'Take It Cool' by Jon Pinnock; a reggae odyssey

Apart from being the same rather extreme height as myself and an ex-Verulam Writers' Circler my good friend Jon Pinnock has just had his third successful novel published; 'Take It Cool' is Jon's attempt (for 'attempt' read obsession) to trace his white home counties Pinnock roots all the way to the way more exotic Pinnock's of the West Indies; an idea inspired by his discovery a few years ago of the nearly-famous reggae singer Dennis Pinnock's body of musical work. Would this quest bring him the cool his seemingly staid English heritage had, in Jon's eyes at least, so far denied him? Would he unlock the mystery of the two very different branches of Pinnock family connection? Would he get to meet the man in person? It's a great story from a superb raconteur; Jon couldn't tell a dull tale if his life depended on it and this book is laced with his usual acerbic wit and keen observation for human foibles, including his own, from start to climatic finish. In other words, its a great read.

Here's Jon's own take on 'Take It Cool':

TAKE IT COOL had its genesis back in the early 1980s, when I came across a secondhand reggae single with that name by a chap called Dennis Pinnock. It was pretty good, too, and I especially liked the dub B side, ‘Pinnock’s Paranormal Payback’. It intrigued me to think of a man of apparently West Indian heritage being saddled with the same daft two-consonants-away-from-disaster surname as me, but I didn’t take it any further until around ten years ago, when it suddenly struck me that I could Google him to see if he’d come up with anything else.

It turned out that he had. In fact, his discography ran to over twenty records, although he’d never got as far as making an album of his own, despite working with some of the biggest names in black British music. I began to wonder. What if I were to try and track him down? Might we be related somehow? There might be a story there, although at that point it seemed a bit thin to stretch out to an entire book.

But I wrote up a first draft of a chapter anyway and read it out to my local writers group, the Verulam Writers Circle. It went down very well, and during the discussion, one of the members of the group wondered if there might be a slavery angle behind our shared name. And that was the point at which the project suddenly became a whole load more interesting, because very soon afterwards I tracked down a Pinnock who – among other things – was a big deal plantation owner in Jamaica in the 18th century.

I now had several strands to work with. First of all, who was Dennis Pinnock? Was he still alive? Could I track him down? Secondly, what about all these other records? Were they any good? Maybe I could collect them all! (Sad, I know) Thirdly, what about the Jamaican connection? Was it even possible that – horror of horrors – I could be descended from a slave owner? So perhaps I needed to dig around in my past as well…

It took me almost a decade to pull all this together, partly because of all the research I had to do and also partly because I had no idea if it was ever going to be publishable. The one thing I did have in my favour was that no-one else was likely to come along and beat me to it. I’m still smarting from the way that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies waltzed in and stole all the glory while I was still writing Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens. But this one was always going to be a Pinnock project.

But finish it I did, and I did find a publisher in the end, in the shape of the wonderful Two Ravens Press. The finished book looks lovely – it’s even got colour pictures in the middle! – and everyone who’s read it so far seems to love it. As my publisher says, it’s unlike anything else on the market – which is both a problem and an opportunity. It’s a problem because there isn’t anything I can point to and say “It’s like that.” And it’s an opportunity for exactly the same reason.

Here’s where you can hear me reading the first chapter, which will give you an idea of what it’s all about:
https://soundcloud.com/jonpinnock/take-it-cool-chapter-one-two-consonants-away <https://soundcloud.com/jonpinnock/take-it-cool-chapter-one-two-consonants-away> . The text below it has details of where you can order the book, which of course you’ll want to be doing once you’ve had a listen.


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