Romance with a twist: Can a Gulf War veteran suffering PTSD finally leave behind his past to find the music that will make his life worth living?
Reagan returns from the first Gulf War haunted by horrific images of Tom Wallach, a dead marine he brought back from the desert. Seeking refuge from his nightmares and broken marriage in a jazz quartet in which he plays bass guitar, fifteen years elapse and he has a one-night fling with Rosary, a beautiful young woman he meets at one of his gigs. When his ex-wife comes back into his life, Rosary’s obsession turns into a fatal attraction.
With help from Wallach’s ghost, the daughter Wallach never met, and a friend who is much more than he appears to be, Reagan discovers he must let go of his tortured past if he is to embrace the future.
Review: The Unsettling Beauty of a Perfect Chord… “Discussions of life, love, faith and the universe fuel J. Conrad Guest’s intriguing dialog-based novel A World Without Music. Music itself ‘stands half way between thought and phenomenon,’ a fascinating concept that leaves the reader pondering all. But the conversation’s powerful and real, and the tale moves on; locations change, topics flow and grow, and the reader soon feels like a traveler delighting in overhearing strangers who might become friends.
“This novel’s path through music, movies, sci-fi, baseball, politics, faith and romance are endlessly intriguing and deeply involving, even as mystery deepens and danger looms. Allusions to jazz and song lyrics are as natural as the flight of a softball into the air, smoothly delighting the reader whether they’re caught or simply catch the eye. And Reagan, born to lust, love or jazz, has choices to make, and scary consequences to navigate.
“And the music of the common man proves as vital to our world’s symphony as that of heroes and villains throughout all time. A World Without Music reads like a masterpiece of music, culture and life and is highly recommended.” Reviewer: Sheila Deeth-Author of Divide by Zero
Excerpt: Reagan followed Wallach to the living room, where they sat, facing each other, in two high-backed chairs.
“How do I know I’m not the one dreaming?” Reagan whispered.
“But how do I know?”
Wallach shrugged. “Pinch yourself if you don’t believe me.”
Reagan refrained from doing just that; at some level he knew this was real: across from him sat the ghost of Tom Wallach.
“Death is permanent,” Wallach said.
“Don’t I know it.”
“I’m sure you do. Aren’t you glad now that you didn’t pull the trigger on your Glock? You were so convinced that you’d lost Sarah forever, but it was just a bump in the road. She needed time to realize what you meant to her. Had you pulled that trigger –”
“I know,” Reagan said, looking away in shame.
“No, you don’t, Reagan. You have no idea what that would’ve done to Sarah.”
Reagan sighed. “Suicides rarely understand the ruin they leave behind. They’re lost in their own pain.”
Wallach nodded and said, “Not pulling the trigger was an act of courage. Your work here is not done.”
“And you know this how? Are you omnipotent?”
“All knowing? No. Let’s just say I have night vision.”
“You can see the future?”
“The future is made up of myriad possibilities, all predicated on the choices we make, or fail to make, each and every day.”
Reagan thought about that for a moment, before asking, “So is there an alternate reality, one in which you came home from Kuwait?”
“There is only one reality; but I am attuned to all possibilities, including the one of which you spoke.”
“How do you bear it?” Reagan said. “Knowing what might’ve been?”
“It brings me much comfort.”
“Don’t you feel cheated?”
“No. My life played out as it should have. My widow and daughter would not be the people they are today had I come home from Kuwait.”
“How do you know they wouldn’t be better off?”
For the first time since he’d begun haunting Reagan’s dreams, Wallach looked uncertain, as if he didn’t know how much he could, or should, share with the living.
“My death set something into motion.” And then, as if he couldn’t – or wasn’t allowed – to say more, Wallach changed direction.
Print Length: 275 Pages
Message from Author J. Conrad Guest:
“Welcome. If you’re reading these words, you have my thanks for finding me. A critic calls my work, “Gritty, entertaining… real. Romance for the non-romantic.”
Genre? What’s that? My characters face everyday obstacles: love (finding it), loss of love (ouch!), regret (who doesn’t have a few of those?), infidelity (from love to hate to compromise), death (the Grim Reaper recently visited me in a dream to tell me he was coming for me. “Great,” my dream self said. “You bring the whiskey and I’ll provide the cigars”), redemption (that transformation from the anti-hero the reader wants to like into the hero for whom they want to root), and more. I write about relationships between men and woman, and fathers and sons. Yet each character, although flawed and in some cases broken, is in their own way extraordinary. I write mainstream, non-traditional romance (Fabio will never grace the cover of one of my novels), and soft science fiction. I hope you’ll find here something that appeals to your literary appetite.
I was named Joseph Conrad for my dad’s favorite novelist.
As a boy my dream was to become a Major League Baseball player, but my parents had other ideas. They urged me to play it safe, to learn a trade, get a job with an automotive company, and retire in forty years with a gold watch. To me that was a prison sentence. I didn’t want to reach my current age wondering, What if?
I was creative and wanted to leave my mark on the world. How to go about achieving that dream perplexed me for many years, until I sat down to write my first novel. January’s Paradigm was born from a bloodied and bruised heart. What started as therapy for me turned into a passion. My dad often criticized me for not finishing what I started, and I was determined to finish a novel. When Dad read my second draft, after two years of labor, he was pleased.
While I geared up for submitting my child to agents and publishers I struggled for a name. A nom de plume was out of the question. I wanted to use “Conrad” but didn’t wish to be compared to the man who today is considered one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. I finally settled on J. Conrad Guest and have never regretted it.
My novels are available in brick and mortar bookstores and at Amazon in both print and Kindle versions.”
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