Pratt, David. “Todd Sweeney: The Fiend of Fleet High”, Hosta Press, 2019.
Friend and Ally
This week marks the appearance of a new press, Hosta Press and the first release, “Todd Sweeney’ by its owner Lambda winning author, David Pratt.
Toby Ragg, Todd Sweeney’s best friend is threatened by homophobic guidance counselor, Ashford Squeers so Todd immediately comes to help his friend. Nellie Lovett, another friend, has very creative ideas as to how to get this whole situation to be done away with forever. But as we expected, nothing could be so easy and one of the thugs at school, Ryan Plouf threatens Toby and Nellie. However, Ryan is missing, too, and local cop Tarron Littey begins an investigation with asking some very inconvenient questions. At the same time, Toby’s parents threaten to put him in a gay conversion camp. There’s a lot going on here and it is all going to come together to remind us what a fine writer David Pratt is.
I think that it is Pratt’s use of satire to look at the ways society deals with humanity and its various levels that made this such an interesting read (and also that “Sweeney Todd” is perhaps my favorite piece of theater). Pratt aims at many of the concepts and ideas in society today (especially masculinity, hypocrisy and conformity) and shows how these become part of people and places who have convinced themselves that they are good things. The themes of the original “Sweeney Todd” appear in “Todd Sweeney”. By this I mean the use of power, corruption and following the leader as themes with which we can look at ourselves. I was reminded of my parents telling me to be good and that doing so would bring reward (that often did not come).
Todd became a self-appointed defender and he learned that not everything is as it seems, he learns that life isn’t as black and white as it seems and that not everything can be fixed. It has not been good for Todd and we meet him when he comes home to finish high school after having been sent to reform school by his guidance counselor, Mr. Squeers, the same guidance counselor who has that has been trying to get into his moms pants .and took over his dads office in the school.
Squeers is an evil man who takes advantage of women and abuses kids. He has been able to do so without ever getting caught but Todd is determined to stop it. Things did not work out as planned and things get out of hand. To learn what I mean by this, you will have to get a copy of the book.
We can just imagine how Todd felt when he came home from the reformatory to learn that his widowed mother is being bothered by the same person who had him sent away. He also learns that Squeers is having his best friend and “little brother” Tobias sent away to a “conversion camp” after having done the same to Tobias’s one true love, Anthony, months before. Todd is desperate to be a good man and protector like his father and does so in the way he thinks is best.
Todd asks Nelly to help him protect Toby and his mother and she agrees. Nelly and Todd’s love of social justice and revenge are powerful and they eventually begin a “madcap scheme to free Tobias and Anthony from the clutches of “soul-saving” familial love as suspicions from the law fall upon them.” I have given away here more than I intended so I will stop and urge you to get a copy of “Todd Sweeney” and enjoy the read. Feel free to argue with anything I have said here.