Mind Fields: Coltrane’s Dead

Mind Fields

This is an excerpt from my novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man:

The men get into the car and Zoot steers it carefully across the bridge. “Still need a Pissngas?” Zoot inquires mockingly.

“I forgot I had to pee,” says Aaron. “Now I got to pee really really bad.”

“Well shit, get out and pee, we about fifteen minutes from the Steelville turnoff.”

Aaron goes out behind a bush and relieves himself. He hears the sound of his own stream against a world that has gone supernally silent. There is no wind, no bird song. The sky is a weird shade of pink. As soon as he is finished the rain begins to fall again. The drops are huge, heavy, laden with silt. Covering his head, Aaron races back to the car.

After driving for ten minutes in silence, a black and white road sign appears. The trapezoidal shape of the state of Missouri encloses a number four. Fifteen yards past this sign there is a green board with white letters and an arrow pointing to the right. Steelville, eight miles, it indicates. At this one-sided intersection is a little gas station and a tiny grocery store skirted by a wooden plank walkway. Zoot pulls into the station. He gestures to Aaron to stay in the car. This part of Missouri isn’t explicitly segregated, but it has the taint of old rebellion. Zoot asks a black attendant to fill the tank, and Tyrone jumps through the rain towards the store, looking for another pack of cigarettes. Aaron watches the Schlitz Beer sign flicker, rolls the window down to smell the storm-soaked earth. He knows this country, too. He has come here for vacations with his family. They have gone to Bagnell Dam, Lake of the Ozarks, Wildwood Resort. In a childhood with a paucity of happy memories, this country means peace, relief, respite, jumping from a pier into the lake, riding horses, mom on her best behavior, dad relaxed and having fun.

Zoot chats with the station attendant about the twister, informs him that the Willens Creek Bridge is no longer covered.

“Be damned,” the man says, “twister blew the top the bridge away? No shit?”

“No shit, almost blew us away too, turned this here Lincoln Continental hundred eighty degrees backward but left a cigarette in the ashtray, still lit and ready to smoke.” Zoot’s dialects always reflect his circumstances. He pronounces “this here” as “thissheer”.

Hurriedly finishing the transaction to get out of the rain, the attendant takes Zoot’s money and rushes back into the shelter of the store.

A moment later, Tyrone comes walking out, holding a newspaper limply in his hand. His mouth is hanging open, his eyes have a staring and shocked quality, as if he has just survived a terrible battle. He opens the passenger’s door , throws the newspaper towards Aaron in the back seat and slumps abruptly on the plush leather, one leg hanging out the side.

“You look like you just got terrible news,” Zoot observes with concern.

Tyrone nods and points towards the newspaper.

“Coltrane’s dead,” he says mournfully. “It’s in the paper. He died yesterday.”

There is a stunned silence. Aaron feels as if he has just taken the first plunge on a roller coaster ride, his stomach goes up through his chest.

“No,” Zoot says. “No.”

Tyrone has the paper folded out to the entertainment section. It is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There is a big article about Barbara Streisand, a review of the new James Bond movie, a review of the Led Zeppelin Concert at Kiel Auditorium. Down in the far right corner of the page is a two-paragraph squib. ‘Jazz Musician John Coltrane Dies,” it says. There is sketchy information about the jazz giant succumbing suddenly to liver cancer.

Aaron puts his face in the paper and squeezes himself with it, crumbling it around his cheeks. “He is forty years old!” He wails. “Forty years old! What is happening? Why are jazz musicians dying? Why Coltrane, of all people, Trane? “

Desperately, he claws at Zoot’s shoulder. “We’re all professional jazz musicians, Zoot. Is this my future? Is this Tyrone’s? Are you going to die on us, too? Why can’t we survive? What are we doing to ourselves?”

Zoot stares straight ahead, seeing nothing. He reaches across his shoulder and pats Aaron’s hand, squeezing it.

“You’re just beginning to see what it’s like,” the old musician says. “It’s dangerous to be a genius. That’s why I stay in this chitlin circuit groove, play the college campuses, keep my mid-stream profile. And this is hard enough. You think Coltrane can be inspired every night? You think he can get up there and reach down into his guts and deliver a brilliant set five nights a week, be a genius?”

A core of bitter reflection stains Zoot’s voice. These are things he generally keeps to himself. As he speaks, his anger grows and his voice scrapes with frustration and old pain.

