Editorial Services


Arch Montgomery's Gunpowder Trilogy

About Jake

JakeJake takes place during one of the single most powerfully shaping times in a person’s life—secondary education. Through the metaphor of the utopian and fictitious St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, author Arch Montgomery shows us how our humanity can only be fully realized through other humans. The book depicts three deaths and one near-fatal disease while simultaneously tracking the rebirth of Jake, the titular and main character. He moves from a transparent “only-good-as-I-have-to-be” mentality to a lifestyle of excellence and three-dimensionality with the help of his school, which is personified through the characters of Mary White, rector; George Meader, teacher; and Joel Kohn, student.

Jake presents both Montgomery’s view of public school systems (which Jake, without a drop of nostalgia, refers to as “out in the county”) and his view of an ideal school, which, in this case, comes in the form of an independent school, though the tenets that make it so admirable could be applied to almost any school—public, independent, parochial, or otherwise. Mixing real-world models with an informed idealism, Montgomery creates St. Stephen’s in order to demonstrate the most positive influence a school can have on one person.

On the flipside of that coin, however, remain numerous questions about what kind of negative effects sub-par schools can have on their students. While St. Stephen’s gives its students a three-dimensional education—mind (academics), body (athletics), and spirit (chapel and community service)—do public schools scratch the surface of even just one dimension? While Mary White, the head of St. Stephen’s, plays roles as varied as disciplinarian, spiritual leader, and friend, in what light do most public school students view their own principals? While the educational events of the highest consequence happen to Jake outside the classroom, how many public school students interact with their classmates, teachers, or administration beyond a school setting?

On a continuum of education quality—satisfactory, good, great, excellent, ideal—where does St. Stephen’s fall? Where does the school you went to, or your children go to, fall? These and many other questions arise in Jake, and beg to be discussed, because once problems are recognized, they can begin to get solved.

It is a page-turner. It is a true coming-of-age book.
Meet Hank Collins, an astute, gutsy, and funny 13-year-old who's just finished the seventh grade at a public school in Baltimore's affluent suburbs. But all is not trouble-free for Hank. He must contend with a troubled family, an alien school, and a world otherwise booby-trapped with alluring but perilous possibilities.

Hank is the page-turning, contemporary, coming-of-age story he tells of growing up amidst this wreckage during a dangerous and suspenseful summer. From him, we hear the events of his life. We stand by him on the baseball field and at the dinner tables of his remarried parents. We walk with him into an epic, appalling, yet believable teenage party. We share with him an astounding encounter with adult weekend warriors. We see not just his confusions and dismays, but his grit, his honesty, and his vulnerability. We like him, and root for him, and care about him.
Through a raw, real, and rewarding storyline, recounted with an understated elegance, and dialogue that is witty and captivating, we watch as he manages to evolve into a courageous, undaunted human being.

As the Harvard Crimson observes, Hank is so authentic that one sometimes feels the need to check for that standard disclaimer reminding us that these characters are only fictitious. Hank bursts from the pages, vibrant and flawed. We feel his pain, share his sorrows, and rejoice in his triumphs.

There is no holding back here, notes Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Buzz Bissinger. There is no political correctness. The world that Hank sees and tells us about -- a world fraught with pitfalls, potholes, protagonists, antagonists, decency, and deceit -- is the world of the American pre-adolescent.

Author Arch Montgomery never shies away from important issues, adds the Harvard Crimson, and never takes the easy way out in dealing with them. With a few deft strokes, he manages to compress every in-between shade of gray into the dialogue and actions of his characters. Like the state of the world it reflects, good and evil are not always so clear-cut. Part of Hank's journey of growth entails understanding and dealing with that realization.

No wonder the Harvard Crimson concludes: Few novels have succeeded in capturing the essence of adolescence, but the likes of Tom Sawyer and Holden Caulfield are about to welcome the newest member to their ranks a 13-year-old boy named Hank… Arch Montgomery, impressive in an incandescent debut, shows a mastery of his craft and an unusually perceptive insight into the human heart.

Home | Fiction | Non-Fiction | Buy Our Books | Media | About Bancroft Press | Contact Us!
Bancroft Press - P.O. Box 65360 - Baltimore, MD 21209
410.358.0658 - 800.637.7377 - fax 410.764.1967
Privacy Statement - Copyright ©2004 Bancroft Press
a BizHelper production