Publication Date: July 14, 2013
In Jonny Bails Floatin and the Luck of the Bioluminescence by J. Lee Glassman, Jonny Bails is a Florida street performer when he develops a case of bioluminescence. His lucky new skill and newfound celebrity come with marked disadvantages. Can Jonny find the answers he seeks before its too late?
The author, J. Lee Glassman, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Glassman’s work is very much in the style of such southern literature classics as Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress. Jonny tells us his story in a raw and inexpert voice. If you’re looking for the polished feel of the classic English authors, this may not be the novel for you. The general feel is one of an extraordinary experience told by a character that has lived on the rough side of life. At times, Jonny is a hard-drinking womanizer who indulges in occasional recreational drug use.
Glassman lays a base for Jonny’s character by showing him at a low point and reminiscing about other low points with scattered positives. His mom was a drunk who would fall asleep (read pass out) in her chair watching over the flats, but she’s watching over the flats because that’s where Jonny plays, so he recognizes the attempted level of care and reciprocates getting her cold beverages. As the novel progresses you see a similar continued level of the sort of care that was modeled for Jonny between the character and his friends, specifically Becker who is something of a substitute touchstone in Jonny’s life. There is a thread of symbiotic relationships throughout this novel. At times those forged connections are a bit heavy handed but not in a way that detracts from the entertainment value and flow of the piece.
Glassman sets the party scene of southern Florida well. He gives us quirky characters living morally loose lives. Readers of Florida fiction will recognize Jonny Bails Floatin and the Luck of the Bioluminescence as fitting well in that Key West sub-genre of fiction. I’ve read countless Florida authors and while there is a sameness to Glassman’s work, his story is told with a unique element and in a clear voice. I have tried very hard in this review to not compare Glassman with Carl Hiaason but the comparison must be made. Hiaason skews more toward humor, but there is a very going-with-the-flow, no-matter-what-happens tone with both authors that can throw readers at first but be quite entertaining as the work progresses.
Readers will appreciate the fluid pacing of Jonny Bails Floatin and the Luck of the Bioluminescence. Glassman doesn’t give his audience the technical definition of the science fiction novel model. Bioluminescence is quite an interesting “gift” to give a character and Glassman plays that scientific angle in a way that is both believable and beneficial to the story line. Glassman wisely draws his readers in by showing us where we’re headed first so that we stay with Jonny to see how he got there.
If you’re a fan of relaxed Florida fiction, Jonny Bails Floatin and the Luck of the Bioluminescence is definitely the novel for you. If you have a beach vacation coming soon it’s the perfect novel to read outside with a cold beverage at hand.
J. Lee Glassman is based in South Florida and plays with the South Florida rock band, Luna Rex. Jonny Bails Floatin and the Luck of the Bioluminescence is his first novel.
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