Join us this weekend as we take a look at “Confessions of an Honest Man,” a powerful novel about the strength of the human spirit, written by Arthur Rosch. Check back on Saturday for our 5 Star review of the book and Sunday for Lian Asks: 5 Questions with Arthur Rosch.
About The Book:
Aaron Kantro’s mother is violent. When he wants to become a musician, she sabotages him in devious ways. What is wrong with this woman? Aarron wins an important scholarship to study music. He’s only nine years old but he finds courage and learns the art of deception in order to take his prize. The battle is the first of many that Aaron and his siblings must fight. This novel explores a fifty year slice of life through the eyes of the Kantro family. The story tells a tale of childhood abuse yet it never loses warmth and humor. It explores the price paid by children who suffer from parental violence. Along the way we pass through high school in the 60’s, The Summer Of Love, meet Jimi Hendrix and other celebrities, fight in the Soviet Afghan War and make the arduous journey from addiction to recovery. “Confessions Of An Honest Man” is a psychological book. It observes in minute and honest detail the quirks of human nature. It amuses and horrifies. It always surprises.
Father Max, mother Esther and the four children are portrayed credibly and with deep inner logic. Youngest son Mark is a mediocre martial artist and a sociopathic weapons collector. He always exudes an air of menace and danger. Mari-lee is a climber, looking to marry the wealthiest man she can snare. Sarah and Aaron seek refuge in creativity. They are damaged souls but as they respond to their wounds we see how they make moral choices that influence their destinies.
While working in music, Aaron meets his mentor, a famous jazz musician named Zoot Prestige. The saxophonist demonstrates an approach to living, a funny, flexible world view that helps Aaron in his time of deepest crisis. Zoot defines the nature of Evil in a few pithy sentences. What is Disease and what is Evil? Zoot knows the difference. When Aaron loses his way and suffers his “dark night of the soul”, he remembers his teacher’s admonition:”ask for help. Don’t be too proud. You can’t do it alone. Ask for help”.
This book is a coming-of-age adventure novel that looks “under the hood” into human beings’ deepest motivations. Its observations keep the reader engaged, in suspense, turning the pages. There is so much here with which to identify! The Kantros may not be ordinary people but they aren’t difficult to understand. They want to live, to love, to thrive. Why is that so difficult? These are some of the questions that are explored in “Confessions Of An Honest Man.”
He is not a drug addict. He is a man. Aaron becomes aware of a strange presence in the room. He feels as if he is not alone, and it gives his body a chill, the hair on his neck begins to tingle and his eyes suddenly water. He sits up, looking around, listening. There is no one. He peers into the murk outside the window. Apparently he is looking at a blank brick facade that only faintly reflects the orange sky glow from the city’s lights. He rises to his feet and looks into the doorless closet with its bent and twisted hangers. He stands on his tiptoes to check the shelf, runs his fingers across it and comes back with dust and mouse turds that sprinkle to the floor. Then he smells a familiar smell, the smell of tobacco. Cheroot, he determines. Definitely Cheroot. Dutch Masters. Zoot’s brand. Aaron turns back to his bed and sees the outline of his long-dead mentor, standing elegantly in a tuxedo. He is seeing with an interior sense, not actual eyeball-vision, yet the ghostly presence is here, before him, in the room. “Zoot,” he says, “I’ve been on airplanes for more than twenty hours, I’ve been in a war, I’ve kicked dope, I’m in a crisis and I don’t need to think of myself at this moment as being prone to psychotic hallucinations.” Zoot’s ghost sprinkles ash from its cheroot into the ethers. “Tough shit, man. I had to do some intricate maneuvering to get here in this form, Zoot’s been dead a long time and it ain’t easy to put on a personality like a suit of clothes.” “Ohhh,” Aaron says, and has to cry, can do nothing but cry. He sits on the bed and the Zoot-spirit sits next to him. Aaron feels so immensely lonely, wants so desperately to be in contact with the spirit of Zoot Prestige, with someone who loves him and has known him a long time and sees his essence. “It’s okay, Aaron, I’m really here,” Zoot says. “I know you can smell the cheroot, babe. That’s the best I can do, I can’t reach out and touch you, but I think the cheroot trick is groovy.” Then Aaron begins to laugh at the same time he is crying. Big swathes of tears run down his face and his ribcage twitches with sad ironic mirth. “You gonna tell me,” he giggles, “what happens after you die? You gonna reveal to me the mysteries of the universe?” Zoot puffs and blows the smoke in a neat stream toward the ceiling. “The question is more like ‘what happens after you’re born?’ To us folks here in the Big World, the world you’re in, the world where you have discrete personalities fitted tightly into sometimes bad-tempered and capricious bodies, is the Little World. A place where you’re born and die, where all this shit keeps whirling around. But, you know, I’m not here for metaphysical instruction and spiritual revelation, that’s all ultimately bullshit, it can’t begin to contain what’s real.” Aaron inhales soberly and gets control of himself. “Then why are you here?” “I’m here,” Zoot says simply, “to let you know you’re not alone. And to give you some courage, ‘cause I can tell you need some.” Again, Aaron’s emotions overwhelm him, and he sobs into his hands with gratitude, rocking back and forth, making the bedsprings creak. When he takes his face from his hands, Zoot is gone. The cheroot smell lingers, subtly, a faint waft upon the air.
Other Books By Arthur Rosch:
About The Author:
The greatest thing that ever happened to me was my awful childhood. I had no choice but to get angry, rebel and follow my path to becoming an artist. My first duty as an artist was to cultivate obsessions. I proceeded to do this with gusto and learned that there is no substitute for a good obsession, compulsion or addiction to gain insight into human nature. I managed to stay out of jail (except for a single night when the Detroit police busted every member of The Artist’s Workshop), and I managed to stay out of the loony bin. Of course it was a girl who inspired me to write poetry. It wasn’t until I was twenty six that I realized I could write novels. Prior to that I had been a jazz musician, a drummer/keyboard player/composer with an immense curiosity. I figure the description “artist” covers whatever medium is inspiring at the moment. Writing is really the refuge of my “later” life, after forty. It took me that long to wear out the obsessions. They had really gotten out of hand. Not that I regret a single one. Part of a writer’s apprenticeship is to spend at least twenty years being mentally deranged, so I got to have my ticket punched on that one. It took twelve years of intense therapy to pull myself back into the functioning world. Did I tell you I love astronomy? Oh, I love astronomy! I got some lovely recognition as a photographer by doing creative work at night with cameras. Please visit my photo websites at 500px or artsdigitalphoto. I make about half a living doing photography. Writers don’t want to hear about my books. They want to hear about their own books. If you’re a reader, however, you might find my oeuvre interesting. I love science fiction, literary fiction, Rumi’s poetry, travel, history, dogs and cats and my wife, who is half Apache. She can be very eerie when she goes dipping into the shaman’s world. She invokes the spirit helpers called “The Grandmothers”. Those ladies have helped us out of a lot of jams. Stories of weird miracles are told in the travel memoir THE ROAD HAS EYES,, AN RV, A RELATIONSHIP AND A WILD RIDE. This book is available at Smashwords dot com. My younger and musical life is described in CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN, which is about to come out as an e-book.. Everything else I either know or don’t know is in the sci fi epic THE GODS OF THE GIFT. Then there’s the new trilogy, THE SHADOW STORM. Oops, there I go talking about my books. Sorry,writers. Tell me all about yours!
In His Own Words:
If you could reduce your audience description to one sentence, what would it be?
I write for people who are interested in psychotherapy. I’ll define therapy broadly: it’s the honest inquiry into your deepest self. A character in one of my books says, “The more you see the invisible parts of yourself, the less you crash into the invisible parts of other people.” If a person is not engaged in a lifelong quest to understand themselves, they’re likely doomed to confusion and futility. That’s why I seek an audience that’s engaged in understanding their own deeper motives and feelings.
What are you working on next?
I have a trilogy called “THE SHADOW STORM”. It’s fantasy, strictly speaking. Its world is one that resembles earth just before World War One. The airplane hasn’t been refined. Electric power, automobiles, communications are just ramping up momentum that will soon transform the world. At this moment, a war is about to begin. THE SHADOW STORM world is a quirky Balkan-tinged landscape in which my characters are trying to save a newly established Republic from destruction by stronger nations.
It’s a big project; I have the first draft of Book One finished. It’s pure adventure: political, military and romantic!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee. Morning is the worst part of my day. I manage my depression in the morning. That means coffee first, then oatmeal. When I’ve eaten I get on a bike and pedal furiously for about half an hour. By this time I have detoxified most of my negative emotions and can get on with the day’s work, which consists of caring for my family. Since I live in a 38 foot RV this family consists of my partner, the famous Fox and two tea-cup poodles and three elderly cats. The fish, General Stonewall Jackson, passed from this earthly plane last year. His last words were, “yer some kind of writer, hahaha! bubble..gurrrg.” He was a Cichlid. They come from the Congo. Is this inspiring? Hardly. It’s quotidian. But the little things, the daily things, the lure of that coffee…oh my, it does get me out of bed.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I wrote was pretty much plagiarism. I was in the third grade. I was reading historical fiction and thrillers. I cribbed the basic plot from Mika Waltari’s THE EGYPTIAN and changed it around so it seemed more original. My teacher gave me an A+. I felt no guilt whatsoever. It was good practice. The first line was “Yitzhak the brewer; Yitzhak the stinking brewer!” He was trying to escape the siege of his city by tunneling. He digs the long arduous tunnel, only to emerge in the middle of the besieging army.
He had dug his way into the Commander’s tent!
What is your writing process?
