John Van Kirk

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Van Kirk captures the trippy abandon and reckless excess of the 70's zeitgeist through the eyes of aging rock legend, Jack Voss, whose sobering journey into middle-aged disillusionment forces him to come to terms with the consequences of his unexamined life. While he was a music student in college he wrote an allegorical rock opera, "The Enchanted Pond," about an ill-fated love triangle. It propelled him into the stratosphere of rockstardom: Voss's name spoken with the reverence reserved for icons like Jim Morrison, Pete Townsend, David Bowie, Eric Clapton. He could never have imagined that it would become an anthem for a generation, lead to unthinkable tragedy in his own life, or finally bring him to his own redemption.

This novel has the sure, unsentimental narrative command of writers like Richard Russo or Jonathan Franzen, and its story echoes the haunting pull of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. It is compelling, heartbreaking; most of all, it evokes the not-so-distant past of our youth with an immediacy so recognizable that it feels like yesterday.

Honorable Mention, Eric Hoffer Book Awards

The US Review of Books

Finalist, Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards

Santa Fe Writer's Project

Editorial Reviews

"The novel conveys a genuine passion for rock music, and cleverly includes liner notes, song titles, lyrics and a discography.... Van Kirk raises compelling if age-old questions about the tension between art and life, and about our responsibilities to those we love...."  —The New York Times

“A passionate, elegiac tale about the excesses of sex, drugs, and rock and roll over a tortured musician’s lifetime. . . . An invented discography, excerpts of lyrics, and cameos by real-life figures like Nick Cave give a feeling of authenticity to Van Kirk’s fictional rock star.”—Publishers Weekly

“Debut novelist Van Kirk delivers the highly authentic story of melancholy, aging keyboardist Jack Voss.… Reminiscent of Robert Stone’s works (e.g. Outerbridge Reach etc), Van Kirk’s is a reflective story of how manly ‘maturity’ happens.”—Douglas Lord, Library Journal

“Van Kirk depicts the world of an aging rock star by alternating between soft reminiscence and gritty action…. This skilled writer has combined external vibrancy with thought-provoking introspection, juxtaposing understated drama with inner sadness.”—ForeWord Reviews

"Van Kirk's debut novel is a passionate, elegiac tale about the excesses of sex, drugs, and rock and roll over a tortured musician's lifetime." --Publishers Weekly

Advance praise for Song for Chance

"On its surface, John Van Kirk's Song for Chance is a tale of 1970s sex, drugs, and rock and roll, seen through the eyes of a musician who, along with his band, goes for the big crazy ride of rock star success—and endures a volatile mix of unanticipated (and often dire) consequences. Van Kirk's knowledge and love of popular music shines through and richly informs his story, but it's the deeper aspects of Song for Chance that make the novel truly memorable: a generously rendered account of a soul's journey through an unexpected life. Van Kirk's story is expansive, eloquently tracing the often strange alchemy in the great sea-changes of living, loving, and dying. The cadenced rhythms of Song For Chance will stay with you long after you've finished the book."
--Richard Currey, author of Fatal Light and Lost Highway

"With the cool complexity of a jazz fugue, Song for Chance plays out beautifully. Smart, gripping and atmospheric, this journey of music and redemption and love will leave you yearning for an encore."
--Zoë Ferraris, bestselling author of Finding Nouf and City of Veils.

"In these pages, lost landscapes emerge and out-of-print records spin again. Memories haunt forever, cutting through years of smoke and haze and vertigo, until the past becomes the present. A nightmare rock opera, beautifully, endlessly looped."
--Glenn Taylor, author of The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart and The Marrowbone Marble Company

"John Van Kirk's Song for Chance masterfully captures the essence of the 1970s' rock culture by chronicling the meteoric rise and fall of fictional rock legend Jack Voss, a keyboardist whose life is as improvised as his playing. Van Kirk creates a remarkably vivid cast who could snort lines with the likes of Steven Tyler and Keith Richards. Not only is the hedonistic sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll lifestyle unflinchingly exposed, but Van Kirk reveals the evolution of Voss as a musician and as a man through the songs that he writes. In a brilliant move, those telling song titles and lyrics are included, along with liner notes, a discography, and bonus tracks, which add kick-ass authenticity. Amidst all the rock-god mayhem, however, is Voss's meditative Zen quest—all while at the piano, the only language he really knows how to speak—where he realizes the tragic consequences of his self-absorption and fame on the people he loves the most. Song for Chance is a beautifully orchestrated debut composed with the artistry of a fine piece of music."
--Marie Manilla, author of Still Life with Plums

"John Van Kirk's Song for Chance sinks into your bones like a Billy Preston solo, reverberating with a beat unheard of in most contemporary novels."
--Craig Johnson, bestselling author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries