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Posts tagged ‘blues’

A review of REACH THE SHINING RIVER by the winner of our Christmas Prize Draw

January 16, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

‘It was Wardell found the body.’

Kansas City, 1935. Emmett Watson, a county prosecutor of Irish decent, is married to Fay, a high society woman, who is the daughter of one of the movers and shakers in the city, and unhappy in her marriage. At a closed-door meeting with his father-in-law, and other high rollers, Emmett is asked to investigate the brutal murder of a local black, jazz piano player, and he soon finds himself taking on a corrupt political machine, mobsters and cops on the pad.

All around Emmett, is fear and silence surrounding the murder, and blatant racial hatred, that puts his life and career at risk.

One of the most engaging characters in the novel is Arlene Gray, the jazz
singer whose voice can still the room in a smoky Kansas City nightclub.
Arlene, a woman of tremendous grace, and vulnerability, is the mother of Wardell, the young boy who found the bullet-ridden body on a bank by the river. She also was the murdered Eddie Sloan’s lover. She is determined to
protect he son at all cost, and her anguish at losing Eddie, is a deeply moving part of the novel.

There is a bluesy, jazzy ebb and flow throughout the novel. Swirling and dipping in language and imagery. While reading it I often had music by Billie Holiday, Bud Powell, Lester Young, and Bill “Count” Basie playing
across the room. The music supplementing the rhythm and phrasing of the writer’s words. The richness of the many characters, and the honest writing that cut right to the quick.

It is always a pleasure to discover a novel and a writer whose vibrant prose, and dialogue, make me reluctant to turn the final page. Reach the Shining River is such a novel.”

–Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions

Link to the original review on Facebook: here.

The Success of the French Edition of “Killarney Blues”

November 2, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

“Carried by a genuine writing talent, Killarney Blues is a Noir novel full of melancholy and unfulfilled dreams with a surprising glimmer of hope at the end. Without the slightest naivety. A revelation.”  —Le Soir

“A cathartic novel that ultimately creates positive emotions, like the blues can do. Poignant.” —booknode.com ­­

“A luminous novel that chases away the darkness… All its characters are at a crossroads and they will either meet the Devil himself or find a way towards a new life.” —Appuyez sur la touche lecture

“Moving, tragic, masterly crafted.” —Lea Touch

“In a style that is sometimes luminous, sometimes direct, sometimes poetic, Colin O’Sullivan traces his narrative path, creates incredibly vivid and appealing characters and brings the reader, to the 12-bar beat of the blues, towards a heart-breaking denouement.” —Le blog du Polar de Velda

“O’Sullivan’s beautiful writing transcends a rather banal story and gives it tragic depth.”  —Encore du Noir

“Colin O’Sullivan’s Killarney Blues brings us to a paradoxical Ireland, half-way between mythological timelessness and modernity. …A novel full of deep melancholy and beautiful blues.”   —actualitte.com

“A great, great book.” —unwalkers.com

“A hard, poignant novel of great humanity… remarkably well written…” —Rolling Stone

 

 

 

Writing, reading, music, and “far-awayness”. David Hogan interviews Colin O’Sullivan

May 27, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

David Hogan: You’re in the long tradition of writers leaving Ireland in order to write about it.  Is there something unique about the country that pushes you away while at the same time drawing you back?

Colin O’Sullivan: The Irish have always been a migrant race as you know, for many reasons too long to get into here , and I’ve always been fascinated by those great Irish writers who left and became the geniuses we know today – I’m thinking specifically of Joyce and Beckett, two artists who loom very large in my writing life. I never understood it until I actually did it, I suppose. That is until I upped and left Ireland and spent years abroad, I never really understood the idea of exile and writing about your native country from a distance (physical and emotional). But I think it has made me a better writer. I don’t think I’d write as much or as well if I had stayed at home – I think I’d be far too busy drinking Guinness and watching football (nothing at all wrong with those pursuits, but I don’t think I’d write very much). The fact that those delights aren’t available to me here means I have to get down to work and the hard graft of writing. And following on from that, I then have, I suppose, the time and inclination to look back and contemplate my native land. That’s not to say that all my work will be set in Ireland – my new work is wildly different and has nothing at all to do with my homeland.

