Celebrating the golden age of jazz, Jack of Diamonds is a true Bryce Courtenay classic spanning three continents and starring the irrepressible, quick-witted and big-hearted Jack Spayd.
Inspired by Bryce’s love of jazz and his own experiences working in the mines in Africa, Jack of Diamonds is a brilliantly entertaining story of chance, music, corruption and love.
Born into the slums of Toronto at the end of the roaring twenties, Jack Spayd grows up with a set of rules for home, school and the street where the strong rule the weak. But guided by a teacher who believes in him, a mother who protects him from his father’s drunken rages, and a friend, Mac, who introduces him to jazz, Jack discovers a life beyond Cabbagetown.
‘I’d discovered what was to become my first true obsession. I was completely obsessed, bowled over, struck by jazz lightning, whatever you want to name it.’
Turning his back on a promising classical career, Jack pursues his dream of becoming a professional jazz pianist, and rides the rails out West until he lands a job scuffing – playing everything from Rachmaninoff to ragtime. But in the dark gambling dens and honky-tonk bars of the devil’s playground that is Moose Jaw, Saskatchen, Jack receives more than a musical baptism of fire and makes a name for himself as a seriously smart poker player.
Soon the bright lights of Las Vegas beckon with the promise of legal gambling and a chance for Jack to see if he is good enough to make it as a jazz piano player in America. Caught up in the world of elite poker Jack falls under the spell of his boss, the enigmatic Bridgett Fuller, who has connections to the brutal Chicago Mob running Las Vegas. When someone gets badly hurt, Jack Spayd, also known as Jack McCrae, or Jack Reed, ex-piano player, now jazz harmonica player and sometime medic, is forced to flee for his life.
Leaving behind the one woman he adores, Jack sets sail for Africa where he begins work at the Luswishi River Copper Mine deep in the Belgian Congo. Soon his life-saving adventures lead to even more intrigue when he is given a rare African Grey parrot with a valuable secret, and before long Jack is drawn into a gambling ring run by ex-SS Germans.
‘It’s been a privilege to write for you and to have you accept me as a storyteller in your lives.
Now, as my story draws to an end, may I say only, ‘Thank you. You have been simply wonderful.’
With love and admiration,