged us out here to see, let's keep going."
After hopping off her bike, she leaned it against a tree and started for the clearing.
"Just give me a minute."
His curiosity piqued, Jack leaned his bike against hers and followed. The knee-high grass slapped against his sweaty lower legs, making them itch. A glance back showed Eddie sitting on the sand in the shade of a pine. Jack caught up to Weezy as they neared the spong.
"They just look like dead branches someone's stuck in the sand."
"But why?" Weezy said.
"For nothing better to do?"
She looked at him with that tolerant smile — the smile she showed a world that just didn't get it. At least not in her terms.
"Everything that happens out here happens for a reason," she said in the ooh-spooky tone she used whenever she talked about the Barrens.
He knew Weezy loved the Barrens. She studied them, knew everything about them, and had been delighted back in 1979, at the tender age of eleven, when the state passed a conservation act to preserve them.
She gestured at the sticks, not a dozen feet away now. "Can you imagine anyone coming out here just to poke sticks into the ground for no reason at all? I don't —" She stopped, grabbed Jack's arm, and pointed. "Look! What'd I tell you?"
Jack kind of liked the feel of her fingers gripping his forearm, but he followed her point. When he saw what she was talking about, he broke free and hurried forward.
"Traps! A whole mess of traps."
"Yeah," Weezy said, coming up behind him. "The nasty leg-hold type. Some dirty, rotten ..."
As her voice trailed off Jack glanced at her and flinched at her enraged expression. She looked a little scary.
"But they've all been sprung." He started walking around the spong. "Every single one of them."
"Whoever did this is my hero," she said, following close behind. "Didn't I tell you that everything that happens out here —"
"— happens for a reason," Jack said, finishing for her.
Clear as day that someone had set up a slew of traps around the perimeter of the spong, planning to trap any animals that stopped by to drink from the water in its basin.
And just as clear, someone else had come by with a bunch of dead branches and used them to tap the trigger plates, springing the traps and making them harmless. In some cases the steel jaws had snapped right through the dead wood; in others it had only dented it, leaving the branch upright.
"Got to be at least a couple dozen along here," Jack said.
She bent, grabbed one of the trap chains, and started working its anchor loose from the sand.
"What are you doing?"
As the coiled anchor came free, Weezy grabbed it and the trap itself, then hurled the whole assembly into the spong. The two ends swung around on their chain like a boomerang before splashing into the shallow water and disappearing beneath the surface.
She turned to him, brushing the sand from her hands.
"Come on, Jack. We've got work to do."
He stared at her, surprised by the wild look in her eyes ...
"These rats don't check their traps for three or four days at a time."
"How do you know all this?"
"I read, Jack."
"So do I."
"Yeah, but you read fifty-year-old magazines. I read about what's really going on in the world." She pointed to a trap. "Three days in one of those. Think about it."
He did, imagining himself a fox or possum or raccoon with a broken leg caught in the steel jaws, hungry and thirsty, with water just a couple of dozen feet away but unable to get to it. It made his gut crawl.
Without a word, he bent and worked an anchor free of the ground, then followed Weezy's example and tossed the trap into the water.
"Two down. How many more to go?"
He found her staring at him with a strange light in her eyes.
"Then we're gonna need help." He turned and waved to Eddie. "Over here! You gotta see this!"
As Eddie made his way toward them, Jack and Weezy bent again to the task of ripping out the traps and hurling them into the drink.
Eddie arrived and gawked at what they were doing. "Are you guys crazy? You can't do that!"
Jack held up a trap. "Really? Watch."
He tossed it into the water.
Eddie slapped his hands against the side of his head. "What if Old Man Foster comes along and catches us?"
Weezy said, "Well, his signs do say, 'No Trapping.' We're just helping him out."
"That means no trapping by anybody else. We could be in hellacious big trouble."
Jack doubted that. Old Man Foster was just a name. No one had ever seen the guy. Everyone knew he owned this big piece of the Barrens and that was about it. Though nobody saw them go up, fresh No Trespassing signs appeared every year. Sometimes poachers would take them down, but before you knew it they'd be back up again.
Another mystery of the Pine Barrens. A very minor one.
As for Eddie, Jack wasn't sure if he was acting as the voice of good sense, or trying to duck the work of pulling out the traps. He hated anything more strenuous than working a joystick.
"Look," Jack told him. "The sooner we get this done and get on our way, the less chance we'll have of being caught. So come on. Get to it."
Eddie obeyed, but not without his trademark grumbling.
"Okay, okay. But I don't have to ask whose idea this was. It's got my crazy sister written all over it."
In a flash Weezy was in his face. "What did you say?"
Eddie gave her a sheepish look. "Nothing."
