The Herald (South Africa)

Brilliant twist in tale keeps reader guessing

- John Harvey

If the purpose of a novel is to keep readers eager to find out what happens next, then Port Elizabeth author Talbot Cox has succeeded.

Adamo is the bankerturn­ed-artist ’ s first, and a worthy effort at that.

Clearly, he possesses an excellent command of the language and is adept at describing settings.

In this respect, he paints with words which, given his later calling in life, is not at all surprising.

There are shortcomin­gs, however, though it must also be said there are very few firsttime novelists who don’t make mistakes.

Adamo is considered the world ’ s greatest musical composer, yet no-one knows the person’s identity or gender.

Another global virtuoso, Frenchman Pierre Villeyand, is simply sent the music by mail and arranges it for the stage, the result being that every Adamo production is a hit.

In his youth, while visiting South Africa for a music competitio­n, Pierre met the lovely Merri Fencham, herself a high

ly gifted performer. A romance flourished, and together with Pierre’s friend, the towering England rugby forward George Fortesque and his girlfriend (and future wife), Jenny, they shared moments that would last forever in their memories.

Pierre and Merri became separated in time, with each going on to live their own lives. But the love that existed could not be so easily extinguish­ed

People had speculated for years whether Pierre was in

fact Adamo, and was simply having a bit of fun keeping everyone guessing.

Unfortunat­ely, a horror car accident, in which his wife was killed, left Pierre catatonic.

That no further Adamo musicals were forthcomin­g as he remained in this state only fuelled the rumours that he and Adamo were one and the same.

In Swaziland, meanwhile, a sangoma called Vusi Dlamini, whose lineage could be traced to the Villeyand family by virtue of a Swazi princess having a scandalous affair with one of Pierre’s forebears, was becoming astute in the ways of the ancestors and how fate always intervened to ensure a specific outcome.

When a new Adamo offering called One for a Heartbeat; One for Eternity! suddenly arrives, despite Pierre being in no position to arrange it, the destinies of these diverse characters converge.

There is global hysteria, especially because Adamo has pledged to reveal his/her identity at the end of the musical’s premier.

The plot is sound, and gives the narrative all the necessary impetus it needs to keep readers engaged.

Where it falls short is in respect of real-world authentici­ty.

For example, as news of the new Adamo production spreads, the world’s youth, fed up with politician­s and older generation­s threatenin­g their future, decide to use the occasion to join together as one, regardless of race or class, to make their voices heard.

It is highly unlikely that the glue that will bind young people together will be an orchestral stage production. Were such an event to occur, it would no doubt hinge on someone like Kanye West or Taylor Swift — and even that’s a stretch, given the pasting these performers get on Twitter.

Another aspect found wanting is the dialogue between the characters.

Granted, they are all much older when they encounter one another again in later life, but one would hardly expect people who know each other well to provide a detailed, almost academic recap of what they know to be true already.

The context could have been created in a different way.

It is quite obvious that Cox is a proud South African, nothing wrong with that at all.

But there are points where you want to cringe for his attempts to make the nation relevant. Nelson Mandela references seem gratuitous.

All told though, Adamo really is quite enjoyable, albeit a little long-winded in places.

There is a brilliant twist in the tale, so it is hoped Cox pursues this angle in another book.

by Talbot Cox is published by Reach Publishers.

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 ?? Picture: SUPPLIED ?? NEW BEGINNINGS: Talbot Cox s debut novel Adamo ’, an epic saga
’ ‘ spanning decades, has just been released
Picture: SUPPLIED NEW BEGINNINGS: Talbot Cox s debut novel Adamo ’, an epic saga ’ ‘ spanning decades, has just been released

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