Genre: Historical Literary Fiction
“It’s 1971. Jack Bernstein is a struggling young rock ’n’ roll manager in New York City. Instead of a fancy office in Manhattan, a flashy car and backstage passes, he operates out of a basement apartment in working-class Queens, driving a cranky eight-year-old Volvo as he trolls third-string venues for hidden talent. He suffers enormous betrayal when Manhattan agents or “sharks” steal his talent. Jack finances a demo tape for his top talent by borrowing from a loanshark and pawning a friend’s guitar. When the tape fails to land a deal, Jack’s last hope is an offer from a friendly Queens mobster: manage his obnoxious nephew as best he can and doors will open. New York City in the late sixties and early seventies comes alive with all its intensity.”
A native of New York City, Stephen Shaiken had a long career as an attorney in New York and San Francisco before retiring. He now splits his time between Tampa, Florida and Bangkok, Thailand, the latter being the setting for his first three books, a series of thrillers.
This was a fun read for a lot of reasons. First, we’ve got Jack Bernstein, a young man still figuring life out who wants to make a career out of managing rock’n’roll bands. He was a fun character to follow around. The setting in time and place also adds a lot to the story. New York, mainly Queens, means we’ve got mobsters and loansharks, as well as lots of potential fans and opportunity, but also lots of competition. The time was a good one for music and lots of the big names from the 60s and early 70s get their name dropped in appropriate contexts in the story, which will give those old enough to remember that time a bit of a flashback (no, not that kind of flashback), and will hopefully resonate with the younger crowd as well. Then throw in a couple chances Jack takes that could backfire badly if things don’t come together quickly, just to turn up the intensity level, and you’ve got an engaging read that any music fan should enjoy.
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A small number of typos and proofreading issues.
Rating: **** Four Stars
Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words
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