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J. Adams
J. Adams, author
It’s a bad night not to have wheels. Stranded in the rain, pacing the sidewalk, Jack gradually confronts the events that led him there and just how far off-track he’s gotten. A former firefighter now involved in more questionable pursuits, he views his present with trepidation and his past with regret. Memories of the men and women who once cared for him are the company he keeps, but with each passing reminiscence, Jack inevitably reaches the point in the story where the relationship went wrong. For a while, he’s able to avoid thinking about the worst thing that’s happened, but he won’t to be able to keep it from himself forever.
“I want to feel the miles roll out from under the wheels,” young Jack, a disappointed romantic caught between careers and lives, declares early in Adams’ long dark novel of the soul. Jack was planning to light out to the California coast, on a bus, rhapsodizing to a woman he cares for about how, rather than take a plane, he’s going to “Appreciate the distance, you know what I mean?” Her curt response—“So you’re trying to save money?”—exemplifies the novel that follows, a book in which the philosopher/ex-fireman/hustler, stranded at a San Francisco intersection, dreams of motion but finds himself stuck, reflecting on a life lived in pursuit of meaning and feeling despite the practical-minded world’s insistence on punishing such desires. “If beauty is the easiest good to recognize, it is also the easiest to mistake for something else,” he notes, deep in the book.

Adams builds to that insight over the course of that long night, and the extended memories of friends and lovers and disappointments that preoccupy Jack as he contemplates how he came to be so alone. The follow-up to Bent, Rode offers Adams ample chance to showcase a feel for motorcycles, night skies, crooked-steep San Francisco streets, and the thrill and terror of sexual outlawry. He’s especially good at pinning down moments between people that list quietly, inexorably toward a discomfiting wrongness.

A book of significant beauty and pain, broken relationships and sexual frankness, Rode’s survey of the events and people that led Jack toward bottoming out also at times proves playfully comic (Jack learns the worst thing a first-time sex worker can say to a prospective john: “My schedule’s wide open at the moment.”) The title promises momentum, but this character study is all about how a man got brought to this point, told with painstaking detail. But readers of impassioned, character-driven fiction that transgresses the polite will find much to relish here.

Takeaway: A penetrating novel of a philosopher/hustler/ex-fireman, reflecting on his life, stranded in San Francisco.

Great for fans of: John Rechy, Nelson Algren.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

Foreward Clarion Reviews

"A moving existential novel about personal identity and human connections." 

San Francisco Book Review

"A wonderful and revelatory read."

The Book Review Directory

"Rode is a unique coming-of-age story that will echo deeply in the reader’s heart . . .."