Kenneth T. (Houston, Tx)
Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer
A bit like the author, Wesley Stace, this book is a compilation of parts. Musical history, early twentieth century political and social history, and a history of a murder, the whole is indeed better than the description of its parts. Stace is the alter ego of composer and musician John Wesley Harding, a name itself created from that of a 19th century gunslinger. (John Wesley Hardin is perhaps better known to us in Texas.) Although there were some slow stretches, the period speech and detail are terrific and form the ribbon which wraps this witty and very clever tale. I shall have to avail myself of Hardings music along side Hardins legends after this roundabout.
Dona N. (San Rafael, CA)
Murder, Music and Mystery
This is a rare combination which makes for an intelligent work of historical fiction. Well developed characters, sharp dialog, and an exciting plot result in a well-paced story. An intriguing and unique mystery in a musical setting.
Rachel B. (Waynetown, IN)
Descriptive, rich and enjoyable. A touch slow in pace
I was immediately drawn into the question of whether this was a story about HOW the event described in the first pages came to pass, or if it was about how that event did not happen as described. Along the way, I enjoyed the passion for music that the author shared through his characters, as well as the subtle wit and humor throughout. The only thing that bothered me was that very often I found that the narrator's excessive descriptions and musings tended to bog down the rhythm and take me out of the story fairly often. A little streamlining would push this story from a 4 to a 5 for me.
Carole A. (Denver, CO)
An intimate view of music, murder and the creative life
Literature frequently offers a chance to voyeur through the lives of others. Wesley Stace certainly offers that activity throughout this novel. The initial chapter offers great promise. Several ensuring chapters are somewhat tedious; however, having read Misfortune, the promise of a good writer remained. If you slug through the Jessold novel does pick up and is its own reward.
Stace’s participation and knowledge of the musical world brings a vivid picture of the intrinsic ups and downs. The introspection and descriptions by the narrator are enlightening. The use of language, somewhat forgotten by many authors, is delightful and charming.
Not a mindless read for sure, but a thoughtful read that offered even more on the second reading. There is a plethora of research and avenues to offer a serious book club.
Gary R. (bolingbrook, IL)
a book on a musician by a musician
I'm not normally a big fan of historical fiction but finding out that the author Wesley Stace is also the musician John Wesley Harding I thought I would give it a read.really glad I decided to, it's quite a good story told by the music critic Leslie Shepard,who befriends the up and coming composer Charles Jessold,it seems, at least to me, to mirror the opera Mr.Jessold was composing.The insights into the English society at that period of time, before the great war and after, were very interesting. The collecting and transcription of the folk songs of the countryside, the period during and after the war, all add to the authenticity of the story. But mostly it's the story of the rise and downward spiral of a musical genius by someone who knows. Give it a read, well worth the time.
Nancy O. (Hobe Sound, FL)
Very twisted but good.
Once I started this book I could not stop reading. I liked it and was intrigued by the story, enough so that I finished the book in one sitting. I have to say that I did not see the twist in the story coming at all, so in that sense, it was surprisingly refreshing -- it had a storyline quite different than anything I've read recently. My only problem with this book is that the music speak was a bit tedious at times, and I found myself skimming to get back to the story once in a while, which I can overlook because of the strange and twisted story the author has laid out here. Otherwise, there was a clear sense of time and place, which is important in a good novel, and the characters were so pathetic that the author did his job well in creating them. I'd recommend it to people interested in historical fiction, or to people who enjoy a good twisty plot. Fans of Stace's other books will also like this one.
Betsey V. (Austin, TX)
Music and murder
Wesley Stace is no newcomer to music. He has composed 15 albums under the name John Wesley Harding, music of sardonic rock mixed with covers of British ballads. In his third novel, he turns to early the 20th century music scene of the pastoral music and the atonal avant-garde world of Schoenberg.
The novel opens with a report of a murder/suicide of a rising young composer: Charles Jessold, and the shooting of his wife. There are parallels to the life of homonymic (in name) Carlo Gesualdo, the Rennaissance composer. The first part of the book is the version of the police. The second part, "Post-Mortem,"gives a wholly different picture of the murder.
The story is told by Leslie Shepherd, a composer and patron who worked with Jessold on his latest opera. The narration is dry and witty, if a bit fusty and precious at times, but true to the period of the story. Very esoteric and scholarly. It helps if the reader is familiar with classical music and opera in order to fully appreciate the nuances of wit and mordancy.