“…I am a syncopator, a jazzman.
I mark time by being offbeat.
My beats make the weak ones strong and the strong ones weak.”
With those words, the novel’s main character, George Nepras, son of Czech immigrants and living a hard life in blue collar early twentieth-century Chicago, spins a tale of his life in jazz and his soul’s redemption through it. Haunting the speakeasies of the Roaring Twenties, George studies early jazz greats like King Oliver and befriends jazz legend, Bix Beiderbecke. The road to his calling forces George to struggle against fate, virulent racial tensions, his insular ethnic neighborhood, and his own limitations in the tradition of James T. Farrell’s character, Studs Lonigan. Often confused by the conflict between his Czech past and American identity, George nonetheless tackles life with the quiet courage and tenacity of Santiago in "The Old Man and the Sea."