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Terry Tarnoff


Nick Blake has just returned from the battlefields of Europe and is part of a lost generation trying to make its way in postwar America. As he sets out on a journey across the country, the summer of 1947 comes alive in a mind-bending, history-altering romp. Nick witnesses the birth of electric blues in Chicago, encounters the first members of the Beat Generation taking to the road, gets caught up with the original motorcycle gang invading small-town America, and is party to the first sightings of UFOs across the Midwestern skies. Along the way, he encounters a young Muddy Waters, an even younger Jack Kerouac, and a blues-loving, harmonica-playing alien named Jaxson Epsilon, the most unusual character of them all. Jaxson has a secret that is about to change the course of human history as he endeavors to alter the dreams of every man, woman, and child for generations to come.

In this groundbreaking exploration of the brain, dreams, and neurology, the reader is thrust into the dark corners and hidden pathways of human consciousness. The Chronicle of Stolen Dreams is alternately profound, hilarious, and provocative as it poses theories of human behavior that challenge all accepted wisdom. The book is part Vonnegut, part Rushdie, part Chabon, and entirely Tarnoff as the author of The Bone Man of Benares and The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker pushes into a whole new universe of ideas. The summer of 1947 will never again be seen the same way.

M.C. Escher’s “Rind” © 2013 The M.C. Escher Company – the Netherlands. All rights reserved. Used by permission.



“Terry Tarnoff is an absolute master storyteller—he could tell me a tale of taking the garbage out and I’d sit listening spellbound. But he’s also a fearfully brilliant, comic genius, and when you put the two together you might think that Kurt Vonnegut had briefly returned from the dead. Throw in a little New Age madness, a little Beat degeneracy, a bit of mouth-watering esculence on a par with Ruth Reichl, and a little pure lyric poetry, and you have The Chronicle of Stolen Dreams.”
– Gerald Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac

“An ingenious tour de force of an “on the road” that precedes Kerouac’s and includes rocket ships during the McCarthy period after WW2. Tarnoff has created a cast of unforgettable characters—in space and on earth, and in this book the two very definitely and dramatically are conjoined. Tarnoff’s use of the self-conscious narrator only adds to the lightheartedness of the text, and his writing, whether of Chicago blues musicians or of the wackiness of all the wanderers in this chronicle, is brilliant.”
– Jack Hirschman, San Francisco Poet Laureate/author of The Arcanes

“Ever since The Bone Man of Benares I’ve regarded Terry Tarnoff as a gifted scribe, fellow traveler and blues brother; but with The Chronicle of Stolen Dreams he takes it exponentially further on down the road. Equal parts beat, blues, Roswell sci-fi and road-trip hilarity, Stolen Dreams introduces us to a decidedly off-kilter galaxy that includes world-weary WWII vets, 1947 Chicago gangsters, not one but two harmonica-playing protagonists, and a wonderfully haywire plot involving cranial brain-travel and dream-energy extraction. Featuring a host of quirky extra-terrestrials, a beer-drenched pool game with Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, a Gypsy beatnik barfly and a smart-alecky harmonica-playing alien from Obsidia, and with cameos by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, well, all I can say is… C’mon… baby, don’t you wanna go?”
– Tom Ball, harmonica player/author of The Marty Graw Book and Backstraw

“I loved reading this book. I don’t even want to explain the story, except to say it takes place in 1947 and involves two harmonica players, one from the planet Obsidia, who’s come to earth on a UFO (yes, its one of those first seen after WW II). His name is Jaxson Epsilon and he’s an outcast, an alien who somehow fell into the job of Ship’s Observer (he has no discernible skills). The other is Nick Blake, a soldier who survived the bloody foxholes of Italy and now blows harp on stage in Chicago with whoever will let him get close to a microphone. One night it might be Muddy Waters, the next, one of the Sonny Boys, whoever — just a chance to let out the pent up angst from having been part of the great killing machine which defeated the Nazis. He hooks up with Esmeralda Kurlansky, half-Jewish, half-gypsy, all-woman. They get in trouble with mob guys, and getting away, their paths cross with Jaxson and Marta-2, who are part of a team dispatched to earth to gather energy for their flickering planet, Obsidia, whose mad scientists have devised a last-ditch effort to tap the vast energy fields of human dreams to relight their society. Take my word for it, this story is like a snowball rolling down a high incline picking up speed with every turn of the page. The year is 1947, but seen through the innocent eyes of people from another planet. When Marta-2 tells Esmeralda, “You sure know a lot about men. I’ve never really been very lucky with the male of the species,” Esmeralda shoots back, “You see, that’s the problem. They’re not ‘the male of the species.’ They’re suckers, mugs, goons, punks, eggs, geese, greasers, hombres, jaspers, and palookas. You gotta see them for what they are.” They say of a great quarterback the ball comes out of his hands quickly, well the words come off Tarnoff’s pages quick, quickly, quicker and faster, faster till your head is whipping and lashing. You never know what’s around the corner in this book but it’s sure to grab you as it shifts from character to place and memory, like a sudden picture of Greenwich Village right after the war conjured from Nick’s recent memory: “Everybody was wandering in the Village- ex-soldiers, ex-students, ex-husbands and ex-wives — the streets were full of a disconnected population whose vacant eyes darted from doorway to doorway, searching for somewhere new to enter, a bar or a restaurant or a club that would suck them into its cocoon and embrace them for an hour or two. Everyone was walking in circles — Nick, too — what else was he supposed to do, around and around he went, his battered body had been deposited on home ground while his friends had been buried in the mud. Why had he lived and not them, what made him so special, was he supposed to be thankful for the chance to stare into a meaningless future?” But then you’ll be back in the chase… “the Hudson fish-tailed across the road and spun in circles on the salt flat like a dreidel gone crazy on Dexedrine.” The writing is electric, the characters and their interior thoughts enlightening, warm and lovable. This book truly is like nothing I’ve read; its pages are packed with Tarnoff’s quirky mind-effing philosophical gems; I felt the emotions of every character, alien and human alike. This is fun reading — the surprises keep coming, the dialogue crackles with wit and the descriptions ignite the mind. I can’t remember reading a book that made me see how we look to those from another galaxy; “They edged along the hallway past the Gents room, where two guys were lurking in the shadows. That seemed to be a favorite pastime of Earthlings — they were great lurkers. It was a planet of oglers, Peeping Toms, and Lookie-Loos whom he wouldn’t miss for a minute.” Tarnoff has a comedic voice loaded with subtle ironic insights which he uses in varying speeds, rhythms, bounce and melody. Everything surrounding the mystery of this little life rounded with a sleep will come at you in his steady gun prose; “His brain swooned and he took a wild leap from a flying trapeze. There was no net. He just kept flying and flying through the air, not knowing if he would ever land. Which was better? To land without a net or never land at all? Now that was a question worth pondering.” Hurt feelings aren’t limited to earth’s creatures — this from Marta-1 of Obsidia: “What stories you wove! You and me forever, you and me living the life of luxury on a paradise island in the sky, you and me blazing trails and climbing mountains and diving to the depths of the oceans of love. Nothing was left now but the sting of regret, the aching of the heart separated from its soul, the yearning of the skin stripped of its skeleton. Come to my room again in the middle of the night? Oh, yes, please, please. please, please just try it.” There’s a depth and a lightness hard-packed into the 400 pages of this book; for me it gave deep interior smiles of recognition — all the time revealing the frail, the funny, the oh so human side of poor effing humanity.”
– Michael Danzig, screenwriter