Tag Archives: andina

Newly published: No Circuses, by James O’Callaghan

This novel has recently been published. I was substantive editor.

I loved the story concept from the start. Written by an authoritative source (a retired Foreign Service officer), Latin American cultural nuances, subtle, informed. I am at my happiest when dealing with people who know things I do not. The protagonist finds himself assigned to direct a bi-national center, which I did not know we even had. They’re either designed to promote international friendship and understanding (if you’re idealistic), or a way to try and broadcast our policies and why people should embrace them (if you’re cynical). Our hero finds himself immersed in the culture–perhaps a bit too much. Or perhaps just the right amount.

Author Jim O’Callaghan approached me to edit the ms. I could instantly tell I was dealing with maturity and openness, someone who could and would learn, but I was also dealing with a pretty good writer. There were some baroque and wordy constructions to simplify here and there, but not outright English flaws, and that was refreshing. Perhaps the greatest thing about the story, besides his comprehensive understanding of Spanish and LatAm culture, was his gift for letting the reader find the humor. It was a long project, but as the end approached, I realized I would miss it.

I am a devotee of Andina, the musical sounds of the Andes (mostly popular in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and heavily overlain with Native rhythms and language). They are heavy on guitar and pan-flute, and while I worked, I played nothing else on my MusicMonkey. When you read it, if you have any Andina, I recommend you do the same. If you find yourself desiring to try some, I suggest K’ala Marka, Nativo, Los Kjarkas, Ecuador Inkas or Savia Andina as starting points. Lively, passionate, soulful.

Jim was one of the easiest authors an editor could seek to work with. He handled himself like someone who has already been successful, and that bodes well. It’s an adventure story that pokes fun at bureaucracy, the labyrinthine ways of Latin American politics, and how things are not always as they seem. The Hemingway vibe is perceptible throughout. It has complex characters with crises, emotions and motivations; that is one area where I have nothing to teach Jim. There is no one in this book you will find difficult to picture. It has goofy and often hilarious situations, but none quite so goofy as to crack your suspension of disbelief. As I neared the end, I was convinced this was autobiographical with only names changed. It isn’t, but he had me going.

While I always hope my clients will succeed, and handsomely so, I often edit books that I would not myself purchase. I’m buying a copy of this one. If anything I’ve described sounds interesting to you, consider this one to receive an unqualified recommendation.


…Spanish for ‘Andean,’ is the distinctive sound of the Andes Mountains: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile. Sometimes sung in Native languages, sometimes in Spanish, it is the most uplifting-sounding music I know.

You probably have heard one song of Andina origin, though you may not have grasped this at the time: El Condor Pasa, sung by many but made most popular by Simon & Garfunkel. The Andean condor is, naturally, one of the emblematic birds of the Andes. If you heard it accompanied by a flute, that approximated the pan-flute or pan-pipes that punctuate so much Andina. The genre contains a lot of fingered strings (I’m no expert on the different types of guitarlike instruments), sometimes violin, moderate emphasis on drumming, and rapid changes of pacing. Rarely is it a cappella, less rarely is it purely instrumental; mostly it is both sung and played.

Andina groups I like include Ecuador Inkas, Nativo, Quichua Mashis, Savia Andina, Illapu, K’ala Marka and Los Kjarkas. It can be difficult to find for sale, so when I trip over an opportunity, I buy some.

If you’d like to give it a try, visit this video of K’ala Marka up on some ungodly height just tearing it up. In spite of the modern touches and enhancements, if you are anything like me, you will feel and hear something ancient. If I had to pick a song and setting that emblemized what I love about Andina, that one has it.