Jack Kohl's THAT IRON STRING is an original tale featuring characters straddling the world of concert pianists and funeral directors. An odd fit? Maybe, but Kohl fearlessly pens this First Person narrative so as to give the reader a first-hand feel for his world. An author by trade, this reviewer knows the struggles of sharing what's inside the brain and heart, the pain of birthing characters conceived there and swaddling them on paper and in bytes for the world to see.
THAT IRON STRING Plays the Notes As Written
Through the perspective of the main characters Portsmouth Gourd and his cousin, Boston Gourd, a tale is told of musical prodigy, internal demons, competition and an odd throw of a pair of Fate's dice. Mystery-in-the-midst-of-mayhem is the order of the day in the lives of these characters, fumbling toward adulthood and artistic professionalism. The mystery of their beginnings would be the stuff of a separate novel!
There are many other interesting characters here as well as promising set-ups. The reader meets the ever-vigilant Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Harry of the family-run funeral home. There is Lana, the girl and now woman who presents the potential for increasing dramatic tension throughout the book. Dr. Neil Silver, Grand Master Teacher/Artiste...at least in his own mind, lends the story some comic relief.
From this reviewer's perspective these varied and evocative notes don't quite meld into the plot's melody as a whole. The reader may want more from each of these characters - the heart needs to beat stronger, tears need to fall. The creativity in the story is its strongpoint and it will be interesting to see where Kohl's fingers ply next.
For the music novice, the novel provides an adventurous introduction into the world of competitive concert piano playing. For the veteran of the competition circuit or simply the piano-phile, this book can imbue them with a spirit of camaraderie, even as it sends a chill down the ego spine of the overly-inflated! This book will touch a chord with them all.
*All photos courtesy of Jack Kohl.
Joseph Anthony Rulli is a transplanted Hoosier, living in Chicago since the fall of 2006. A 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BA, History) and a 1992 graduate of St. Meinrad School of Theology (MDiv) he taught Social Studies, Religion, Philosophy and History at the high school level. He began writing as a career upon his arrival to his second city and has had two short stories published, a stage play performed, an electronic tour book published online and The Chicago Haymarket Affair (History Press/Arcadia Publishing, 2016) his first print book.