Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lily's Review of The Jazz Cage, by Ray Chen Smith

Title: The Jazz Cage
Author: Ray Chen Smith
Publisher: Self
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Source: Author
Purchase: Amazon

Add to Goodreads
Prohibition-era mobsters collide with Underground Railroad abolitionists in The Jazz Cage.

It is 1924—sixty years after the South’s victory in the Civil War.

Frank McCluey, bounty hunter for the mob, is sent to help out a wealthy Virginian bootlegger. Frank’s job: track down two female slaves who’ve run away from the millionaire.

But the mob has made a bad choice. Instead of capturing the women, Frank decides to help them escape to Canada, his mission now aided by the pint-sized but steel-willed runaway Della and the outlawed Underground Railroad.

Soon Della and Frank become the target of slave catchers, cops, gangsters, and most chilling of all, a Confederate agent nicknamed the Hound for his ability to always sniff out and kill his prey.

This type of novel is completely out of my comfort zone. But I do like to challenge myself once in a while and explore other genres. I did something that generally I do not do. I checked out the reviews prior to taking this book on. They were all positive. 

Am I glad that I chose this novel to be adventurous with. WOW! What a ride! From beginning to end, this author kept me guessing and riveted to the edge of my seat.  I NEVER knew what was going to happen next. I was never able to predict the plan. 

I also never expected to completely love Frank McCluey and become one of his biggest fans. Especially in the beginning when he was hired by the dirty old Virginian millionaire to track and find two run-away slaves. His change of heart, his complete desire to finally do the right thing even if it meant sacrificing his life by aiding Della and Cece, just softened me to him page by page

Cece broke my heart and made it soar. I imagine that many black women/girls in that era went through many travesties of the kind she endured. It made me emotional to see how broken down she was, to the point of digression into a childish state. The soaring of my heart was through seeing how she began to heal. 

Della was just an astounding character whose twist in the end I never even dreamed of while reading this novel, though once I finally was let in on her own secret, it wasn't all that surprising. She really didn't have a plan, and thought mostly on her feet. She was so afraid, and yet she kept right on thinking, and moving. I really admired her. 

'The Hound'. He made the top 10 villains of 2013 list. God, he's so revolting. Just a worm of a person. The type of guy that should be locked up for his depraved urges and actions, yet he is useful and perfect for the job he does. He really is a hunter. How he always found himself one small step behind them just frustrated me. Pure evil, with a taste for blood and murder, he was a force to be reckoned with, and a hell of a villain.

Someone put this book on the movie screen. Even I would watch it and love it. I am not a huge fan of mob movies either. But I would be first in line for a movie ticket to this. The amount of action caused havoc with my breath. Every time things got a little calmer, and I would take a deep calming breath and continue reading, something would suddenly happen. And my breath would hitch again and I would think... 'Shit, this is it! They're caught. They're dead!' But Frank, Della and Cece found a way, and their demise would have to wait another day, much to 'The Hound's' frustration.

If you love this genre, you MUST read this novel. I don't read enough of these to make a reasonable comparison, but I am confident that this novel would be greatly enjoyed by those readers out there that like this type of story. If this is outside your comfort zone, but you are looking to explore a different genre, and you love action packed stories, I would definitely recommend you give this novel a chance.

About the Author:  Ray Chen Smith is a writer and teacher living in Los Angeles, California.

In his late twenties, he wrote a literary novel set in China then decided it wasn’t fit for public consumption. He did, however, chop up a couple of parts and sold the chunks to literary magazines. (Both stories can be downloaded for free from his website.)

For his second novel, he decided to go unabashedly commercial, and The Jazz Cage is the result.

He is currently finishing up his third novel, a thriller titled Dawn at Midnight.

Further information—the aforementioned short stories, a more detailed biography—can be found on Ray’s website:

He also welcomes comments, positive or otherwise, to his email address:

He promises to answer each and every email.

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