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Issue 93 - Riverside Tales

Whisky Magazine Issue 93
January 2011

 

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Riverside Tales

Jefferson Chase delves into another whisky laced tome

One of the ways novels can shed light on the dark corners of human nature is to put a character in an extreme situation and then run through the specific details.

Russell Celyn Jones' Thirty Seconds from the Sun from 2005 does precisely this and does it well. The first-person narrator is a riverboat man named Ray Greenland who works on the Thames and revels in a comfortable domestic life with his wife and two children.

But from the very opening scene, in the couple's favorite Italian restaurant, Ray is worried everything will come crashing down: Two men sitting at the next table along are way out of their habitat. Off the ships, maybe.

They are sunk in shadow and I can see no more than a black leather jacket zipped to the throat and a tight-fitting t-shirt. But something about them hair-triggers my instinct for selfpreservation… I know when I'm in the presence of itinerants, people passing through.

As shortly becomes clear, Ray indeed knows the two men – from prison.

Ray Greenland, dedicated father and husband and enjoyer of the occasional armchair Macallan, is a false identity, assumed after the narrator was released from jail, having served his sentence for a horrible crime he committed as a boy.

The moral ambiguity of lies and truth is the novel's major theme, neatly encapsulated in a flashback of how the narrator's parole officer trains him to exist in normal society: Truth was the lingua franca of my supervision periods, while lies kept me alive outside. And it...

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