Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jazz Fiction

In honour of the 25th annual Atlantic Jazz Fest, I offer up a few Jazz fiction titles for your reading consideration:

Give + Take
by Stona Fitch

"Jazz pianist Ross Clifton crisscrosses the country playing small nightclubs. He is also an expert thief and plies his other trade by seducing female fans wearing the right kind of jewelry and then robbing them. But rather than keeping the proceeds, he stuffs the money into mailboxes in rundown buildings in the poorer sections of towns. Once a slave to a corporate job and a lavish lifestyle, Ross is no fan of capitalism. He is inclined to keep things simple and adheres to a strict routine on the road, one that includes meditation and miso soup. That all changes when two people come into his life...

Part entertaining road novel and part stylish crime caper, this compulsively readable book offers a fresh plot and some wickedly funny criminals while also incorporating slyly subversive commentary on capitalism, vegans, and politicians." Booklist

Looking for Chet Baker
by Bill Moody

"Still recovering from violent past cases, pianist Evan Horne takes some gigs in Amsterdam, where the old jazz clubs are alive and well. There he finds himself reliving the last days of legendary blues trumpeter Chet Baker, who died under mysterious circumstances." - publisher

"Moody does a wonderful job of re-creating the man and his times. For anyone interested in jazz, this is a must. For anyone just interested in a good mystery, this is just what the coroner ordered." - Publisher's weekly

Early Bright
by Ami Silber

"The year is 1948, the place is Los Angeles, and the name of the game is survival. Con man Louis Greenberg supplements his swindles with occasional gigs in underground jazz clubs as he tries to break into L.A.'s bebop scene. Hampered by a shady past and a desperate passion for a woman he can never openly acknowledge, Louis does everything he can to catch a break. However, as his cons grow more and more elaborate, the possibility of failure looms large.

Jazz aficionados and historical fiction fans alike will relish Silber's exciting slice of Americana and will probably want to jot down the titles she cites in the Acknowledgments section for further reading and research. Readers who enjoy gritty, naturalistic fiction will also be pleased by the book, which pulls no punches in its examination of racism, patriotism, and capitalism in America. While not for the faint of heart, Silber's debut definitely stands out from the pack" - Library Journal

It's Always Four o'Clock
by W.R. Burnett

"IT'S ALWAYS FOUR O'CLOCK When Stan first meets Royal Mauch, he isn't impressed. He's digging the scene at the Treble Clef and Royal, this thin little guy two seats down, is so boiled he can't get his cigarette up to his mouth. But they start talking music, and Stan introduces him to Walt and Berte. And before you know it, with Royal's unique arrangements, they have a jazz combo. But Royal is no ordinary jazz pianist--this guy plays from somewhere out there. Stan and Walt have a hard enough time just keeping up with him, and Berte well, she's so in love with Walt, she's just happy to be the singer. And, man, some nights, they really soar! But it can't last. Because Berte is a woman with a mission, and Royal is a man with a past." - publisher

"It's Always Four o'Clock (1956), on the other hand, is a genuine find. Narrated by glib, digressive jazz guitarist Stan Pawley, it has a voice that jumps off the page although it's really the story of another character, mercurial musical genius Royal Mauch. Stan and Royal's band becomes a nightclub success, but when their ladies'-man bass player becomes a solo star, Royal's world crumbles. Masquerading as a hard-bop romp through nightclub L.A., it's really a keen psychological portrait of the artist as a failed man" - Booklist

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