All That Follows

Overview

Critically acclaimed author Jim Crace returns with a masterful and tender new novel that explores the improvisational power of jazz and the complexities of love and violence.
 
Leonard Lessing is a British jazz musician whose life has become largely predictable and stagnant. While watching the news one night he recognizes a man who is holding four hostages. The man is Maxie, a former acquaintance who he met eighteen years previously in ...

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All That Follows

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Overview

Critically acclaimed author Jim Crace returns with a masterful and tender new novel that explores the improvisational power of jazz and the complexities of love and violence.
 
Leonard Lessing is a British jazz musician whose life has become largely predictable and stagnant. While watching the news one night he recognizes a man who is holding four hostages. The man is Maxie, a former acquaintance who he met eighteen years previously in Austin, Texas. When he meets up with Maxie's daughter Lucy, Lennie must decide whether to sit silently, as he has so many times, or find the courage to go to the crime scene and potentially save lives. A moving and insightful novel, All That Follows proves once again that Jim Crace is one of our most talented and dynamic storytellers.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Leonard Lessing, the British protagonist of Crace's surprisingly bad 10th novel (after The Pesthouse), has Walter Mitty–like dreams of being a revolutionary that are invariably short-circuited by his fear of making a disturbance. In 2006, Leonard, while in Austin, Tex., to reconnect with ex-flame Nadia, is bullied into assuming the role of activist by Maxie, the founder of Snipers Without Bullets, who is living with Nadia and who has gotten her pregnant. Though Maxie appalls Leonard, he nevertheless halfheartedly takes part in an “action” against Laura Bush that leads to Nadia's arrest and her daughter, Lucy, being born in prison. Eighteen years later, Leonard sees a news story about Maxie, who has taken a British family hostage. While gawking at the proceedings, Leonard runs into Lucy and gets drawn, once again, into a cockeyed scheme that begins Leonard's unlikely reunion with Nadia and a partial, ironic fulfillment of his dream of being an iconic radical. Unfortunately, Crace's novel is held hostage by the listlessness that emanates from chickenhearted Leonard and the embarrassing stereotypes that clutter many of the scenes, especially those set in Texas. This is a feeble effort for a novelist of Crace's stature. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This novel takes place around the year 2024, but not much seems different, except that there are more surveillance cameras around, and television and the Internet are somewhat more sophisticated. There's a hostage situation in a small town in England, evidently in protest of an upcoming governmental meeting, and Leonard Lessing, a jazz saxophonist watching it on TV, realizes that he knows one of the perpetrators. In 2006, they had both been involved with the same woman in Austin, TX, and took part in a political protest of sorts at an event where Laura Bush was appearing. Leonard, who has been on a kind of sabbatical from his jazz career and also in a marital limbo, is moved to cooperate with the police. Reaching the scene of the siege, Leonard meets the daughter of the perpetrator, and they hatch a convoluted scheme to help resolve the standoff. Later, Leonard's wife joins in as a bid to improve their relationship. VERDICT Leonard can be an annoying protagonist, and the plot strains credibility at times. But the writing is excellent, and the story moves along with a seductive force. Another fine work from the author of Being Dead. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/09.]—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Kirkus Reviews
In this near-future novel, British author Crace (The Pesthouse, 2007, etc.) examines the meaning of courage for one jazz musician. As a young tenor sax player, Leonard Lessing alternated among composing, gigging and political activism. In 2006, he followed fellow activist Nadia from England to Austin, Texas, believing they might have a future together. Fat chance. Nadia had already hooked up with Russian-American Maxie Lermon, a violence-prone faux-leftist who corralled Leonard into a three-person anti-Bush demo to prove his manhood. Maxie was disabled, Nadia arrested; Leonard, highly principled but too well-mannered for the barricades, fled the scene. Where Leonard could prove himself was onstage. Years later, in England, his quartet stranded by bad weather, he played a gig alone for a full house and a radio audience. His performance was a triumph. "Valiant," said an unknown audience member, Francine, who would become his wife. Crace begins his story in 2024; Leonard and Francine have been married nine years. Suddenly, Maxie re-enters Leonard's life. He's in the news for having taken some hostages in a nearby town to protest an upcoming summit. Aside from that long Texas flashback, the novel focuses on Leonard's bumbling attempts to defuse the crisis, with the help of Maxie's 17-year-old daughter Lucy. For an author much respected for his groundbreaking work, this is a surprisingly conventional story, one that leaves us with a nagging feeling that Crace hasn't fully engaged with his theme. Leonard is a dreamer; his favorite fantasy is fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Maxie is a brutal man of action; but in making him a loud-mouthed bore, hasn't Crace stacked the deck? Lucy isvibrant (she has her own reckless adolescent courage), but the older women, Nadia especially, are sketchy. The near-future setting is little more than an embellishment. Though Crace is never dull, nothing else catches fire like that wonderful description of Leonard's solo gig.
From the Publisher
"Mesmerizing....Graceful....Lyrical....[Crace] captures the human condition in all its sinuous, improvisational and sensual essence."—The Providence Journal
  