"You did! I heard you! Hasn't this been talked about a million times?" Eddie nodded without looking at her. "Right," she said. "So you keep your mouth shut or someone's going to hear about this."
Eddie sighed, saying, "Okay, okay," and returned to working on a trap.
Baffled, Jack caught Weezy's eye as she turned from her brother. "What —?"
"Family matter, Jack." She turned away. "Don't worry about it."
Jack wasn't worried. But he couldn't help but wonder. He'd known these two all his life. What was this all about?
"Okay," Weezy said, stopping her bike. "Here we are."
After sinking all the traps, they'd pedaled like mad away from the spong. Along the way, Jack had wished for a few clouds to hide the sun and cool the air, but the sky ignored him. At least now they'd arrived at their original destination.
Jack followed her gaze. "It's just some burned-out patch."
Fires were common in the Barrens during the summer. Tourists and nature lovers came to camp and sometimes got careless with their campfires or Coleman stoves or cigarettes. Same with poachers. And many times Nature herself took the blame, setting a tree ablaze with a bolt of lightning.
Usually a ranger in a fire tower, like the one on Apple Pie Hill, would spot the smoke and send out an alarm. Then the local and county volunteer fire companies would go racing to the scene along the fire trails. But the smaller fires started during a storm often would burn only an acre or two before being doused by the rain.
"Not just any burned-out patch." She motioned Jack and Eddie to follow. "Come on. I'm going to show you something no one else — except for me — has seen in a long, long time."
Eddie said, "Aw, come on, Smurfette —"
She stopped and turned to him. "And you can cut the Smurfette bit. Unless you like 'Pugsley.'"
"Okay, okay. But what about the firemen who put out the fire? They must have seen it."
"No firemen for this one."
Eddie snorted. "You psychic now?"
"Check it out." She gestured around them. "What's missing?"
Eddie and Jack did full turns.
"Green trees?" Jack said.
Weezy shook her head. "Litter. There's no litter. Firefighters always leave coffee cups, candy wrappers, Coke cans, Gatorade bottles, all sorts of stuff. But not here. Ergo ..."
Jack knew from his father that ergo was Latin for "therefore," but a glance at Eddie showed he hadn't a clue.
He checked the ground again. Not even a gum wrapper. Weezy didn't miss a trick.
As they followed her into the burned-out area, Jack noticed how the pine trunks had been charred coal black. The remaining needles high up were a dead brown, and the usual spindly little branches sticking out here and there lower down the trunks had been burned off. But the trees weren't dead. Every single trunk was sprouting new little branchlets, pushing them through the scorched crust of the bark and sporting baby needles of bright green. Everyone had heard of the Sears DieHard battery. These were nature's die-hard trees.
As she'd done all day, Weezy led the way, winding through the blackened trunks until she came to a break in the trees.
"Here's where the mound begins."
"Mound?" Eddie said. "Where?"
But Jack saw what she meant. They stood at the tip of where two linear mounds, each a couple of feet high and maybe a yard wide, converged to a point. Both ran off at angles between the blackened trees.
"Like some giant gopher," Eddie said.
Weezy shook her head. "Except look how smooth they are. And how straight. Nobody knows it's here, and I never would have noticed it if the fire hadn't cleared all the undergrowth. I haven't explored the whole thing, so I —"
"You were out here alone?" Jack said.
She nodded. "You know me. I like to explore. Who else is going to come along? You?"
His two part-time jobs didn't leave Jack much time to explore the Barrens, especially not to the extent Weezy did. She'd spend hours digging for arrowheads or other artifacts. The only reason he was out here today was because Mr. Rosen closed his store on Mondays.
He smiled and shrugged. "Beautiful teenage girl alone in the woods ... might meet a Big Bad Wolf."
She grinned and punched him on the shoulder. "Get out! Now you're making fun of me."
"Maybe a little, but you've got to be careful, Weez."
She sighed. "Yeah, you're right. But they've got to find me first." She shrugged. "Anyway, I got a little spooked here before I could explore the rest of the mound, so that's —"
"You? Spooked?" Eddie laughed. "You are a spook. Nothing spooks you."
"Well, this place does." She pointed along the lengths of the two ridges to where they faded into the trees. "See how nothing grows on the mounds? I mean, isn't that weird?"
Jack saw what she meant. Low-lying scrub — most of it scorched and blackened — crowded around the trees and spread across every square inch of sand between them. Everywhere except on the mounds.
Yeah. Weird, all right. Sand was sand. What made the mounds different?
Or was it a single mound, angling in different directions?
"Feel it," she said, patting the surface. "It's still sand, but it's hard. Like it hasn't been disturbed for so long it's formed some kind of crust."
