ACRBA Blog Tour The Songs of Jesse Adams by Peter McKinnon

 16 – 20 November 2014

is introducing

 The Songs of Jesse Adams

Acorn Press


Peter McKinnon


About the Book

Set in the turmoil of social change and political unrest of Australia during the 1960s, The Songs of Jesse Adams traces the meteoric rise of a boy from the bush – a farmer’s son who breaks away to follow his heart, his dreams and his love of music. But, as Jesse travels with his band and the crowds gather, it becomes clear that something else is afoot. This rock singer captivates and transforms a host of fans who hear his songs and encounter his touch.

Lives are changed in unexpected ways and the enigmatic Jesse becomes a symbol of hope and freedom for those on society’s edge. But not all will celebrate the rising tide of influence of this charismatic figure whose words and actions challenge those in power – the media, the politicians, the church. In one tumultuous week this clash of ideals comes to a head – with profound consequences.

Awash in all the protest and collapse of conservative Australia, the colour and madness that was the sixties, The Songs of Jesse Adams is a tale of conflict, betrayal and tragedy, but ultimately the triumph of love.

*Warning this book contains some language that some readers may find offensive*

About the Author

For seventeen years, Peter McKinnon held senior roles in some of Australia’s largest corporations, with a focus on human behaviour and organisational effectiveness. This culminated in his appointment in 1999 as Executive General Manager, People & Culture, of Australia’s then largest financial organisation, National Australia Bank.

In late 2006, Peter was approached to head up the global human resources function of  World Vision International(WVI), based in Los Angeles. WVI is the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation, with over 40,000 employees in 100 different countries and countless volunteers working in highly diverse and challenging settings.

When he returned to Australia in late 2009, he committed to pursuing his creative interests more directly and began to write. ‘The Songs of Jesse Adams’ is the result.

Peter has been published in publications as wide-ranging as the ‘Age’, ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ and ‘4 x 4‘ magazine and regards winning a Pacific cruise for his writing as his crowning achievement in this field ! He has also written and produced several musicals.

Peter is a qualified psychologist, has studied theology, worked briefly as a minister and served on the Council of the MCD University of Divinity.

He lives in Melbourne with his wife Julie. This is his first book.


Narelle: The Songs of Jesse Adams is different to the books I usually read. It’s a fictional story with Christian content that’s written for a general market audience. The story touches on confronting social issues that will probably offend conservative Christian readers. It has edgy content that doesn’t just prick the so-called ‘Christian bubble’, but blows it apart with dynamite. The book contains strong language that isn’t usually found in the typical Christian fiction book. If you’re offended by reading bad language and blasphemy, this book probably isn’t for you.

I really liked the story premise. The Songs of Jesse Adams is an allegory of the gospel story, set in Australia in the late 1960’s. If Jesus had lived during this time in history, what would he be doing? Who would he be hanging around? More importantly, who would he offend with his message of love? We follow the character of Jesse Adams, a country boy who forms a band and becomes a well known singer. A charismatic man who draws a crowd and inspires people to follow him.

If you know the gospel story, you’ll follow the basic plot and discover which characters are inspired by specific Biblical characters. The story has a strong, authentic Australian flavour and includes many colloquial expressions that were common in the 1960’s. For example, nong (idiot), cocky (farmer), grog (liquor), yarns (stories), loos and dunnies (toilets), and chinwag (chat).

One reason this story is different to my usual choice of reading material is my personal preference for fiction written from a purist point of view. The Songs of Jesse Adams is written from multiple viewpoints, including omniscient (narrator) viewpoint, and there is head hopping within scenes and paragraphs. I can understand why the author has chosen to use multiple viewpoints. It stylistically fits the allegory and the original Biblical narrative story format. The reactions of the people who encounter Jesse are an important aspect of the story.

At times I found the first half of the story difficult to follow because we were introduced to a large cast of characters. I like to become absorbed in a character’s viewpoint, get to know them and become invested in their story journey. It’s harder to do this when we’re moving between a number of character’s heads in a short space of time. I did re-read a few sections to get a handle on what was happening and which characters were involved. Once I passed the half way mark, it became much easier to read and follow each of the main characters. I suspect I’m more sensitive to head hopping than the typical reader, and others may not even notice the viewpoint changes.

I recommend The Songs of Jesse Adams to readers who are looking for gritty, real-to-life fiction that isn’t sugar-coated and challenges their thinking on contemporary social issues.

I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher.

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  1. Thank you so much for your review, Narelle, and your insightful perspective on many aspects of the book.
    From an author’s perspective, I think you’ve grasped what I was essentially trying to achieve with the narrative. You are right in saying that I have attempted to target a more general/secular readership, who from my experience will not easily tolerate ‘sugar-coating’: I feel you need to ‘tell it like it is’ ( although I would enjoy a hearty discussion on what qualifies as ‘blasphemy’! To be frank, I’d be horrified if what I have written fits that bill). You’ve provided great overview of the book – one I will hope will be a bridge to discussing with non-Christians the real Jesse/Jesus. Thanks again. Peter

  2. Hi Peter, You’re very welcome 🙂

    I agree, your book is definitely a conversation starter for those who are interested in exploring Christianity and discussing how Jesus would handle modern day social issues.

    The Christian fiction genre is primarily defined by the expectations of American Christian readers. Any word usage of God, Jesus (or a slang derivative) in an expression that ‘rolls off the tongue’ during moments of stress would be considered blasphemy by conservative readers. Australian Christian readers, in general, tend to be less sensitive to language issues. US Christian publishers usually take a very conservative stance and don’t include any words that may offend their target audience of Christian readers.

    1. Yes, I understand the sensitivity, Narelle – your point is well-taken. Here’s hoping it does stir things up a little over there – I’m hypothesising/hoping that a bit of controversy might garner some interest from those who might not normally identify as ‘religious’ and open the door for a richer discussion of the person at the heart of our faith. All the best with your own stellar writing outputs! Peter

      1. Thanks, Peter 🙂 Controversy can be good, and your book certainly touches on issues that generate strong views. There are Christian readers who are looking for Christian books that are outside the box and deal with the issues you raise in your book.

        1. Controversy that comes from an honest place is a key for me, I think Narelle ( rather than controversy for controversy’s sake). It certainly wasn’t something Jesus shied away from. I hope you’re right re the appetite for this kind of thing.

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