An elementary throat-catcher of a first novel, moist with husky sentiment, about two loners--a rich kid and his kidnapper--who team up, father-and-son style, in unlikely circumstances in East Texas. Among the flashcard characters: Hamilton Caine, Jr.; a 15-year-old offspring of a thieving millionaire father and an exceedingly nasty society mother--both of whom are bunk-hopping on a cruise when their son is kidnapped. The kidnapper is a former pilot for Hamilton, Sr.'s thoroughly rotten utility company; the pilot lost his nest egg in the Houston bust and now just wants enough stake to fly in Alaska. At first, "fear, worry, all the imagined horrors had overcome his tender young bravery," but before long Hamilton, Jr., deep in the woods in East Texas, is nicknamed "Buddy," and "Bill" the kidnapper is showing him how to make a fire; skin squirrels; track (and hear) a cougar; even swim in the freezing waters of the creek. Love grows between the two, and Bill, reveling in being a father to the son he'd always wanted, passes on essential manly lore--like the way to handle guns and what the ground rules are for sensible sex. There's an almost fatal parting when during a hurricane the creek overflows. Later, when Buddy is bitten by a rattler, Bill's hellish trip to save him ends with Buddy's return to his sterile former life, while Bill escapes. Both yearn for a reunion--and happy days are around the corner. Simple, earnest, and soggy with platitudes.