“Probing and suspenseful. . . . Elegant. . . . Dazzling. . . . Truly valiant!” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A fine novel . . . entirely satisfying.”—Denver Post
 
“Crace is excellent.”—Los Angeles Times 
 
“A psychological novel of ideas . . . . Excellent."—The Times, London
 
"The writing is excellent, and the story moves along with a seductive force.  Another fine work from [Crace]."—Library Journal
 
"Written in crisp, efficent prose. . . . [All That Follows] is as accomplished as Crace’s previous nine novels and is a testament to his craft and versatility."—The Sydney Morning Herald
 
"Crace sensitively depicts a middle-aged man coming to terms with the choices he has made, missed opportunities and all."—Booklist
 
“Crace brings a rare humour. . . . All That Follows is both thought-provoking and a delight to read.”—The Gaurdian, London

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780330445658
  • Publisher: Picador USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2011

Meet the Author

Jim Crace is the author of nine previous novels, including most recently, The Pesthouse. Being Dead was shortlisted for the 1999 Whitbread Fiction Prize and won the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2000. In 1997, Quarantine was named the Whitbread Novel of the Year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Jim Crace has also received the E.M. Forster Award, and the Guardian Fiction Prize. He lives in Birmingham, England.

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Read an Excerpt

1

The hair is unmistakable: old-fashioned Russian hair, swept back from the forehead, thickly and unusually abundant. Leonard stands on the rug a meter from the television screen to see more closely. The video footage is grainy and unsteady, purposefully amateur. The man reading the prepared statement in the curtained room does not mean to be recognized. Indeed, he has masked his face to the bridge of the nose with what appears to be a child’s scarf. His voice, crudely distorted on the sound track, is childlike too. He wears sunglasses, defiantly unfashionable E-clips, ten years old at least. The light beam from the camera is lasered at his chest and the lower half of his scarf, so that what little of the face can be seen—the ears, the eyebrows, and the forehead—is underlit and ghostly. But still the hair is unmistakable.

Leonard sits. He stands to find the remote console. Sits again. He is breathless, and it is with a shaking hand that he clicks open an on-screen toolbar, pastes a password, enters “Personal Briefcase,” selects Menu, Archive, Album, Austin, and waits for the file of photographs to download. A hundred or so chattering thumbnails peel out of the icon and tile across the desktop. It is easy to spot the group of images he wants. They are indoor shots, flash bright, and the only ones without an intense sapphire sky. Those days in Texas were almost cloudless. He highlights a single photograph with an archive date of 10-27-06 and expands it. And there they are, the three of them, posing side by side in Gruber’s Old Time BBQ, meat spread out across the table on butcher’s paper, with polystyrene tubs of pinto beans and coleslaw, and a line of bottles—Shiner Bocks. The room is blue with smoke and, he remembers, blue with swearing. He zooms in on the man to the left in the photograph and drags the expanded image up the screen so that it is parked next to the newscast box. It is only a few minutes before the video segment is repeated, and only a few seconds after it begins Leonard is able to freeze an image of the masked face. Now he can compare. He cannot tell exactly what he hopes to find.

