Publication Date: February 12, 2015
Nick is a lawyer with a deep love for the music industry. His dream has always been to own his own record label and when Mel and his money comes into the picture, suddenly those dreams are within reach. Avery is a rookie reporter looking for her break and seeing potential for an interesting story in Mel, a man with clear ties to the unsavory. In a society of excess and where everything comes with a price, will they all come out alive?
Jukebox is a go-for-broke kind of story. There is a bravado to Viola’s writing that smacks of what Brits would call the “blag.” The opening salvo is of such malice and bile that it would make Guy Ritchie blush, but it is with purpose in that it very clearly introduces us to the world of Mel Greenberg. An outrageous character who easily could have become a caricature without the shock of his walking “on screen” and ripping the atmosphere with his violent verbal outburst. Viola explodes into the reader’s consciousness with the kind of story she’s going to tell and with the adaptability, you must have to truly get where she’s going and embrace the outrageous and frequently violent humor that emanates from the first page to the last. Jukebox is not for everyone. It is the novel that people looking for “clean” fiction and sweet story lines will want to avoid.
Avery is a second-year journalist looking for her Watergate. Her first feeling of affinity for Nick shows her naivety when she’s thrilled as he correctly guesses that she’s named after Avery Brooks who played Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from 1993-1999. She reads, especially at the start, as young and so when she determines to uncover Mel’s secrets, a man we’ve already met in violent fashion at the start of the novel, readers will suspect that this woman will be out of her depth in spectacular fashion. Indeed, Mel is surrounded by classic underworld characters. The dearth of nicknames of Mel’s “boys” is like watching a Kray documentary (British underworld bosses, for those who may not have heard of the legendary criminal family).
I don’t know much about the music industry really, especially as it stands in the U.K. While Jukebox is unlikely to be a world that the author has experienced (dear Lord, I hope not), she seems quite familiar with the music industry and even makes a few jabs that feel informed. Her professional style of writing leads this reader to believe that perhaps her world is more akin to Avery’s work in journalism. Between the copious f-bombs and interjections by Mel’s nicknamed thugs (Nick refers to their presence as “Orwellian voyeurism” (Page 55), a term that I love and plan to find a way to use in my life), there is an elegance to Viola’s writing style. There is no faulting Viola’s editing and economy of language. Her story moves with a frenetic energy common in such a gritty story but a pithy intelligence rarely seen in the noir genre.
“So what about Nick?” you ask. Nick is the motivator for the story but much of it happens TO him instead of as a result of his activity in the by-play. He is integral to Jukebox but Avery and Mel are the stars. Nick, while well written, is Mercutio to Mel’s Romeo, Coleman to Mel’s Serge, Elvis to Mel’s Joe (if you get these references, you read some very good books).
Jukebox is a fabulous read. Very well written, well plotted and extremely intelligent but also very violent. If you’re not easily offended, pick this one up today.
Read an excerpt and buy Jukebox by Saira Viola on