Peter McKinnon
The Songs of Jesse Adams
Acorn Press, Melbourne, 2014

ISBN: 978-0987428677

"(T)his is a well-written, insightful read for someone new to the Gospel story as well as for someone who knows it by heart. Once it grips you, you’ll find hard to put down."

 

Peter McKinnon’s debut novel, The Songs of Jesse Adams, tells the story of musician and singer Jesse Adams, a “boy from the bush” who makes it big in Melbourne against the backdrop of the socially turbulent 1960s.

But the somewhat mysterious Jesse, who connects with his fellow band members, roadies and fans in a far deeper, more meaningful way than anyone expects, soon finds himself running afoul of the authorities, in particular a corrupt and powerful triumvirate who include Premier Frank Pigdon (aka The Crown), businessman Bob Craven (aka The Magnate) and churchman Timothy O’Grady (aka The Cleric).

Jesse’s fame and following grows to incredible heights but then, after a final big bash at Festival Hall, it all ends in tears with Jesse dead. It’s then, when all hope seems lost, that something amazing happens...

Sound familiar? That’s because Jesse’s story is actually that of Jesus Christ and the whole novel is an innovative, though true-to-the-spirit, reworking of the Gospel story.

Once you realise that fact, it’s tempting to spend all your time trying to work out who’s who - for while some characters are obvious: Jesse’s cousin Billy as John the Baptist, for example, others may not be immediately clear - but to take such an analytical approach does tend to detract from this densely woven retelling.

One of the book’s key strengths - at least for a Melbourne-based readership - is its use of ‘Australianisms’ (one of the disciples, Will, an Aboriginal, takes the nickname Chiko in reference to the Chiko Roll he provided to Jesse during his time in the wilderness while the John and James, the “Sons of Thunder”, here become known by the self-explanatory moniker “Sons of Chunder") and local references including some of which, be warned, may bring a wave of nostalgia over the reader (remember that “bit of an eyesore”, the Gas and Fuel building near the Yarra?).

But it’s the fact that McKinnon, a psychologist and former business executive who has also worked with World Vision, manages to convey a sense of the challenging power of the Gospel story of Jesus Christ in his narrative that truly makes this book worth reading. This is no watered-down version – you need look no further than who Jesse spends his time with to get a sense of that.

The first novel published by Melbourne’s Acorn Press, this is a well-written, insightful read for someone new to the Gospel story as well as for someone who knows it by heart. Once it grips you, you’ll find hard to put down.

Follow this link to buy this book, The Songs of Jesse Adams.