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Novel Reviews

A powerful novel of
an artist’s struggle to
find his own unique voice

Summer, 1964. Denver folksinger Jory Durham is watching his world fall apart. His drinking is getting worse. He’s dead broke. His best friend is leaving town. His relationship with his girlfriend is hanging by a thin thread. And a deranged fan is worming his way into Jory’s life. But worst of all, the great folk-music fad that filled the city’s coffeehouses night after night is on the decline.

To Jory, acoustic music was never a trend – it’s what he lives for. It’s taken him two years to work himself into the local folk-club circuit. Now those clubs are folding. But he may have a chance at redemption: A benefit concert to save the coffeehouse where he got his start. If he and his fellow musicians can get the club back on its feet, folk music in the Mile-High City might thrive again. And maybe – just maybe – Jory will be able to continue to live his passion: The Music!

© 2008 LindLyfe Publishing

Reviews for East of the Holyland, available at Lulu.com and Amazon.com.

…. “You’re talking about this place (LA) like it’s the Holy Land or something.” Folksinger Durham’s angry reaction when his best friend challenges him to try his talents against the heavy competition in LA. But Durham lacks real confidence in his own musical ability and wants to cling to a dying local folk scene and a crumbling love affair in Denver.

Bob Lind takes us through a stand-out seven days in young Jory Durham’s life when everything begins to change, which sets him on the path towards LA.

All the elements of a “can’t put down” read are packed into this fast-moving story : raging emotions, domestic violence, a love triangle, loyal friendship, hard drinking , drugs, sex, betrayal, biker gang vandalism, rejection, even suspicion of murder.

The characters and dialogue are down-to-earth and believable. Lind’s prose throughout is no less brilliant than what his throngs of music fans have come to know and treasure.

There is not a boring moment in the book …Bob keeps up our interest, keeps it quick paced and lots happening. He grabs readers’ emotions chapter after chapter.

The hero is often dislikeable, but loveable, and in the end Bob had me really feeling for the guy.

The story builds to what I felt was a highly emotional climax at the Concert where our hero’ s confidence is unleashed and he discovers his deep-down feelings for his music and his friends. Bob had my tears flowing at this point…That’s when you are sure you are into a really great novel.

A line here and there brings to mind some of the lyrics of Bob’s songs.

West Virginia summer…Tapestry kittens …Sunday walks thru the park.

Whether it is biographically true, or not, doesn’t matter – What matters is this novel stands on its own as an example of worthwhile literature.

I usually devour a novel a week and I loved this book…and reckon it is a really great story.

Hope you all enjoy reading “East of the Holyland” as much as I did.

It was a long time coming but well worth the wait. Now I’m thirsting for publication of Bob’s second novel. I suspect that’s going to depend on sales of this first one, though.

–John Madden, Bob Lind fan (Australia).

I finished reading Bob’s book a week or so ago and thought I’d share just a couple of thoughts.

A couple of caveats:

* I don’t review books for a living, so my comments are personal, not professional. Take ’em for what they’re worth.

* I’m a long-time fan of Bob’s and, therefore, lost all objectivity some time ago.

I have to admit I found it impossible to read without hearing Bob’s voice throughout. In the introduction he mentions that it is the most biographical novel he’s written, so I guess that’s understandable. However, a part of me wishes I could have been handed the book without any way of identifying the author. I might be able to be more objective (for my sake, not this review’s).

I found it to be a “sneaky-good” read. The plot and characters are not terribly complex, but after several pages you realize that the narrative is making you work harder (i.e., read and think) than the story line might suggest… and it carries throughout the entire book. Bob’s writing is every bit as strong in prose and dialog form as it is in lyric form.

The characters are interesting and a few of them are really quite enjoyable to meet and consider (e.g., Wesley and Bagel). I particularly liked the consistency, honesty and laying bare of protagonist Jory Durham’s character even if, in the process, he comes across as an emotional – and sometimes physical – thug. (He’s really quite insufferable, even though occasionally sprinkled with a bit of rogue, and sure isn’t someone for whom I found myself rooting.) But he’s consistent to the end and there is no 11th hour epiphany, which was refreshing.

