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Description - The Jukebox Queen of Malta by Nicholas Rinaldi

It is 1942 and the island of Malta is under siege by the dominant German air force. Out of the smoke and magnesium glare of bomb blast steps Rocco Raven, native of Brooklyn, New York, apprentice radioman and expert secondhand car dealer. His only contact is an American secret serviceman, Fingerley, whose rank upgrades with their every meeting and whose purpose is known to no-one but himself. Far from finding a role for Rocco, Fingerley leaves him to face the chaos alone. On only his second day there, his billet, on the top floor of a brothel, is blown to pieces. Without contacts or belongings, Rocco is left to wander the devastated streets of Valetta in a bewildered daze until he sees an apparition, a beautiful, ethereal woman. She is Melita, the Jukebox Queen of Malta, who spends her time delivering the jukeboxes wrought by her cousin from old automobile and gramophone parts to the bars and restaurants which must accommodate the beleagured civilian and military populations. It is the beginning of an extraordinary relationship that is at once passionate and guarded, which flourishes as the island's fortunes decline. Under the threat of starvation and in a world populated by the eccentrics of war, Rocco's seems to be the lone voice of sanity, until he too is affected by the madness around him and succumbs to the voluntary thrill of danger...The Jukebox Queen of Malta is an extraordinary novel of passion and intrigue set in a world which seems perilously balanced between what is real and what is not. It is a magnificently evocative piece of storytelling, where the bizarre and heady atmosphere of a society under siege masks the uneasy truce between the Allied occupiers and the Maltese natives, and where the physical beauty is only tainted by the sense of mystery desecrated.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780552998109
ISBN-10: 0552998109
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 25mm)
Pages: 464
Imprint: Black Swan
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 3-Feb-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - The Jukebox Queen of Malta by Nicholas Rinaldi

Book Reviews - The Jukebox Queen of Malta by Nicholas Rinaldi

UK Kirkus Review » Set in Malta during World War II, this is the story of two young people: New Yorker Rocco Raven, a tyro radioman sending coded messages; and Maltese Melita, who repairs and delivers the jukeboxes devised by her ingenious cousin Zammit from old car and gramaphone parts. In the welter of air-raids, bomb-damage, and the threat of starvation, they fall in love. Rinaldi captures, uncannily, the soul and spirit of Malta itself and its characterful people providing a most convincing book about World War II. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » The influences of Joseph Heller's classic Catch-22 and Louis de Bernieres' recent Corelli's Mandolin are rather too blatantly present in this otherwise well-constructed and quite likable second novel by poet and author Rinaldi (Bridge Fall Down, 1985). The story recounts the awkward coming-of-age of Corporal Rocco Raven, a young Brooklynite assigned to an intelligence unit based on the island of Malta, under German and Italian air attack, in 1942. Rocco is an engaging innocent, a well-meaning Candide (or Yossarian, for that matter) who can't find the Major to whom he's supposed to report, can't understand the complex wheeler-dealer patois of his superior officer, Captain (later Major) Fingerly - and can't resist the ripe erotic allure of Melita Azzard, the forthright Maltese girl who delivers and services the jukeboxes her resourceful cousin Zammit peddles to bars that cater to American and British military men. Rocco's brief encounter with Melita, inevitably destined to end when his unit is reassigned, is charmingly portrayed - and both the wry energy and the bittersweet transience of their union are paralleled by several beguiling comic creations, including cousin Zammit's hopeless infatuation with the reigning Miss Sicily, the combative fury of an indignant villager (Nardu Camillen) who loudly celebrates Malta's (nonexistent) military prowess, and the paradoxical lust for life exhibited by US bomber pilot Tony Zebra, "an intuitive genius, with a nose better than radar and an uncanny knack for knocking planes down." Yet beneath the manic comedy here runs a steady undercurrent of destructiveness: the bombs never stop falling, and the end of Rocco's idyll looms unmistakably ahead. If Heller hadn't existed, we might be calling this a pretty terrific novel. Then again, in a universe without Catch-22, it's doubtful that The Jukebox Queen of Malta could even have been written. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Nicholas Rinaldi

Nicholas Rinaldi teaches at Fairfield University, in Connecticut, where he lives with his wife, Jackie. His work includes two novels, Bridge Fall Down and The Jukebox Queen of Malta, and three collections of poetry: The Resurrection of the Snails, The Luftwaffe in Chaos and We Have Lost Our Fathers.

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