Jack ran his fingers along the surface, then pressed. The sand wouldn't yield. But something else ... an unpleasant tingle in his fingertips. He pulled them away and looked at them. The tingling stopped. He glanced at Weezy and found her staring at him.
Excerpted from Jack: Secret Histories by F. Paul Wilson. Copyright © 2008 F. Paul Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
ABOUT THE BOOKEver come across a situation that simply wasn't right— where someone was getting the dirty end of the stick and you wished you could make things right but didn't know how? Fourteen-year-old Jack knows how. Or rather he's learning how. He's discovering that he has a knack for fixing things. Not bikes or toys or appliances— situations…. It all starts when Jack and his best friends, Weezy and Eddie, discover a rotting corpse—the victim of ritual murder—in the fabled New Jersey Pine Barrens. Beside the body is an ancient artifact carved with strange designs. What is its secret? What is the secret of the corpse? What other mysteries hide in the dark, timeless Pine Barrens? And who doesn't want them revealed? Jack's town, the surrounding Barrens, his friends, even Jack himself…they all have…Secret Histories.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
i am usually picky with the books i read, and this was an impulse purchse. i was shocked how much i loved this book. it was definetly a page turner and i highley recomend it to anyone
In 1983 New Jersey, teenager Jack enjoys playing Atari games with his friends, siblings Eddie and Weezy his other pastime is riding his bike. Jack prefers to stay away from his home as his parents are pests, his older sister demanding and his older brother an abusive jerk.------------- Jack and his two buddies are biking in the Pine Barrens when they find an ancient burial site. Unable to resist they search for hidden treasure only to find a more modern but rotted corpse and an odd looking black box with arcane symbols etched on it. Neither Weezy nor Eddie can open it only Jack can. They soon learn the victim was a member of the elite Ancient Septimus Fraternal Order. Not long afterward other members are murdered. Jack investigates the enigmatic box and the serial killings of the Order.------------- Repairman Jack teenage sleuth is an enjoyable whodunit as fans obtain a look at the strange hero¿s early life in suburbia. The story line starts a bit slow especially for those who know Jack as F. Paul Wilson methodically sets time and place more so for older followers of the series. Once we know Jack, the plot takes off as he makes inquiries that places him in jeopardy, but sets him on his future life¿s path. JACK: SECRET HISTORIES is a wonderful refreshingly different entry that targets young adults, but series readers will relish young Jack in action.------------ Harriet Klausner
Warning: Spoilers included.I haven't read any of the adult Repairman Jack novels, so I don't know how this early version of Jack relates to his older character, but Jack Secret Histories was certainly interesting. Jack and his two best friends Weezy and Eddie find a corpse, hidden in a forest on land that is supposed to be private, but also find an unusual object - a box that no one but Jack can open, which encases a pyramid. Both the box and the pyramid have carvings on it, but when the kids attempt to get some more information on the object, all kinds of misfortunes befall them. When the book ends, there are a whole bunch of unanswered questions, but there is a second book coming called Jack: Secret Circles. I really liked how Jack managed to reveal his friend's drinking problem while at the same time exposing the father as a murderer.
A YA prequel to Wilson's Repairman Jack novels (which I've never read). Jack is a young teen in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. He and his friends find a mysterious object--and a dead body--in/near an ancient mound out in the woods. The body is tied to the mysterious and influential Lodge, and now more members are dying. Heart failure or supernatural intervention? And just what is that pyramid they found?My biggest complaint is all the name-dropping of brands, music, TV shows, and technology. Okay, okay, this is 1983; I get it already. Other than that, it's an enjoyable book. I'll have to look for more Repairman Jack novels.
I have been a fan of Wilson¿s since 1983 (the year in which this is set) & I can¿t tell you how much fun it was to learn all this back ground about one of my favorite characters in popular literature. Reading this was like meeting an old friend and reminiscing about jr. high. I kept stealing minutes throughout my day to crack it and read a few more pages (I was never so happy that my computer told me it needed updating). You can just see the man Jack will become in the character Wilson creates here. AND you get to meet and spend a little more time with his family members. Jack does his first fixes. There¿s a gross and creepy mystery. And an old lady with a dog (Jack fans know what I¿m talking about). If you are a fan, this is a must read. If you like conspiracies and slightly supernatural mysteries/thrillers, you¿ll like the whole series & this is a fine place to start. If you know a YA who likes those kind of books, here¿s a chance to set them up with a whole series of books they won¿t want to put down¿unfortunately they (and ME, more importantly!) have to wait for the next two books in the young Jack trilogy¿they aren¿t out yet. (and yes, I am cognizant of the horrible grammar I just perpetrated :-)
It's been a pond time since I've I read any "Repairmen Jack" stories. These young adult stories of his life make a good place to start. I will have to start over and read them over. Really enjoyed it!