A beautifully written tale of three disparate yet kindred souls – all at a crossroads in their lives.
Oliver Pleasant, an octogenarian jazz pianist
of some renown is finally retiring from the music business. He is
wrapping up his long career with a final five night stand on the stage
of a New York hotel owned by an old friend. Sadly, his lifestyle of
travel, music, and women have left him estranged from his grown
children. The table he has reserved for his family remains accusingly
vacant throughout his last shows. His wife, Francesca, the love of his
life, has been dead for two decades. Oliver has lived through the racism
of the South, traveled to Europe in the heyday of jazz, fathered
children, bedded myriad women, and enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow
musicians. Through it all he had a deep and abiding love and respect
for the ‘music’. Now he feels little other than the loneliness, regret
and fear that comes with old age.
Agnes Cassady, also a pianist, is in her early
twenties and suffering from what she believes to be a fatal
neurological disorder. She hails from Memphis, Tennessee but has lived
in New Orleans for the past few years plying her trade. Recently the
pain and tremors that result from her condition have hampered her
musical ability. The reason for Agnes’ trip to New York is yet another
hospital with yet more tests. This time it is the famous Mount Sinai
with its expert physicians. Since learning of her probable early demise,
Agnes has packed a lot into her short life. She loves music and men in
that order. When she learns that Oliver Pleasant is playing while she is
in town, she knows that she must attend his final performances. He has
long been her idol.
Frank Severs, a former journalist, also from
Memphis – is in town to write about Oliver Pleasant’s life and last
performances. He greatly admires the man and his music and feels he
could do justice to a story about him. Frank’s personal life is in flux.
He is distant from his wife whom he still loves. Their many years of
trying to conceive a child has left a rift in their marriage. It is a
rift that Frank doesn’t know how to bridge – or if he should even try to
The meeting of these three lost souls and their brief time spent together was nothing short of magical.
The characters are fully developed and are so ‘human’ that it is a joy
and a privilege to share time with them. The early winter New York
setting is described clearly with an affection for the place.
Filled with the joy, sadness, regret and confusion that is life, “Five night stand”
was a novel for music lovers and non-music lovers alike. I actually
read part of it whilst listening to the infamous Thelonious Monk via
YouTube. His music was a wonderful background for the novel.
In my humble opinion this novel should be on the bestseller lists!
Richard J. Alley,
a longtime freelance writer and editor, was born and raised in Memphis,
Tennessee, where he lives with his wife and four children.