Reviews By Prominent Authors & Critics

“CHARMING ANIMALS represents Putnam’s writing at its finest—anybody’s finest, for that matter—especially for those chapters, rising in intensity as they go along, concerning Brad’s preparation for, and ultimately the grand performance he gives, as Scarpia, the evil figure in Tosca... His novel carries authority and conviction, probably because he’s dealing with a subject—opera singing—that he knows well, as a professional... I’m also much impressed by his handling of the various love scenes—Brad and Renata, and (with even greater emotional depth) Brad and Chip. He manages these without graphic details, always with tact... I respond to them as I was in my twenties and thirties. And forties... The characters—Brad, the narrator; Chip and Chip’s still-hippie parents; Ernie, the originator of the Rosas Method; the mogul Martin Haskell, and others—are all clearly defined. Chip is the most complex. I had to overcome an early dislike of her, for her self-centeredness and lack of politeness... But she has a generosity of spirit... If she weren’t such a complex figure, with antithetical elements, there wouldn’t be the dramatic suspense to her relationship and love for Brad, who has a few difficulties of his own. The author is to be congratulated for a major achievement...”

— James McConkey Author (among others) of Court of Memory; To a Distant Island; Tree-house Confessions;

“CHARMING ANIMALS is a powerful and original work. Among other things Putnam successfully integrates fiction and philosophy—as few writers do, though, of course, there is Proust. For me Chip’s betrayal of trust and authenticity is something even Henry James would have envied...”

— Alexander Blackburn Prof. emeritus of the Univ. of Colorado, founder of The Writer’s Forum and author of many fine works of fiction and criticism (including a study of Frank Waters).

“What a tremendous work it is! So many aspects to the story: the singing technique, the love story, the opera life. It is a wonderful achievement and Jeff Putnam has captured so much of the truth of the business... I am guessing that it would appeal to a very wide readership given the central love story with all of its operatic highlights.”

— Wendy Nielsen The Canadian diva (who has sung at the Met and is now a professor at the Univ. of Toronto) .

Charming Animals

By Jeff Putnam

At the end of the school year at Oberlin two music professors and their star pupil set out on a lecture tour and voice demonstration that will take them up the coast of California. The oldest, Ermesto Rosas-Virto, is mentor to the other two. Professor Bradley Swain is the teacher and confidante of the pupil, Melissa “Chip” Templeton, whose voice is widely believed to embody the best of the Golden Age, so that she brings to mind the exhortation of a famous Italian maestro to a pupil: “Go forth! You are the greatest singer in the world!”

In California all three singers proceed in different directions. Professor Rosas keeps to himself except for attempts to win back the wife who had left him last year and is presently living with a soccer coach near Santa Barbara; Brad is thrilled to be a soloist again after having been a mere teacher for the last five years and embarks on an affair with a beautiful Italian-American girl after being tackled by her in a karaoke bar. Meanwhile the Californian Chip, with the help of old friends, her ageing hippie parents, and a vastly wealthy student, realizes an earlier ambition to direct and star in her own TV show, where she demonstrates the methods of Dr. Ernesto Rosas for small classes of talented amateurs and in the process makes her own voice heard around the world. Her wealthy student backer, Martin Haskell, controls a media empire and discovers new ways to market the Rosas Method which Chip has been espousing, making her career choices ever more difficult.

All succeed in realizing their newly formed ambitions and soar even higher when they join forces again in the end.

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Other Novels By This Author


About the author

Born in New York and educated mostly in New England and California, Jeff Putnam traveled extensively throughout his life, working professionally as a singer, with periods of settlement in France and Spain. In Europe he sang in opera houses and was successful busking in cafes and on the streets. After a trip to Dallas, Texas, to be with two children of his second wife he met Jane Howle, also a writer, and married her. Ms. Howle saw promise in four books (among many) that Putnam had written about his life, and published them under a new imprint called Baskerville Publishers (after a family name) which went on to publish more than fifty books by promising or neglected authors like her new husband. Putnam worked for her as editor-in-chief under a different name (Samuel Chase) throughout the 90s. Health issues forced the sale of Baskerville to a Fort Worth businessman but when Putnam recovered he continued to run it from 2000 to 2004, and then began publishing with his own imprint (Avenue Publishers). From 2003 the couple have dwelt off and on in Canada, where Putnam has sung with Opera New Brunswick and given concerts in New Brunswick and Maine (in 2003 he was Colline in a production of La Bohème by Maine Grand Opera; in 2007 he had a part in an Opera New Brunswick performance of La Traviata). He and his wife now reside in Dallas close by their son Samuel and Christian, a son by another marriage. Putnam has daughters in Florida and Belgium. His Belgian daughter, Justine, ran a restaurant for some years in Antwerp and now runs a company that translates and edits books for Belgian authors. Jeff and Jane are now contemplating retirement in West Texas after Jane has built her dream house there of hemp-lime construction (see Abner DDAY).