Born and raised in a poor, working-class family in Toronto, Jack Spayd is the son of an unhappy marriage. After being taken under the wing of "Miss Frostbite", the owner of a local jazz club, Jack becomes a gifted musician, playing piano and harmonica. Fame and the allure of gambling takes him to Vegas, and prospects of fortune take him to the Belgian Congo, where he's heard it's possible to earn big money working in the most dangerous parts of the local copper mines.
Jack of Diamonds is the story of a young, talented man, fighting to achieve his ambitions, and having to use his considerable talents to find his way in a perilous world.
©2012 Bryce Courtenay; ©2013 Christine Courtenay (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
An unashamed Audiophile who has his own studio and business called iZENEARS which brings Australian travel and history to life for locals and visitor's alike.
I finished the book on the day Bryce Courtenay passed away. A sad day for listeners, his family, his fans and for Humphrey Bower, the voice that brought BC’s words to life. Some may well say that this was not his greatest work, the first in a planned series like Tommo & Hawk, but Humphrey Bower did an extraordinary job in bringing it to life with his ‘Canadian’ accent. He is a master and BC was lucky to have him. I enjoyed the tale, it was easy, rich and scene connected well into scene. Good easy listening and I urge all Audible folk who like works from writers outside the US to give this one a go. Buy it as a salute to the living story tellers everywhere who give us joy and take a moment to think about our own mortality. All story tellers like you and me the reader/listener pass on of course but they leave a legacy and BC’s is a great one. Thank you mate for showing the world that the world through Australian eyes is a rich one and we have many a tale to tell.
NV, not NY
After listening to The Power of One, which I recommended to everyone I know, I went on to listen to Tandia, Brother Fish, Four Fires, and the Australia trilogy, all of which were great. Then came this, the last book Bryce wrote before he died. Sadly he seems to have had nothing left. This book is largely a rehash of stories contained in his earlier books: Harmonica player, piano player, poker player, even a rehash of the great mining story at the end of The Power of One.
The other problem with this book is the narrator. As it is, you have to overlook the fact that all of Bryce's protagonist are Boy Scouts, but Humphrey Bower's narration just exacerbates this problem. I would describe his voice as Jocular. Even when something bad is happening he sounds upbeat about it.
I gave all the aforementioned novels five star ratings, and I'll be forever grateful to Bryce and his enormous talent, and because of this, I feel a little guilty about panning this book, but that's the way I see it.
Mr. Courtenay usually writes about South Africa or Australia and we have gotten some real history lessons about these regions as well as entertaining stories. I have learned more history from great stories than I ever did in school. I really enjoyed Jack Diamonds. To absorb the life of someone "just across the road" from the United States in Canada during the turbulent "pre and post" World War II era was great fun. I quite simply love a good story (Bryce) read by a great reader (Humphrey).
I want to say here that Mr. Courtenay brought me to tears with his afterward. As I listened I could only hope (I realize quite selfishly hoped) that he had time for another story or two. I greatly appreciate his thoughtful goodbye - to me it was extremely personal because I always thought of Bryce Courtenay as one of my personal writers. I was absolutely devastated to learn that he passed away.
As a young person, I lived all over the world and the United States. I never got to Australia or Africa. Thanks to you and Humphrey Bower for the extraordinary journeys. I have always finished one story by looking for and anticipating the next one and have read each of Mr. Courtenay's books at least twice and some of them four or five times. Although I have not said much about this particular novel, I am sure that I will read and re-read and re-read Jack of Diamonds.
I am going to miss you. May God bless you and your family.
I have loved many of Bryce Courtenay's books and bought this when I heard he had passed away. I finished listening to it in honor of the other Courtenay books I loved.................but I didn't love it. I could have stopped listening. It had similar elements to many of his other books and the story moved slowly. It could have been much better.Try The Power of One, The Potato Factory Trilogy and Four Fires for outstanding writing and interesting stories that you can't put down. Humphrey Bower was outstanding as the narrator (once again!). I buy books just because he narrates them.I will miss new additions from Bryce Courtenay. Rest in peace.
I need some C8H10N4O2
A Great read, an amazing roller-coaster of a story, it will bring tears and laughter.
I found that Jack placing himself in harms way to prevent the beating of a cook the most memorable part of the story. It really resounded with me.
Joe, my absolute favourite
It would be Joe, and very wise man indeed.