I’m sure that it’s a pretty accurate recollection of what the Denver folk scene was like at the time, which was fun for me, personally, to read about. Being from New England, I always assumed no folk music existed outside of Cambridge and the Village. I never thought or knew anything about other folk pockets.

Would I recommend it? Of course. It’s thoughtful. It’s raw. It’s interesting. It’s honest. It’s unapologetic. It’s well written. It’s Lind.


– Terry Smith, Bob Lind fan.

My first reaction to “East of the Holyland” was surprise at its style. If anyone knows what he is doing with words it is Bob Lind, so I knew his method was anything but inadvertent. There is plenty of inventive and vivid language in the novel, but it seemed to come in spurts; in between the prose struck me as fairly tame. I suppose my reaction was prompted by some of the reading I had done right before starting his book, which utilized a different approach. In any event, I adjusted to Bob’s technique fairly quickly, and any “scruples” I had about the work ends there.

The book is a detailed account of one week in the life of a thoroughly unpleasant twenty-one year old folk singer named Jory. The events take place in Denver in 1964, and Jory might be described as an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex. Though these two sides of his nature might appear to be opposites, they are not really; they are two sides of the same coin. He is driven by fear, and copes with it by denying the hard realities of his situation (like the disappearing folk scene in Denver) and avoiding difficult choices. Meanwhile, his girlfriend absorbs the ugly manifestations of this unrest – he treats her in an incredibly abusive way – and she, by staying with him, shows she is as afraid of change as he is.

The problem with Jory is not that he is a man who lacks sensitivity. He is sharply perceptive of the emotions of others (except, sadly, his girlfriend’s), and can empathize with many of their feelings. He even has a moment of sympathy for a motorcycle thug because in the biker’s tone, “I heard his history. Somewhere in that dark past there was a promise that never again was he going to let anyone know how it hurt to be looked down on.” The difficulty is that Jory’s sensitivity doesn’t motivate him to help others or make the slightest sacrifice on their behalf; instead, he uses his insight into others to exploit them or to make them feel responsible for his failures. A particularly cruel example of this occurs after an abortive attempt at a one-night stand when he covertly encourages the woman – a woman he senses to be lonely and vulnerable – to feel as if his impotence was due to her lack of attractiveness. “Better that,” he observes, “than to have anyone believe Jory Durham was inadequate with women.”

The characters in the book are convincing, and they are described in detailed fashion, often punctuated with humor. His best friend has, “cherubic cheeks flushed and pink like the face of a two year old, his dark hair flopped over his smooth and wrinkle-free forehead….” The most fascinating character is a bizarre man named Bill Bagel who lends a continuous undertone of tension and mystery to the story. He collects statuettes of movie stars, and when he shows them to Jory, he removes them from his case, “with a slowness and reverence that one might reserve for the ashes of a departed wife.” This description is funny, but what follows next is anything but humorous. I wouldn’t dream of describing it here, but it is a shocker. Before that happens, Bagel admonishes Jory for his lack of appreciation for his own talents, but Jory rejects the idea he has any special gift. Later though, Jory feels the same indignation Bagel felt toward him when he realizes that a folk singer he admires also underestimates his own abilities. As the book unfolds, Jory comes to understand that others share the same insecurities he has, which helps him appreciate himself in a more realistic way. Eventually this and other factors help him to more fully utilize his considerable skills.

Bob does an excellent job of describing Denver in the 1960s and especially of helping the reader enter the minds and emotions of folk singers and artists/performers in general. That is one of the novel’s greatest strengths.

The last few chapters are a roller-coaster ride and redeem whatever reservations I may have initially had about the novel’s style. I won’t describe any of it here, but it is a wise idea to “fasten your seatbelt.”

Chapter one contains a signature sentence which is repeated at the beginning of the final chapter, and it is no accident that it occurs twice: “Looking back at those days, what occurs to me most strongly is how little of lasting value is done for noble reasons and how much is sort of blundered into – not by accident really, but because the dormant, living treasures we carry within us find their own ways of bursting forth, despite our most devious efforts to f___ the process up.” Though at first glance this observation may seem cynical, its message is ultimately a hopeful one. By getting ourselves “out of the way,” by not forcing the process by our clamorous and blind efforts, the best within us is allowed to flower. As Jory puts it when describing his breakthrough performance of a song, “I didn’t sing it as much as I allowed it to sing me.”