D.H.: What are you working on now then?

C.O’S.: I won’t go into too much detail (might jinx the whole endeavour) and even to describe it might not do it justice, but let’s for the moment say it is an: existentialist-gothic-tragi-political-satirical-absurdo-comedy…with wolves, set in Japan 2045. If that doesn’t whet the appetite I don’t know what will!! If Killarney Blues was my Blue period, then I’m just moving into my Cubist period – do you like the way I align myself with geniuses?

D.H.: Bernard in Killarney Blues loves American blues “Because it’s exotic. From far away.”  You’re an Irishman living in Japan; can this sentiment be applied to yourself in anyway? 

C.O’S.: Yes, I think that can be applied to me in many ways. Not just because I live in Japan and appreciate the “difference” in culture, but in my artistic tastes too. Growing up I didn’t like traditional Irish music at all (I’ve since changed my mind) and wanted only rock, and certainly not Irish rock music, but British or American only. The further away the better from Irish shores the more authentic, I had foolishly thought. I don’t know why this was, a form of teenage rebellion I suppose. And I went through a phase of reading loads of American literature and eschewed anything from Ireland too. Maturity in thought and a sense of balance comes with age of course and I’m not so silly and dismissive anymore. But I still have a lot of Bernard in me – been going through a jazz phase over the last few years, which has of course absolutely nothing to do with Ireland and I enjoy it’s “far-awayness”.

D.H.: Funny you should mention jazz, your writing has a jazzy, improvisational feel to it.  Are you able to get into ‘a zone’ where this flows?   Does it come in the editing?  Do you have to be careful not to over-edit?

C.O’S.: The zone. Yes, that’s a good word, I suppose I do get into it and try to go with that particular flow. It’s difficult to describe. But I do aim for that intensity of thought and concentration, whatever happens within that, whether it is jazzy or not, I don’t know. I’m looking for that voice I suppose. In Killarney Blues I was trying to get Bernard’s voice or Jack’s or whoever, yes, and improvising around them. As for editing, well, I can’t stop. I can go over pages again and again for hours, and still might miss something! There comes a stage when you have to call in another pair of eyes. Luckily I have a great editor at Betimes Books to help with that.

D.H.: Did you listen to the blues while writing “Blues?”  Something else?

C.O’S.: I did listen to a lot of blues at that time yes, while going for a walk or whatever, or just doing work around the house, not during the actual writing time though: I prefer silence. Instrumental music I can take, a little; I can’t listen to anything with lyrics when I write, I get too involved. Drone-like stuff works best. But yeah, you can’t beat silence when you’re trying to get the words down.

D.H.: There’s the great line in Killarney Blues: “The kind of person you’d release from prison on the back of songs.  As if music, and music alone was enough.”  This speaks to the redemptive power of music and, by inference, literature.  What are the respective powers of the two mediums to you?  How are they alike or different?

C.O’S.: They’ve always been there for me, that’s about as much as I know. I’ve always been fascinated by books, music, all art in fact, and have always found them to be my salvation. That sounds very pretentious, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I’ve always needed books and music around me at all times and I get antsy when they are out of reach. Music from my teenage years still gets me tremendously excited as do books that I’ve read and cherished several times. And I love that feeling of being overwhelmed and utterly excited by art. It’s thrilling, and I’ve never lost it.

D.H.: The demise of long forms (e.g. the album as opposed to singles and the novel) has long been predicted.  Are you concerned about this?  What will be lost or gained?

