Alberts’ debut novel tells a story based on the true journeys of jazz artists and junkies in the 1960s.
During a period of grand experimentation with drugs and music, San Francisco jazz piano prodigy Louis Parker yearns to share the spotlight with such greats as John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Chet Baker. To be more like his heroes, he experiments with “the narcotic state” to achieve the precision, sensitivity and focus he hears in the “thick rhythmic delight of jazz.” Like them, he falls prey to addiction, confusing the excitement that floods his body when he plays music with the rushing sensation caused by injecting “the elegant toxic poison” into his bloodstream. Although the narrator claims that life’s purpose is to seek out the “mystic glue” of friendship, Louis’s sights are always on the next drug score—and a little bit of intimate companionship when the nod is over. His associates, some real and well known—Janis Joplin makes a cameo—and some not quite there, are mostly “dope fiends.” Louis tries to get high from morning glory seeds, and uses meth, pot, LSD, PCP, MDA and other drugs, but nothing quells Louis’ “hurt-the-deep, sealed-up loneliness” as heroin does. Despite Louis’ repeated attempts at getting clean and harrowing stints in the justice systems of Oregon and California—as well as Gestalt therapy sessions—Louis, like his heroes, ultimately fails. Alberts sometimes channels a spontaneous poetry worthy of Kerouac’s best, and his narrative, full of confusing, hazy, blood-spattered recollections and imaginary characters, recalls the writings of Burroughs. That said, the novel switches gears erratically from first-person to third-person points of view. Occasional inconsistencies make the book more perplexing; early on, Louis repeats the word, “exulted,” when he refers to his desire to be one of them, and 204 pages later, Louis receives his “chance to be exalted.”
A scattered, Beat-inspired novel featuring the best-laid schemes of jazz festivals and frenzied fixes gone awry.