“You have to use something, like Bird, like Lester, you have to use something to get to that place where you even feel like playing at all, let alone be great. Then you raise the standard, people turn out and expect to be transformed, to hear an oracular performance, night after night. I smoke my weed, that’s how I do it. And I don’t ask too much of myself. That’s why I’m sixty-three and still playing. I know how much I can give. Men like Coltrane, they don’t know moderation, they can’t know moderation, they have to keep pushing the limits or the critics jump on their ass, the fickle fans get restless, the talk on the street starts goin’ ‘round, ‘Trane’s lost it, Bird’s lost it, Jackie’s lost it, Prez’s lost it, Bud’s lost it! You have a couple bad nights and all these assholes who can’t play a note go talking, he’s lost it, lost it, getting’ tired, man, runnin’ out of steam, his great days are behind him, what a shame, used to be a great musician.”

Zoot pauses for a moment, looking at his sidemen, at his disciples in the mystic art of music. Then he spits a long gobbet out the window and says, with a lengthy and contemptuous drawl, “Sheee-it! Son of a fucking bitch!”

He turns backward to look at Aaron. Cobra-like, he shifts his body, glancing at Tyrone beside him. He is seething, indignant. “That’s why genius musicians die. They have to die! Ain’t no choice! Once they get a reputation as a genius, they have to be a genius every night. They use it up! Then they’re gone!”

He turns on the engine and drives about a hundred yards down the road. He pulls onto the shoulder and scrunches the emergency brake with his foot. He puts his large hands in front of his face, then leans into them and begins to weep.

It is contagious. These three friends, of different ages, races, different backgrounds, are not afraid to show their feelings to one another. The three jazz musicians, on their way to a gig, taking a short cut through the back roads of Missouri, pull onto the side of the country lane and weap for John Coltrane.

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Honest-Man-Arthur-Rosch-ebook/dp/B01C3J0NK2

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Arthur Rosch is a novelist, musician, photographer and poet. His works are funny, memorable and often compelling. One reviewer said “He’s wicked and feisty, but when he gets you by the guts, he never lets go.” Listeners to his music have compared him to Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, Randy Newman or Mose Allison. These comparisons are flattering but deceptive. Rosch is a stylist, a complete original. His material ranges from sly wit to gripping political commentary.

Arthur was born in the heart of Illinois and grew up in the western suburbs of St. Louis. In his teens he discovered his creative potential while hoping to please a girl. Though she left the scene, Arthur’s creativity stayed behind. In his early twenties he moved to San Francisco and took part in the thriving arts scene. His first literary sale was to Playboy Magazine. The piece went on to receive Playboy’s “Best Story of the Year” award. Arthur also has writing credits in Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug, eDigital, and Cat Fancy Magazine. He has written five novels, a memoir and a large collection of poetry. His autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man won the Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest in 2016.

More of his work can be found at www.artrosch.com Photos at https://500px.com/p/artsdigiphoto?view=photos

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The Perils Of A Writer’s Career: Guest Post by Art Rosch

I’ve known Art Rosch since 2009, when he became a member of a writing site I was administiring called Writers’ World. Although I’ve never met him in person, we’ve been online friends, supporting one another like only authors can ever since.  Art is a great guya da, and a fine photographer, and a damn good writer. You can feel the honesty in his words as you read them, and that’s not something all authors can do. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Art’s books, Confessions of an Honest Man, and The Road Has EyesI’ve also had the privilage of featuring an interview with Art in my 2016 series on publishing, as well as having him as a member on my more recent Ask the Authors series in March and April. 

During my Ask the Authors series, I did a segment on Building an Author Platform. As a member of the author panel, Art expressed his frustration with the whole author platform/marketing and promotion thing and wasn’t sure how he could respond to my questions in a useful manner. Art had tried many paths to marketing and promotion, at times investing much money with little returns. He didn’t understand the problem and explained, “I can’t even give away books.”

This is one of the pitfals for today’s authors. We’re writers, not marketers. I think we all have gone through it at one time or another, (or will for new and upcoming authors). It’s easy for writers to become disheartened with the whole promotion process, especially if they’re not seeing results from their efforts. I told him to give me whatever he had. If he couldn’t tell me what had worked, he should tell me what hadn’t worked for him and why. I would take whatever he could offer. His response was a wonderfully told author’s journey that was too lengthy to be included in that segment of Ask the Author, but was worthy to appear on Writing to be Read, none-the-less. So, with that in mind, I give you this Guest Post by Art Rosch:

Art Rosch

I’m the last person to ask about marketing and publishing.  Perhaps my experiences might be cautionary, might enable other writers to consider how they proceed.  I can only offer my history as a writer.  You can call me disillusioned, but that’s actually a positive state.  It’s good to dream but it’s important to temper the dream with reality.  You can get swept down some terrible false paths by unskilled dreaming.  I believe that this mantra, “dreams can come true if you persist” is a shibboleth.  A lot of bullshit.  It takes skill to dream the right dream. It takes skill and practice to execute a dream and bring it to fruition.  Everything else is about karma.  Destiny.