I keep it all in my head. No notes, no outlines. I know the ending, the goal of the story. One of my big novels dictated its own ending as if a voice recited in my mind as I drove home. That was how I began, with the ending. I take in all of my influences: Jack Vance, Phili Dick, Kurosawa, jazz, Jungian psychology. If I know the next scene, I’m happy. I can keep writing and making progress. I allow the characters to appear in my dreams and the action proceeds THROUGH character. If I mis-write a scene, it’s because the character wouldn’t do that particular thing. Remember Lord Acton’s old saw: Character Is Destiny. Foremost in my mind is the concept of transformation. A character (a protagonist, anyway) is in a process of transformation, of working through personal flaws and defects so that life can be lived more fully. Heroism is the ability to admit the truth and make changes. My writing is mildly structured; there’s plenty of room for improvisation. Mostly it’s the act of writing itself. Things emerge that I did not expect and when they feel right and truthful I recognize those qualities. I use persistence, revision, constant imagining, keeping a mental storehouse of scenes and situations–I guess that’s how I write.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I learned to read with DICK AND JANE. The ability to read hit me in the first grade like a thunderclap! In one great moment I “got it”.
I figured out the connections between letters and the sounds they represented. I guess my first mature story was the aforesaid novel, THE EGYPTIAN. It was in the school library. I read Waltari’s other books, THE ETRUSCAN, THE ROMAN, every one that was available. I’ve been reading ever since. I loved it! I became omnivorous. I read the entire set of encyclopedia from A to Z. I was just a teensy bit ahead of kids my age in reading comprehension. I was a dismal student. I didn’t pay attention. I was always lost in a fantasy. Third graders were reading FARMER BILL AND THE BIG STORM. I was reading Dickens. My sanity and my very life have flowed from reading that first book.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read everything. I read history, biography, science fiction and fantasy, novels, mysteries. I’ve read every book by James Lee Burke. He’s got soul! Thrillers get tiresome because it’s always the hero’s mentor or best friend who turns out to be behind all the attempts to expunge him from the earth. The Good GuyTurns Bad Guy syndrome. I watch a lot of TV, and I consider a TV series or a film to be writing, too. It wouldn’t exist without its writers and the quality of the writing determines the quality of the film or series. So I watch TV and analyze the writing for pleasure. I like science books on astronomy, cosmology etc so long as they’re not too technical. A writer like Timothy Ferris is excellent for that kind of enlightenment.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I don’t have one yet. I have my computer. Does that make me a dinosaur? Probably. I almost messed my pants one day when a Chinese man overtook me on the sidewalk as he was speaking into an earpiece concealed by his hair. A torrent of Chinese invective dopplered towards me and I thought he was 1.talking angrily to me or 2.stark raving mad. It turns out he was merely tech and I had to do a double-take to figure things out. Nowadays everyone is apparently talking to themselves.
Describe your desk
Sometimes it’s a little messy. I sit in front of a 22″ screen and my keyboard rests atop my closed laptop. Bills and receipts are beneath the monitor. USB cords zip off in every direction. Stacks of DVDs and CDs load two spindles. Cloths for wiping my glasses are near at hand. I can look right out the window but I have to keep the curtain closed or I can’t see the monitor. I also have two cats who walk all over my keyboard and mouse. They are both senile and I can’t be mean to them, can I?
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I was 18 I had an experience. Call it a visionary experience. One of the components of this experience was a voice speaking into my ear, as if someone stood right next to me. It said, “You have many precious gifts. These gifts come from god. They are not your own; they are as if borrowed, and you only get to keep them if you use them in the right way. You must prepare yourself, make yourself worthy of these gifts. It’s your nature to be creative. Make yourself worthy of what you’ve been given. Make yourself worthy.” So..I changed my life. I began to practice Yoga. I adopted a healthy diet. I exercised and I studied. I did everything RIGHT. Within ten years I had become a street person, a degenerate addict, homeless and devastated with a sense of self-betrayal. How did this happen to me? I wondered and wondered how it was possible to have such a pure intention and then go off the rails and end up in Hell. Along the way to this place someone had once said to me, “when you get into trouble you have to ask for help. You can’t get out of it alone.” So I did that, asked for help. And I spent the next fifteen years in therapy. I couldn’t afford therapy but I worked at jobs like gas station attendant, construction laborer, house painter and I put together enough income to pay for my therapy. The question was “What is the greatest joy of writing for you?” I understand that writing comes from experience of the human condition and at eighteen I was a child, I knew nothing of the human condition.
I felt like some kind of god, I felt special. I damaged my body so that my mobility is limited. I had to give up a lot of dreams; I had to give up being a jazz drummer. But I can write. The fact that I can write fills me with limitless gratitude. I did the best I could to be worthy of my gifts and writing is a gift that still lives within me. It doesn’t matter whether or not I succeed. Well, yes it does, but I don’t see success as sales of books, I see it as the production of beauty, the telling of timeless stories and the ability to inspire and inform other people of what the world looks like to me.