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Blue Summer

Softcover, 5.5 x 8.5, 280 pages, Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-952143-03-8

Availability:

$17.95

About this Book:

At forty, Cal Shaw has seen better days, that's for sure, but it wasn't always like this. He grew up with his brother, Alvin, and his sister Julia, in the small Maine town of Baxter, confident in his own capabilities, especially regarding music. He took his happy life for granted, as lucky children often do. But everything changed when he was ten and his dad died in a freak accident. Soon, trouble, mostly in the form of a violent stepfather, found a home—his home. As an escape, the Shaw kids turned to music lessons with family friend Uncle Gus, but it turns out no one can escape the violence and grief that rains down on the Shaws. Blue Summer is the story of the Shaw family's undoing, and Cal’s struggle to grow up in a world determined to break him. Even his music threatens to take him down with booze-filled nights and one-night stands. As Cal tries to make sense of his existence, living as far away from his family as he can, a snippet of melody comes to him—timeless and haunting. But before he can finish it, his past asserts itself with a phone call that Uncle Gus is dying and it's time to come home and face an altogether different kind of music. In this story, author Jim Nichols writes a riveting coming-of-age novel that examines the melancholy fate of a boy torn apart by loss and domestic abuse, and the justice he eventually delivers, all the while writing a beautiful melody to counter it all, a song he calls ‘Blue Summer.’

Blue Summer by Jim Nichols
News

Award-winning Novelist Jim Nichols Returns with “Blue Summer”

Award-winning Novelist Jim Nichols Returns with “Blue Summer”

Islandport Press Set to Release Emotional Coming-of-Age Novel in September

Yarmouth, Maine (June 12, 2020)—Author Jim Nichols, award-winning novelist, explores fate, abuse, and delayed justice as they play out on an emotional and gritty landscape in his new coming-of-age novel, “Blue Summer."

Scheduled for national release on September 8, “Blue Summer” is published by Islandport Press and reunites the same editorial team that produced “Closer All the Time,” winner of the 2016 Maine Literary Award for Best Fiction. “Closer All the Time” is lauded for its masterful weaving together of connected stories and unforgettable characters in Nichols’s singular voice. Writer Bill Roorbach says the book is “built of sentences so beautiful I want to keep them like wild honey in a jar.”

Now, Nichols’ “Blue Summer” brings us forty-year-old musician Cal Shaw, a man who has seen better days. He now lives in a trailer park in Florida while coming to terms with addiction. He also contemplates his idyllic 1960s Maine childhood, which was shattered by two blows: the death of his father and arrival of a violent stepfather. As jazz and girls became his youthful escape, young Shaw’s search for love and forgiveness was torn apart by loss and domestic abuse. “Blue Summer” is the story of the justice he eventually delivers, and underpinning it all is a beautiful melody he calls ‘Blue Summer.’

“Like ‘Closer All the Time,’ Nichols braids a complicated and haunting story in ‘Blue Summer’,” said Genevieve Morgan, fiction editor at Islandport. “Like a song that gets stuck in your head, these characters land and won’t let go.”

Nichols draws inspiration from his experiences growing up in Maine. He worked a variety of jobs including bartender, pilot, taxi driver, orange picker, travel agent, and dispatcher for an air taxi service. His writing has appeared in numerous regional and national magazines including Esquire, Narrative, and Night Train. He has written two previous novels, "Hull Creek" and "Closer All the Time." He lives in Warren, Maine.

Islandport Press, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, is a dynamic, award-winning publisher dedicated to stories rooted in the essence and sensibilities of New England. For more information, please call visit www.islandportpress.com or email info@islandportpress.com. 


Me and John Prine by Novelist Jim Nichols

Me and John Prine by Novelist Jim Nichols

John Prine, the legendary country-folk singer and songwriter, died April 7 from complications related to COVID-19. He was 73. Prine broke out in the early 1970s after he was discovered by Roger Ebert and Kris Kristopherson. He went on to influence generations of artists, writing songs about the everyday experience of ordinary people with uncommon depth and honesty. Prine performed in Maine several times, including once early in his career when his driver was our own Jim Nichols, author of Closer all the Time and the upcoming Blue Summer, who was working then as a driver for a local limousine company.

 

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Me and John Prine

By Jim Nichols


We lost a remarkable artist to COVID-19 last week, John Prine.

Prine was one of the finest and most acclaimed songwriters ever, a remarkable folk-country performer, and a major influence on a generation or two of musical artists. He was special to me for all that and because of the three days I spent in his company some forty-odd years ago.

It happened back in the seventies. Prine, who by then had recorded such classics as “Hello in There” and “Angel from Montgomery,” was out on tour with Steve Goodman, who would later win a Grammy for his American standard, “City of New Orleans.” They were making it work, but it was still a low-budget affair.

I was just a young guy working as a driver for the Portland Airport Limousine Company. One July day at the Jetport, I happened to be first in line when Prine, Goodman, and their road manager, Danny Cronin, stepped off a Delta flight and came looking for a ride to East Stoneham, located northwest of Sebago Lake, where they were booked to play the Evergreen Valley Music Festival.

This was much more than a money-maker for me, because Prine was already one of my musical heroes. I ushered them into the black Cutlass—gave a smug look to my buddy Steve, who, standing second in line, immediately flipped me off—and away we went.

It turned out to be a fare for the ages.

Prine was quiet, but amiable, Goodman was a joker, and Cronin, who sat in the front next to me, was just plain nice. During the next two hours I grew comfortable enough with them to let slip that I'd been playing (rudimentary) guitar and writing (three-chord) songs for all of a year. I was nervous to mention this, but Goodman immediately blurted out, "Well, let's hear something! A capella!"

The way I remember it, I launched into the chorus of my latest creation, the “Church's Fried Chicken Song,” which featured the immortal lines: Wait on the customers, pick up the lot, sweat like a chicken when the weather gets hot.

It got me a laugh.

For the rest of the drive I was more mascot than hired driver, and by the time we reached East Stoneham they decided I should call my boss and tell him they needed me for the entire three days of the festival, so they'd have someone to drive them around between shows and run any errands they might need run. 

And that's what I did. It was a dream gig. I got to sit around the pool during the day, watch the performances (the Eagles had backed out, but Poco took their place and Ramblin' Jack Elliot showed up, too) and hang out with my new friends and other musicians afterward in the hotel, where they gathered every night to drink and smoke and play and sing for the sheer fun of it. 

We all sat around and they played a lot of old country and bluegrass songs from the likes of The Louvin Brothers and Tom T. Hall. It often became the Steve Goodman show; he was an amazing guitarist and seemingly knew every song ever written. Prine joined in enough to make it memorable. 

I, of course, never wanted it to end. But it did, and so, mostly, did my short-term status as friend to the artists. Soon I was a driver again, and we were on the way back to Portland. Everyone was tired and not even Goodman had enough energy to joke around. Nobody said much of anything. By the time we got to the Jetport and they'd piled out, grabbed their gear, and trudged into the terminal, I had to remind myself to be content with how nice they'd been for three days and what an amazing gig I'd had and how jealous my fellow driver Steve would be.

But then Prine came back out of the terminal, walked over and in his squinting way looked me in the eye, held out his hand, and said, "Thanks, man, almost forgot." And that made all the difference.

RIP John Prine, we won't see your like again. And, that goes for Steve Goodman, too.


Jim Nichols

About this Author

Jim Nichols grew interested in fiction writing while working as a ticket agent for a commuter airline in Rockland. Born in Brunswick and raised in Freeport, Maine, Nichols has worked variou

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