I had the pleasure of meeting JD Jordan at the Dekalb Author Expo a couple of months ago. There were upwards of 40 local authors there and I had made the rounds touching base, networking, as I do, and was impressed with JD's cover art and his passion. When he told me that his book was a Western about Calamity Jane and a space alien, I have to admit I went a little ... meh. Westerns aren't my thing, and space aliens are really even less my thing. I congratulated him on his book and continued my tour. Each of us author were introduced in turn and provided a few minutes to tell a little something about out body of work. When it was JD Jordan's turn, he took the mic and said "The best way for me to introduce you to Calamity is to let her do it herself." He then proceeded to read the first paragraph of his novel. I stopped in my tracks and made my way back to his table.
When I'm writing, one of my strengths is voice. Jordan's Calamity is VOICE, if you take my meaning. The novel is told in series of three "Books" and each of these books is one set of adventures. The narrator, Calamity Jane is telling the stories of her life to a writer who is transcibing her words for the public. This is her memoir and she is reminiscing thirty years into her past to the time the adventures took place. It's unlike any memoir I've ever read, and even though there are moments that Calamity Jane reminds us that she is telling this from a distance, it is told with such immediacy that you are caught on her every move. Jordan captures the reader and takes us on a gritty journey through the dusty landscape of the American West, and in the end you'll thank him for the ride.
Calimity is far and away the most creative work of fiction I have read in years. It is incredibly imagined, beautifully rendered, and hauntingly real. Calamity Jane herself is a fine mix of insecurity, fierce spirit, audacity, tenderness, tenacity, love, and hate. She is fifteen in the tales, orphaned and alone in the world when her path crosses with the Green Man, who is, believe it or not, not the first green man she has encountered. When her world is tumbled to dust she hitches her fate to the Green Man and they set out together. Martha Jane Canary is a fierce little bird and in this tale she transforms, shedding the childhood fears along with the name she associates with those weaker moments. She takes Jane as her nomiker and reminds herself always to be strong, not a Martha, which always made me realize what a young girl she was during this story.
If you had told me a year ago that I would meet a space alien and want to invite him in for dinner I never would have believed you, but the Green Man is magnificent. Jordan's descriptions of the Green Man are clear and precise and come across as absolutely possible, even real. I loved all the textures Jordan provide, the feel of the Green Man's skin, the opaque blackness of his eyes, the dexterity of his antennae or "stalks." There is nothing left unfinished in this novel, it is full to bursting with details that never once feel overblown.
JD Jordan has done everything right in this debut novel. It is fast paced and immensely creative. I can't say that there is another book I'm familiar with that I can even compare this to. It is one of a kind. Jordan has a new fan in me, that's for sure. I don't care what the subject of his next book is, I'll be reading it.
The only pause I even remotely offer is this, there is a lot of language. Calamity Jane is rough and tough, full of piss and vinegar, colorful and cantankorous. She holds nothing back in this retelling of her life and although there is language I didn't find it offensive. Some might.
Check out JD Jordan's website to stay up to date on his next project at http://www.o-jd.com