C.O’S.: I’m not overly concerned; I think music will always find a way. I do miss things, the long playing albums like you say, the cover art that isn’t so important anymore, sleeve notes, that kind of thing. Something like Bowie’s Low is hard to conceive as anything other than a two-sided record: listening to it straight on the iPod, it misses something; you feel like you have to turn over for the very different second “side”. But musicians are still making all kinds of great music and it’s still finding a way to get to us, so I’m happy enough about that, I guess. The novel will also endure. As an art form it’s too important not to.

D.H.: Desert island question: would you take a book or an album?  Which one?

C.O’S.: A book, something huge, like The Complete Shakespeare, or War and Peace. I already have music playing in my head 24 hours anyway. Even my dreams have a soundtrack and I wake up thinking: Wow, I haven’t heard that song in years.

D.H.: What type and color of hat are you wearing these days? 

C.O’S.: This grey one:

FullBW

D.H.: What are you reading and/or listening to? 

C.O’S.: On the current playlist: Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, PIL, The Fall, Swans and Nick Cave/Warren Ellis.

Reading: Tim Winton’s Eyrie, Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary, and Kevin Barry’s short story collection Dark Lies the Island.

D.H. What does Colin do for fun?

C.O’S.: Music and books, what else is there? Actually I do enjoy watching football (that’s soccer to you David) movies, and good TV dramas too, the usual box set stuff that everyone loves, and if there’s a good comedy out there I’m on it, like Veep or Louie – boy, do we need a laugh in the world these days… but that’s another story, eh?

New cover art for REACH THE SHINING RIVER

May 22, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

REACHx2700_NEW   Cover art: Keith Mallett

Cover design: JT Lindroos

We hope you would agree that this is a striking new cover for Kevin Stevens’ novel REACH THE SHINING RIVER, with its soundtrack of jazz and blues.

The lady on the cover is, of course, Arlene Gray, wonderfully described in this reader’s review: “Arlene cleans hotel rooms by day and by night she sings of heartbreak in a blues club. Arlene knows what she is singing about…”

Read the full review — and more — here and an excerpt about Arlene Gray here  (with a soundtrack!).

We would like to thank the artist Keith Mallet who has graciously allowed us to use his artwork “Jazz Café” and, as always, our favourite designer JT Lindroos.

Colin O’Sullivan on Random pointless questions from rock music obsessives

January 28, 2015

BetimesBooksNow

Colin O' Sullivan

 Like the character of Bernard in my debut novel, Killarney Blues, many of my friends are music obsessives, the kind of people who wouldn’t be out of place in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.

These cardigan-wearers (to which I am a fully fledged and flouting member) often fire out pointless emails asking all kinds of random music questions. These have been happening for years, and the sad fact is that I have begun to cherish the arrival of these useless inquisitions.

Below are an example of some of the kinds of questions my muso buddies like to ask, and my deeply considered answers (we’re talking hours people, days). Please note also that these answers are liable to change. For example, when recently asked about my favourite Bowie album I instinctively answered Low, but on the following day could just have easily said Station to Station or Hunky Dory. Such is the kind…

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Book Review: Killarney Blues by Colin O’Sullivan

July 29, 2014

BetimesBooksNow

Thoughtful and beautiful review of KILLARNEY BLUES

Love, Sex & Other Dirty Words

The sun on the lake sparkles. Only a laden, dark cloud in the distance has the audacity to ruin the perfect picture. Bernard has one eye on it, knows how things loom, how those clouds can hover, then open and pour, drench, saturate. But not yet. There’s a few more hours of this brightness, and he’s intent on enjoying it.

He’s very happy to be sitting out in it with this pretty American by his side: Laura. Laura from Texas. Blue-eyed. Bouncy. Beautiful. They both sit on the edge of the main pier and stare out at the lake, the sound of gentle lapping under their feet. It’s almost idyllic. So many scenes like this can be found in spots all over Killarney. Some famous, well-trodden places. Some hidden treasures that await discovery.

This is just one of the frequented runs, but yes, it is, for the most part, an…

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