I don’t think I would call Holyland primarily a “message” novel or an attempt to advocate a particular philosophy of life. Jory’s story can be interpreted in different ways and examined at various levels. At times I caught myself worrying that I was reading too deeply into the book, at other times that I was wasn’t reading into it deeply enough. That is an excellent formula for confusing yourself. I would advise readers, for whatever it is worth, to “get themselves out of the way” and let the book do what it wants. The title of one of Bob’s songs expresses this approach in a succinct way – “I Just Let it Take Me.”

– Daniel H. Brenner, Bob Lind fan.

Damn! The man can do everything!

I just finished reading Bob’s book, which was a real page-turner for me. I found it fascinating in many ways. I loved reading about the history of the Denver folk scene, which I had to assume was pretty factual-knowing who wrote it. He puts an amazing amount of detail and thought in to this particular aspect of the book. I loved the different characters-and got in to all of them. I also found Bob’s sense of humor in most every page, which delighted me. More than anything-I realized just how much I like how this guy uses words-his writing is just like the poetry in his lyrics. Also very important to me is his honesty and his fearless approach in this book. He’s not scared (in fact proud) to say anything he wants-which is paramount to me-and makes Bob still such an “alive” artist–all his wheels constantly in forward motion. He still has volumes to say-and still feels the need to, thank God. He also kept me involved with all his characters until the last page-now that’s a good book!

All I have to say is damn Bob-you never cease to amaze me!

– Jamie Hoover, recording artist.

I read “East of the Holyland” initially out of curiosity at what Bob would write about those times.

I lived in Denver at the time, a couple of blocks from Bob and his girlfriend. I wondered what the differences would be between the book and the way I remembered the happenings.

Well, I was in for a surprise. Bob had warned me that it was a novel, not an exact account of those times, but there was actually a lot that was pretty darn close. The book certainly took me back in time remembering all the places that were in our neighborhood, the venues where Bob played and the people we knew in common.

I feel fortunate to have lived during those days when we were all experiencing such a great feeling of the changes that were happening in that era. The book certainly left me wanting to live along in yet another week.

Thank you, Bob, for reminding me of the good and the bad things that may or may not have happened during a certain week of a fictitious folksinger in Denver in the 60’s.

– Judy Perry, Bob Lind fan.

I have just this minute finished reading the book.

Being a Lind fan, I more than likely had preconceptions, and even apprehensions – how much is autobiographical, how much is fantasy – how much is a bit of both? Will I be confronted by any of this?

And, of course, being a fan, will I be in a position to read and take it in without feeling unbiased, or without risking any preformed judgements of this artist’s essence…?

Well, let me tell you…it’s a great book – in style, in subject matter, in continuity – the initial blank canvas is touched from corner to corner with scene-setting description -(time, place, character introduction), which forms the backdrop for twists of circumstances, captured in a short timeframe -a sea of circumstances.

The main character (not intended to be, nor ever achieving “hero” status) at first puts himself to us as being somewhat confident of being in control of his “situation”, – however, as the sea of circumstances washes over him his uncertainty with his own reactions,- much less those of others, – piles brick after brick on him and the world he knows -the papered-over cracks reappear…

This time snapshot (although chronologically displayed,is still, to me, not unlike Lind’s classic song “Mr. Zero”).

I won’t fall into the trap of debating real vs fantasy, but I will say that there’s an evident insightfulness (an artist’s ability?) which results in credible storytelling.

I’ll end by saying that the main character, Jory Durham, lets us in to his inner self – demon/angel/mere mortal – but remains determined to stay faithful to his beliefs – his Music. (He would have been a great mate to have – but you wouldn’t like your sister to fall for him! – AND, who of us hasn’t had/has mates like that?! )

– Danny Harris, Bob Lind fan.

Take me back to Bob Lind’s Merchandise Page!
Or to East of the Holyland at Lulu.com!