Bryce was an amazing writer, we will miss you and your amazing fabrications.
I love Bryce Courtenay books and shall miss him! However, this was not my favourite book. A bit repetitive material from his other books.
Daily Dog Walker and LONG Silicon Valley commutes, so I gulp through and love lotsa books, especially literary fiction and Mystery.
If you haven't read/listened to Courtenay and Bower and you crave a good story, start now, but perhaps don't start with this book. Courtenay is an absolute gem and master, and this novel, though strong in concept, seemed so "sketched" and rushed to me-- especially in the last half. Well, being an American and not recipient of the latest news in the Australian arts community, I didn't realize that this was Courtenay's last novel, and that he died last year. That explained all.
The book is flawed but still saturated with signature Courtenay -- a rags to riches story, messaging around literacy that was a little less subtle in this book but never gets old for those of us who love WORD, a commitment to creating excellent female characters and a true storyteller's understanding of the arc of story and how to deliver upon it.
So any Courtenay lover should read/listen to this, and his personal after-word will make you cry, but if you do not know Courtenay start earlier in his canon and enjoy a true story telling master at his peak!
So, so sorry that we shall no have another work from Courtenay, and thank to Humphrey Bower for delivering an exceptional reading once again.
Towards the end of the epilogue Bryce Courtenay, aware that this is his last novel, says he hopes he will be remembered as a "damn good story-teller". That he is and so he will be remembered. "Jack of Diamonds" starts in Toronto and takes us to Las Vegas, New York, London and finally back to the copper mines in Northern Africa mentioned in Courtenay's earlier novels and where the author himself worked as a "grizzly" when he was 17 years old. His hero is Jack Spayd who grew up in Cabbage Town, Toronto who climbs out of his poverty thanks to his mother's support, good black friends, the love of his life, Bridget and his exceptional talent as a jazz musician and an elite poker player, the latter which almost costed him his life on several occasions.
This novel reminds me in some ways of "Whitehorn" and I enjoyed it immensely although I found it difficult to realize that this was BC's last novel.
Humphrey Bower is one of my favorite narrators. What a terrific job he does as a Canadian from Toronto. I could never see anyone else doing Bryce Courtenay's books. Bower brings all the characters to life.
This is another must-read.
So sad to know that this wonderful Australian author has produced his final book.
Another wonderful layered story from Bryce Courtenay full of relationships, love, drama, glimpses of other decades and an undercurrent of racial tension. An absorbing novel that underscores the loss of a wonderful author who when faced with his own mortality thought of his readers and gave us the epilogue. Humphrey Bower did his usual fabulous narration.
I'm writing this before I've actually finished the book, but halfway through it's clear that thi is yet another masterpiece, apparently the last, from this marvelous author. Humphrey Bower, as usual, narrates superbly,changing his voice and his accent to suit the character who's speaking. As the father of a 17-year-old jazz musician, this book resonates deeply with me, but I can't imagine anyone not loving it.
Bryce Courtenay is the master of fiction as far as I'm concerned. I have yet to find a book I don't enjoy thoroughly! The brilliance of Humphrey Bower had me living in the story and feeling everything Jack felt. I laughed with him and cried with him, how many writers can say they inspire people to that extent? I wait with huge anticipation for each and every one of Bryce's new books. What a perfect pair they make.
"You just need to keep listening!"
I like to get value for money from my audio books and when I saw the length of this one I went for it - over 25 hours. Not my usual read - I'm a cloak and dagger reader. I was nicely surprised that this had a bit of everything. A rags to riches story with a bit of cloak and dagger thrown in and just the taste of a love story to bring a tear. Add to all that some travel from Canada to the UK in WW2, to Las Vegas and then through Africa where you lived the life at the time.
This was more value for money than I could have wished for and I've signed back in now to look for more of Bryce Courtenay.
"Diamonds and Spades"
This was a great book, covering the life of Jack Spayde; an abused child who learns piano in the hope of escaping his brutal father and miserable domestic life.
We follow him through childhood and learning the basics of classical music before falling in love with blues and jazz. The writing reminded me of John Irving in that you are totally immersed in the story and believe you know the actors. Like Owen Meany, Spayde goes to war before hitting early Las Vegas and then South Africa. I can't say too much without giving away plot spoilers, but needless to say it's the best book I've listened to this year.
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