In 1978 I took a chance and sent the manuscript of a short story to agent Scott Meredith.  At the time, Meredith had a branch of his prestigious agency that read unsolicited works for a fee.  We’ve been warned countless times about this flaky practice, but it was, after all, Scott Meredith.  He represented Norman Mailer and Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and James Michener.  I scratched together my fifty bucks and mailed the 3600 words of my comic science fiction tale about a planet where there are six distinct genders.  It was called Sex And The Triple Znar-Fichi.

Eight weeks after mailing my story I received two envelopes.  One was small and one was large.  The small envelope contained a check for $1800.  The large one contained a two year contract to be represented by Scott Meredith.  The agency had sold my story to Playboy Magazine.

I was thrilled and motivated to write.  I was young, ambitious, and not a little fucked up.  There were problems in my life but everyone has problems.  A writer without problems is hamstrung.  Embrace your problems!  They’re your fuel!

A few months passed.  I was sending my works in progress to my editor at Meredith Agency.  He was doing his job.  He made it clear that my first science fiction novel was a bust and that I should focus on the book that has become The Gods Of The Gift.  Then I received a package from New York.  It contained a clear lucite brick featuring an etched Playboy logo.  It carried the news that my story had won Playboy’s Best Short Story Award.  There was another check for $500 and permission to use Playboy’s expense account to bring myself to New York City to attend the Playboy 25th Anniversary banquet and awards ceremony.

The Playboy Banquet was an amazing experience.  I met Playboy’s fiction editor, I got business cards from the editors at The New Yorker, Penthouse, Esquire.  I was a celebrity for the requisite fifteen minutes.  I was hanging with the big hitters.  My table mates at the dinner were Alex Haley, Saul Bellow and their wives.  I was in!  I had made it!

The Gods of the GiftI brought The Gods Of The Gift to a sort of completion and it went on the market.  And didn’t sell.  The agency kept batting for me but I wasn’t turning out viable material.  I wasn’t writing long form books that would sell.  But I was learning.  Two years went by without a sale, and the agency did not renew my contract.  I went into my personal Dark Night Of The Soul, a period that lasted a long time.  In spite of all the obstacles, I continued to play music and write.

In 1976 I had started work on my autobiographical novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man.  I was dealing with a paradox: how does one write an autobiographical novel at the age of thirty?  The answer isn’t complicated.  One starts.  And one lives.  Here I am, now, at the age of seventy, sitting on a huge body of work.  When I was contracted to an agent, I couldn’t write to sell. Now that I can write to sell, I can’t find an agent.  The ground has shifted.  We live in a new era.  Even with a publisher and an agent, we’re still on our own with regards to marketing.  Unfortunately, I’m not much of a marketer.  It takes money to market, and I’m not rich enough to front a sustained advertising effort.  I’ve been online for fifteen years.  I have eight hundred ninety Twitter followers.  My Facebook stats aren’t much better.  I have an excellent blog that features all my media work.  It’s gotten so that I’m shocked when I receive a comment.  I’m all over the web.  I’m on Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, you name the social medium, I’m there.

It’s my photography that gets the attention.  I suppose that’s natural.  Images are so much more accessible than literature.  We live in a tough time for writers of quality.  There are so many writers, yet it seems as if there are fewer readers.  The sales figures for my books are shocking.  I can’t even give them away.  In three years I’ve sold twenty five copies of my e-books.  I’ve given away about eleven hundred.  Those figures are spread over three books.  In spite of this epic failure I persist.  I figure I’m somewhere near my peak with regards to my writing skills.  I’m a late bloomer.  I’m also a writer who works a long time on each project.  Like decades.  Confessions Of An Honest Man only reached its completion when I switched from past to present tense.  It changed everything.  I finished that work last year.  Begun in 1976, finished in 2017.  Same with The Gods Of The Gift.  It didn’t totally gel until I had revised it countless times and solved a thorny structural problem.  Begun in 1978, finished in 2016.  I can at least regard my non-fiction memoir, The Road Has Eyes with some affection.  It took a year to write.

