The Next Sure Thing – Richard Wagamese (Raven Books, 2011 – ARC)
Richard Wagamese’s short novel The Next Sure Thing is part of Canadian publisher Orca’s Rapid Reads series, a collection of fiction and non-fiction for adults who may be reluctant readers, learning English as a second language, or just plain strapped-for-time and looking for a book that can be read in a single sitting. (I consumed this one during an hour-long lunch break at work). As befitting the Rapid Reads mission, Wagamese has put together a tight, easily digestible, and fast-paced story: there’s no clutter here, no fancy prose, no excessive details or multiple subplots.
It’s a pretty straightforward ride: Cree Thunderboy is a struggling blues musician that figures paying his dues is part of the gig (you know, the whole “you can sing the blues only if you’re living them” spiel). Money comes and goes, and he’s okay with that, particularly as his talents don’t run only to music – turns out, he has a knack for reading horses that comes in very, very handy at the race track that he frequents. Cree runs into serious trouble when he meets Win Hardy, a “talent agent” with some smooth lines and a fat wad of cash, and our hero must decide if a recording contract and a chance at the big time is worth risking his life. To keep the book short and sweet, the plotline isn’t a stretch, and the characters are not fully fledged, but there is a handsome little twist at the end that is guaranteed to satisfy. As well, I rather liked the voice of Cree Thunderboy, despite his penchant for speaking in song lyrics – Wagamese worked hard to get Cree to sound like a (storybook) bluesman and that’s kind of fun. The Next Sure Thing is a good selection for the Rapid Reads readership.
(Thank you to Orca Book Publishers for the advanced reading copy, by way of Library Thing. My review is a couple of weeks late: the book has been available since 1 October).