On the left, photographed without much care or interest eighteen years previously by the girl who cleared tables at Gruber’s, is Maxie, the  big-smiled American son of Russian immigrants. That much is certain. His black mustache and beard were sparse and adolescent in those days. His hair, long on top, parted slightly to the right, was swept back over his ears, with just a few loose strands. He looked like the teenage Stalin in that famous early photograph that became the poster for the biopic in the early 2020s, Young Steel, unfeasibly handsome and intense. And on the right, snatched from the newscast, is the masked man, guarding his identity and filmed by whom? A comrade, colleague, accomplice? Neither of the images is well defined—a frozen, hazy video clip and an overexpanded photo detail, a mosaic of pixels. The evidence is blurry at best. But Leonard is convinced. These two images, separated by almost eighteen years, are of the same man: the same swept-tundra look, the same  wind-sculpted brow, the same  off-center widow’s peak. No sign of balding yet, or gray. It’s Maxie, then. Maxie Lermon. Maxim Lermontov. On active service, evidently. His head at least has aged extremely well. His head has aged much better than Leonard’s own. Leonard’s hair is gray, a little prematurely. It is not abundant. As (almost) ever, Maxie has the edge on him.

Now Francine has come home. He hears her keys, the two sentinel notes of the house alarm, the impact of her bags on the hall floor, the clatter of her shoes, the squeak and whine of the lavatory door and the air extractor. He listens while she urinates, flushes, rinses her hands, squeaks the door once more. Should he say anything about his disquieting discovery? he wonders, deciding no. But her not kissing him when she comes into the room, her not even pretending a smile, and him so disappointed, seeing her so pretty, makes him speak.

“See this,” he says.

“See what?”

Again he banks the images and places Maxie-masked and Maxie-young next to each other on the screen. “What do you think? Are they the same man?”

“Probably.” She  chin-tucks. Her Chinese teacup face, he calls it. The corners of her mouth are down. It means she is impatient, wants to get to bed. “Who is he, anyway?”

“This is the one”—he points—“who’s got those hostages. You haven’t seen the news?” She doesn’t even shake her head. What does he think a teacher does all day? “This one. . . well, he’s someone I used to know. In America.” Again he chatters thumbnails across the screen. “See, look, that’s me. In Austin. Almost twenty years ago.”

“You eating meat?”

“Pretending to.”

“Boy, I should say. What is that place, an abattoir?”

Maxie is still talking to the camera, though after Francine has gone upstairs to bed the telescreen is muted to a whisper. He is repeating his demands and suggesting a way—some government concessions, some troop withdrawals, safe transit to an airport, a flight to somewhere he won’t specify—for “finishing this without mishap,” a word so much more menacing than bloodshed, say, or death, especially when spoken behind a mask and dark glasses, especially when deliberately mispronounced and with the slightly comic Yiddish inflection that Maxie is using to disguise his voice. Leonard shapes his hands ten centimeters from his stomach, miming his saxophone, and blows a pair of notes, three times, at the screen:  Misch-appMisch-appBlood-sched.

The same reporter, accumulating coats and scarves as the evening gets chillier, updates every half hour, standing in the street fifty meters from the house of hostages. The “suspects,” who took refuge “randomly” when fleeing through the gardens after what the police are calling “a bungled incident,” have at least one handgun that has already been “discharged at officers.” They might have more, she says. The broadcast helicopter shows a suburb darkening, the whirring siren lights of police, ambulance, and fire brigade, and the orange glow of curtained houses. The garden trees and sheds and greenhouses become more formless as the night wears on. The hostages—no details for the moment—are being baby-sat by Maxie Lermon, as yet unrecognized, as yet unnamed.

Leonard flattens the futon and fetches the guest duvet from the cupboard. He will not go upstairs tonight. Francine will already be asleep. Any noise he might—he’s bound to—make (he’s a slightly lumbering left-hander) will irritate her: the light switches, the bathroom taps, the floorboards and the mattress, the intricate percussion of getting into bed in a modern wooden house with its muttering, living materials. She needs more sleep than he does because she’s never quite asleep. She’s waiting for the phone to go, waiting to be woken by the phone, dreaming of it so persuasively that many times she has sat up abruptly in bed and reached out for the handset in an almost silent room. She lifts it, even, and only hears the dial tone and her own somersaulting heart.

Leonard could pick up the telephone at any time to offer information to the police. He knows he should. Identify the unidentified. Supply a name. Provide intelligence. But it is already late and Leonard is still trembling. It has been a tense and shocking day, and he is too tired and troubled for anything except retreat. It has gone midnight. Everybody will be sleeping now, or trying to. The police, the comrades, the hostages. Leonard will be sleeping soon, still dressed, on his futon, so frequently his bed these days, the television flickering, Francine unreachable upstairs. Tomorrow he should phone. He will phone. He will never phone. He does his best to sleep.

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