The Road Has Eyes

I again made contact with the Meredith Agency in 2001.  They didn’t give me a contract but one of their editors was interested in me.  Barry N. Malzberg is/was a science fiction author, critic and NYC literary personality.  His editorial approach (with me, anyway) was brutal, confrontational, maybe even abusive.  The cumulative effect on me was positive, but the experience gave me a two year bout of writer’s block.  He helped me with Confessions Of An Honest Man.  I’m considering making contact again.  With some trepidation.  He was a rough editor.

Confessions of an Honest ManMy plan?  I’m going to invest in Confessions Of  An Honest Man and produce paperbacks.  There’s something about a physical manifestation that enlivens a book.  My intuition tells me that this is the right step.  I’ll follow with my other books. I have an as-yet-unpublished fantasy book, The Shadow Storm (about fifteen years in the writing).  I’ll bring it out.  I expect nothing.  It’s not that I don’t care.  I’m just too f’ing old to have an attachment to results. It’s about the process of writing and publishing.  It’s obedience to my inner voice.

I’m a very flawed person. I’ve lived at the extremes of life.  I’ve experienced the horrors of addiction and homelessness.  I’ve been a yogi/junkie.  How’s that for a paradox?  But I survive and have found a niche in the world.  A place to write.  I live in an RV with my partner and two obnoxious teacup poodles.  That’s good enough.

Thank you for sharing with us, Art. Watch for my review of The Gods of Gift in the near future. You can learn more about Art and his work at:

Novelist and Memoirist, literary fiction, science fiction, poetry and essays
Arthur Rosch Books

Blogger 
Write Out Of My Head

Confessions Of An Honest Man
The Gods Of The Gift, science fantasy
The Road Has Eyes: A Memoir of travel in an RV

If you’d like to have a guest post you’d you’d like to have featured on Writing to be Read, contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com. I wish I could, but at this time, I am unable to compensate you for your words. This blog is a labor of love, and so must be all guest posts.

 


“Confessions of an Honest Man” plays a boogie on the heart strings of readers

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From the 1960’s to present day, Confessions of an Honest Man, by Arthur Rosch follows young jazz musician through the streets of New York and San Francisco through the jazz circuit of bars and clubs with famous musicians such as John “Avian” Coltrane and Zoot Prestige. It follows Aaron through the struggling childhood where he has to fight for anything that matters to him to become first, a mildly successful jazz musician, then a washed up heroin addict, into a recovering addict trying to straighten out the mess that his life had become, and miraculously overnight, a very successful jazz musician through a turn of fate. Aaron Kantro has some help along the way as he learns to love and be loved. He is guided by his mentor and fellow jazz musician, Zoot Prestige, then from a little dog, named Diz, who was for a while, his only friend and companion, as well as Zoot’s spirit once he passes and the spirits of others whom he has known in life.

It is a thought provoking story of a family afflicted by abuse, mental illness, depression and drug addiction. It’s the story of what can happen when we chose to defy the odds stacked against us and struggle to survive, and maybe even thrive, if we’re lucky. It is the story of Aaron Kantros, a boy who fell in love at a very young age, and his emotionally abusive mother, who was an abused child herself, his father, struggling to hold all of their lives together without a clue of how to achieve his goal, his younger brother, filled with anger and resentment, and his two sisters, illustrating their very different, individual methods of coping.

Confessions of an Honest Man is not just about the characters. It’s about a time, an era, where there is very little knowledge about, or help for dysfunctional families and doctors freely handed out whatever pills they thought might make your problem go away, and if those pills caused other problems? An era in which you looked after your own and people didn’t look too closely at one another. An era of racial biases, sexual biases, hypocrisies and prejudices. An era of jazz in its purest form.

Confessions of an Honest Man is written with compelling honesty and soul. He creates characters that are so real and relatable, that the disclaimer, “All characters are fictional”, is necessary because Rosch makes it easy for us to believe that they lived.  He captures the essence of time and place, creating events with vivid clarity within the mind’s eye. This story will move readers with emotion, touching hearts and stirring the empathy in all of us. I give Confessions of an Honest Man five quills.          Five Quills3

Other books by Arthur Rosch include The Road Has Eyes – An RV, a Relationship and a Wild Ride, and The Gods of the Gift.

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.