Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 60,000-65,000 words
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Ron Dionne is 52 and lives in Chappaqua. He has previously had a number of short stories published in magazines.
Jingo Dalhousie is a troubled wannabe musician who works as a janitor in his cousin’s New York jazz club. He finds his unusual name in a highly successful debut novel and feels driven to track the author down and discover why. However, the author has a secret she’s desperate to keep.
Sad Jingo opens with the protagonist, Jingo Dalhousie, being given a book that, mysteriously, has his name in it. Jingo cannot understand why and decides to track down debut author, Diana Medeiros. By night, he works as a janitor in a club surrounded by jazz musicians, something he aspires to be. The club is owned by his cousin, Harold. By day, he lives in a small flat, attempting to write and play music.
Jingo first goes to Diana’s publishers and then to a signing. There is a huge queue to see Diana, the book is a smash hit. Jingo finally gets to the front and questions her. Diana has no idea who he is and Jingo gets thrown out of the store without any answers. It’s worth saying that to reach this point in the plot I had to plough through 25% of the book – 15,000 words…
The focus then shifts to Diana. We learn she used to be a patient at a mental hospital and perhaps she knew Jingo there? But she cannot remember. Jingo for his own part continues to be obsessed with Diana. He appears at a reading and has a brief conversation with her before being beaten up by a guard and ends up in hospital.
Despite Diana’s reservations, she meets Jingo again and he plays for her in the club, the one time he manages to string together a decent piece of music. But Harold loses control of the business and Jingo is out of a job.
As Diana gets closer to Jingo (primarily because her problem mirrors his) she begins to admit her terrible secret is catching up with her.
If the above sounds a less than exciting summary, I apologise but there was little to get animated about in Sad Jingo. Where to begin? Well, there’s a mass of bland characters, some described, some not (it took me several thousand words to realise Jingo is a man in his sixties, well I think he is). Many of these featureless characters have ridiculous names which are used repeatedly, and often in full, instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ making the reading a challenge. Jingo and Diana take turns in engaging in long periods of introspective internal dialogue supposedly to help us understand them better. However, this meant it took 25% of the book to achieve three key activities, as I mentioned.
In the early chapters there’s excessive use of punctuation interrupting what little plot flow there is (I was shocked to read an acknowledgement to a copy editor). Some paragraphs are a page or more long and the formatting is not great.
There are other problems – past and present tense are mixed together in the same paragraph on several occasions. The dialogue is often white noise and generally meaningless, dull and barely moves the tale along, like listening to clucking hens. Sentences are regularly horribly mangled with repeated usage of the same word – just two examples comprise:
‘…author of a book about her book but had not read the book.’
‘…what’s wrong with that, what’s wrong with that Harold, tell me a single thing that’s wrong with that?’
In the final chapter Jingo learns Diana has killed herself and, after 62,000 words, I felt like following her…
Infrequent strong language.
Several formatting issues and typos. Many punctuation problems.
Rating: * One star