When the Swan Sings on Hastings (Living Detroit) by Thomas Galasso

Page-turning, gripping, and memorable…

Set in Detroit in 1956, Galasso’s excellent latest buzzes with history and intrigue. Paradise Valley is an exciting collage of culture: a vibrant set of theatres, restaurants, bars, and other after-hour businesses line up the streets. Artists, hookers, bartenders, waiters, all of them are flourishing. Musicians such as John Lee Hooker and jazz giants like Dizzy Gillespie often plays until well into the morning hours. With majorities of businesses black-owned, people seem to look out for one another. But everything changes when urban renewal causes Paradise Valley not only to recreate itself but also to relocate. It’s a rich tale, pulsating with life that takes a wistful look at an important time in American urban history, during which long-established and culturally vital communities were destroyed in the name of urban renewal. Through his story of Paradise Valley, Galasso explores the way the federal policy of urban renewal of the era had devastating consequences, displacing a large number of the population from their homes and their businesses. Black populations and people of color took the burn when it came to the authorities razing entire areas to rebuild. He skillfully delves into his characters’ inner upheaval, exploring their fears, insecurities, desires, and dreams: he aptly explores Jimmy’s emotional turmoil, continuing to Louie’s personal terrors and Semetria’s struggles to find her place in the music world among others, and, not far in the background, social and political challenges the characters of the long-established, culturally vital community of Paradise Valley are set to face in the name of urban renewal. Glasso’s prose is crisp as he delves into the universal themes of friendship, family, duty, responsibility, integrity, resilience, regret, and redemption and he skillfully brings both the setting and the characters to life—Blue Swan, Sportree’s Music Bar, Warfield Theater, Chi Chi’s Fish Place, Lightfoot’s Barber Shop, 606 Horseshoe Bar, B & B Fish Restaurant, Forest Club, Bo’s Record Shop—come alive in readers’ minds. There are also shared moments of wonder and joy, tiny delights, painful heartbreaks, and the feelings of loss and grief that make all the characters, be it major or minor come alive on the pages. As always, there’s a danger of tediousness in such stories. But Galasso’s entertaining storytelling combined with razor-sharp dialogue helps him avoid the dreariness of the expanded narrative. A novel of verve, intellect, and page-turning human drama, this is a stunner. Galasso is an author to watch.

When the Swan Sings on Hastings

(Living Detroit)

By Thomas Galasso

Aquarius Press

Buy now

Pub date April 8, 2017

ISBN 978-0998527871

Price $16.00 (USD) Paperback, $2.40 Kindle edition



Categories: Historical fiction

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