Say Goodbye When I’m Gone by Stephen J. Golds

Blog tour: 21 to 27 October 2020


1949: Rudy, a Jewish New Yorker snatches a briefcase of cash from a dead man in Los Angeles and runs away from his old life, into the arms of the Boston mob.

1966: Hinako, a young Japanese girl runs away from what she thought was the suffocating conformity of a life in Japan. Aiming to make a fresh start in America, she falls into the grip of a Hawaiian gang dubbed ‘The Company’.

1967: Rudy and Hinako’s lives collide in the city of Honolulu, where there is nowhere left for either of them to run, and only blood to redeem them.

My review

Spanning nearly 20 years from 1950, Say Goodbye When I’m Gone skips back and forth in time and location as we follow the two main protagonists and their stories and eventually find out how they become associated.

Rudy is married to Maggie and they have six children. The family are Jewish and live in New York. The couple met aged 13 when they both lived in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. One evening in July 1950, Rudy, Maggie and three of their children are at a restaurant for their oldest daughter Grace’s 16th birthday when Rudy’s past catches up with him and a shocking event occurs.

In Nagoya, Japan, it’s December 1966 and Hinako, aged 16, lives with her mother in a small one-bedroom apartment. Her father no longer lives with them. Hinako works in a ramen shop and is desperate to escape her claustrophobic, restricted and boring life and move to America in the next few years. When she sees a flyer on a pillar for maids and waitresses for new Japanese hotels in the United States, with flights and accommodation, she can’t believe her luck and naively thinks all her prayers will be answered if she gets the job. Sadly, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.

We also learn more about another character who was a child in Seoul in 1951 during the Korean war and had to fend for himself after the deaths of his parents. He did what he had to do to survive and this time has a profound effect on the boy and turns him into a disturbed individual who is confused about right and wrong and carries out some dreadful acts.

At first, there seems to be no link between any of the three but all becomes clear as more of the story is revealed. It’s cleverly done and helps to build up a good picture of each of their lives, with lots of shocking and pertinent moments, which explain what was to follow.

With themes of torture, murder, sexual abuse and rape, among others, with graphic violent scenes, this book won’t be for everyone but I found the descriptions were in keeping with the novel and not at all gratuitous.

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-plotted, cleverly written and action-packed novel. It’s a bit different from the norm and the story is engaging and gripping as we move between different timelines and countries and learn more about Rudy and Hinako and how they come to meet in an antiques shop in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Despite the fact that he’s a criminal with a rather chequered history, I felt a lot of sympathy for Rudy. He’s a family man who desperately loves his wife and children and wants to support them and do his best for them. There’s good in him but he’s caught up in this line of work; it’s difficult for him to escape due to the constant fear of retaliation.

Hinako’s story is heart breaking – she doesn’t really relate to her mother and feels trapped and constrained by her life and the constant pressure to conform. She wants the freedom to find herself and experience individuality. What she actually experiences in America is one of the worst nightmares you can imagine and she has no life or even freedom. It’s terrifying and tragic.

Say Goodbye When I’m Gone is a gritty, shocking, dramatic and violent book but it’s also gripping, intense and poignant. I found myself caring for Rudy, Hinako and others, like Irishman Joey McCarthy, and hoping that they’d all survive and have happy futures. An entertaining read and one which definitely sticks in the mind! I’m looking forward to seeing what the author writes next. And I can’t finish this review without mentioning that gorgeous blood-splattered cover, which looks like a slightly worn postcard! I’m definitely going to order a copy of the book so I can see it in the flesh!

Buy the book

Say Goodbye When I’m Gone by Stephen J. Golds can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo. Or purchase a copy directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Stephen J. Golds was born in London, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, travelling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His novel, Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, will be released by Red Dog Press in October 2020 and another novel, Always the Dead, will be released by Close to the Bone Press January 2021.

Twitter: @SteveGone58

Blog tour

Thanks to Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Say Goodbye When I’m Gone and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.


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