Sutherland, Luke - Jelly Roll
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When psycho saxophonist Malc walks out on The Sunny Sunday Sextet, the five remaining friends decide that for too long they've looked like "a bunch ay farmers at the Christmas dinner dance." Slicked up, they embark on a tour of the Highlands, acquiring a brilliant new sax player, Liam--only he's black. Tensions rise as the tour progresses, particularly for narrator Roddy, who idolizes Liam while ignoring his own descent into druggy hell.
Luke Sutherland, shortlisted for the Whitbread's Best First Novel Award, begins this novel bravely--perhaps recklessly--with a lengthy, expletive-filled conversation between the five surviving band members. At first, the dialect is hard to grasp, the characters apparently indistinguishable in the often ridiculous banter of five men together. And then, gradually, patterns start to emerge in the improvisation, and individual, idiosyncratic voices come through the melée, voices that become stronger as the novel progresses. The milieu--Scotland, drugs, music--has become overly familiar in the last few years, but Sutherland is his own man: a writer with a brilliant ear for the rhythms of speech, an eye for the tragicomic, and a fine sense of pace--which together draw you in mercilessly. --Alan Stewart.