Genre: Historical Fiction
I was drawn to this book initially because it’s set in Southern California and refers to local Pasadena landmarks and history so I was happy to see this book on the blog circuit!
The main character Nick Chance was a likable anti-hero and the interactions with his horny dog Royo were very entertaining as he becomes a morality guide of sorts.
Historical fiction is a favorite genre and this was a fascinating, well-researched look at Old Pasadena. The Colorado Street Bridge is the namesake of the novel and I had no idea it had such a dark as deadly history. A quick search told me that over 100 people have sadly ended their lives by jumping off this bridge. I’m betting that a longtime resident would really enjoy this novel with the references to local residents and historical events.
The author is a very capable wordsmith and I had to lookup more than a few words… bugaboo, iconoclast, photovoltaic. Satire often goes over my head so there was a probably deeper message that I missed. However, I enjoyed the quirky characters and the detailed look back through time.
Set against two distinct epochs in the history of Pasadena, California, Chip Jacobs writes in Arroyo the parallel stories of a young inventor and his clairvoyant dog in 1913 and 1993. In both lives, they are drawn to the landmark Colorado Street Bridge, which suffered a lethal collapse during construction but still opened to fanfare in the early twentieth-century automobile age. When the refurbished structure commemorates its 80th birthday, one of the planet’s best-known small towns is virtually unrecognizable from its romanticized, and somewhat invented, past. While unearthing the truth about the Colorado Street Bridge, in all its eye-catching grandeur and unavoidable darkness, the characters of Arroyo paint a vivid picture of how the home of the Rose Bowl got its dramatic start.
About the Author
Chip Jacobs is a Los Angeles-area author and journalist. His most recent book is his debut novel, Arroyo, historical fiction set around the construction of Pasadena’s mysterious Colorado Street Bridge at the turn of the century. It will be published on October 15. His earlier books are Strange As It Seems: The Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler, the updated biography of a little dreamer who existed joyfully, from Hollywood studios to globetrotting destinations, in a ticking time-bomb of a body. Publishers Weekly, in its review, called Jacobs an “exceptional storyteller” and said the “extraordinary life” being told was a “peculiar page-turner” rendered with an “imaginative” bent. It was an Indies Book of the Year finalist. His other books include the environmental social histories The People’s Republic of Chemicals and the bestselling Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (both award-winners with William J. Kelly); the dark humor, true crime tale The Ascension of Jerry; the articles collection The Vicodin Thieves and; the privately issued biography Black Wednesday Boys. Jacobs’ profile of California political figure Richard Alatorre appears in two Greenwood Publication collections, and a long-form true crime story — about an idealist lawyer and a depraved cult — is featured in the bestselling anthology Los Angeles in the 1970s: Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine.
Jacobs’ writing has been honored, among others, by the Independent Publishers’ Book Awards (IPPY), the Indies Book of the Year contest, Foreword and Booklist magazines (for starred reviews and top books in genre), The Green Prize for Sustainable Literature, the Southern California Book Festival, the Shanghai Book Awards, and as a Chinese “Most Influential” and “Outstanding Popular Science” book. Jacobs and his subjects have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Marketplace Radio, Slate, Wired, NPR-syndicate stations, C-Span, Politifact and elsewhere. If you enjoy his works, please consider reviewing them at his official Amazon Author Page, at Goodreads and recommending them to friends.
Jacobs grew up in northeast Pasadena. In 1985, he graduated from the University of Southern California with BAs in journalism and international relations. In 1988, he earned his MA in international relations, emphasizing national security affairs, from The American University in Washington, D.C. Jacobs broke into journalism in 1990 at The Los Angeles Business Journal. His passions include Trojan football, life as a Beatles/Led Zeppelin/Squeeze-maniac, electric guitar, forgotten literature, running and super-sugary breakfast cereals. He lives in Southern California.
Jacobs … is an exceptional storyteller, and his lively look at the extraordinary career of Gordon Zahler … is a peculiar page-turner. Zahler, the author’s uncle, achieved success on the margins of show business despite a spinal injury … Jacobs … craft(s) an imaginative biography about this unusual figure, who carved out a distinct place in post-WWII Hollywood by repurposing the music of his father, Lee Zahler, a prolific film composer. Along the way, readers meet a colorful cast of characters, including animator Walter Lantz, actor Burt Lancaster, and fringe film directors Ed Wood Jr. and Samuel Fuller. Zahler’s life was filled with difficulties, but Jacobs refuses to frame his cantankerous uncle as a tragic figure and cleverly uses his story to expound on the larger history of his family. This fast-paced account of a life lived to its fullest is a triumphant tribute …
Jacobs’ thoroughly researched debut novel excavates the buried history of Pasadena … a riveting and enjoyable look at how local myths are constructed, and a vivid depiction of a time and a place that felt full of possibilities” — Booklist
“A completely original and genre-defying work – both historical novel and metaphysical noir … The author has caught the brass ring and given it to us as pure gold … the ending that pulls together all the elements of this ambitious novel is a satisfying tour de force” — Tristine Rainer, author Apprenticed to Venus, my years with Anaïs Nin
“Arroyo’ is unrelentingly bizarre, perversely funny, and absurdly true–mostly. Pure jazz!” — Ron Franscell, bestselling author of The Darkest Night
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