Nine (or thereabouts) Depression-era Naughty Listers set out to petition Santa for toys rather than coal in their stockings.
It all begins when the “Know-It-All,” aka Peter Czapylynsky, finds a partially burned page from Santa’s Naughty List in his fireplace on Christmas morning and, outraged to have gotten only coal, reaches out to others on the list with a scheme to see justice done. According to archetypically unreliable narrator Luigi Curidi, a self-described “poor and dirty Italian kid,” the quarrelsome questers (almost never exactly nine in number) trade in their given names for appropriate nicknames such as the “Hooligan” and the “Thief”—Luigi opts for the “Liar.” Bankrolled by the rich but thoroughly spoiled “Brat,” they travel north from Pittsburgh by train, dog sled, and finally mail boat—arriving after many adventures at a certain unmapped island in Baffin Bay to discover that the latest in a line of elected Santas has autocratically turned the Toy Factory into a smoke-belching sweatshop. Worse lies in store, though, as first a devastating fire and then the arrival of devious bootlegger Mummy Rummy spell a future producing not toys but liquor and firearms for the American mob. Can the Nine (or so) find a way to beat the baddies, unionize the elvish workers, and save Christmas? With help from a lively opening rogues’ gallery by Mock, Marciano creates a cast of ragamuffins diverse in race, gender, ethnic background, social class, and temperament.
A tongue-in-cheek romp with currently topical overtones. (Fantasy. 11-13)