Thursday, 21 June 2012

BOOK REVIEW

The Summer Man (1967) by Jory Sherman

This book review is offered as part of Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase. Hop over and check out the fine mix of reviews by other book bloggers.

The women of Cambrian Grove were restless and bored with small-town men... Johnny was an exciting stranger, a folk singer who played his guitar with sensuous vitality. 

Renowned author Jory Sherman writes like a poet, which isn’t surprising considering he started his writing career as a poet. There is music in his prose — the lines have a certain rhythmic quality to them, like the notes of a musical score, as evident from his narrative style in The Summer Man.

Sherman wrote The Summer Man in 1967 (Challenge Books) and, I presume, it is one of his earliest works in general fiction before he went on to make a name as a prolific award-winning Western author. So far this is the only book of his I have read and if his writing style and storytelling is anything like it is in The Summer Man, I am going to read almost everything he has written.

The Summer Man is the story of wandering folk singer Johnny O’Neil who is as skilled with women in bed as he is playing the guitar. His nomadic existence takes him from one place to another and into the waiting arms of one lonely housewife to another. He fills a vacuum their husbands can’t or won’t. However, his restless nature does not permit him to stay very long in one place lest he gets used to the idea. The women, sexy as they come, are loath to see him go. But Johnny moves on because he is basically a loner and loves his freedom more than anything else.

Until one day, he arrives in Cambrian Grove, to the home of his best friend, Jim, an insecure alcoholic badly in need of rehab, and his sister Marty, a divorcee seeking love and comfort again. And then he meets Marty’s friend and neighbour, the beautiful and sensuous Lola, and life for the wanderer is never the same again. The explosive chemistry between the folk singer and the forlorn housewife is what this story is about.


"Lovely and lost, she struck a poignant minor key and touched Johnny in a new, disturbing way." 

Prolific author Jory Sherman. Photo: www.jorysherman.com

Sherman’s description of the lovemaking between Johnny and Lola is so poetic that you actually think you are reading one. The lure of Lola is so powerful that Johnny sheds his inhibitions and tells her that he loves her, a sentiment she reciprocates without hesitation. But then, Lola has a husband who doesn’t behave like one and Johnny has a disposition he can’t seem to get rid of.

"Lola offered more than a tender night's pleasure. Johnny knew he should move on, that it could only end sadly. Still he lingered."


I liked The Summer Man for the way it is written and not so much for the story. Although the story is narrated in the third person, in a mild sort of way, Johnny talks about his own itinerant life and sexual dalliances in the first person, but without being too explicit. For an initiation into Jory Sherman’s writing, the book made for interesting reading. I am looking forward to reading his Western fiction.

8 comments:

  1. Not sure why, but this makes me think of a John D. MacDonald book, and that ain't bad.

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  2. Charles, I am yet to read anything by John D. MacDonald and he is on my TBR list. I have heard much about him.

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  3. Maybe John D. Macdonald meets Tennessee Williams! Thanks for introducing me to a brand new author Prashant especially as it really isn't the kind of thing I would ever dream of picking up - but now that I've had some guidance I may have to think again. Thanks chum.

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  4. I've only sampled Jory Sherman's western fiction, but totally agree with you about the poetic style of his writing. And you have to use that word carefully, because "poetic" means florid, wordy, and boring to many readers.

    It certainly doesn't in Sherman's case; it ramps up the tension in a story and really gets you under the surface of the characters and the situations.

    Nice review. I didn't know Sherman wrote in other genres.

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  5. My two cents - sounds like John O'Hara to me. I always enjoy when the first book sampled by a new author so impresses me that I want to read everything that writer created. Just happened with David Karp.

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  6. Something like that, Sergio. Jory Sherman is a new author for me too. I have only read reviews of his books on blogs and websites. He is an acclaimed writer of Western fiction that has earned him prestigious awards. I found very little reference to THE SUMMER MAN online which made me think that it was probably one of his earliest novels. He writes very well, though.

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  7. Ron, I was hoping you'd write and I'm glad you did, especially since I enjoyed reading your review of Jory Sherman's SHADOWS OF YESTERYEAR and your interview with the author himself, earlier this year. I agree, describing his writing as poetic could mean different things to different readers and one needs to be careful while using the term in context of someone else's writing. You have a point when you say that Sherman "ramps up the tension" which I noticed in this book, my first by him. I can imagine the tension ramping up several notches high in his Western fiction. The book was a pleasant read and there was never a dull moment. I don't know how many books he wrote in genres other than Western, his decisive portfolio. I hope to read more of his books. Many thanks for your comments, Ron.

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  8. John, you said it. I'm often so impressed by the first book I read by a new author that I try and read as many books by the author as I can. It doesn't always work that way. I have seldom changed my first impression of a new author I have read. I usually read at least four to five books by every author so as to get a real feel for his or her writing. I have heard of John O'Hara but not David Karp, so thank you for introducing him to me.

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