1929: A Novel of the Jazz Age

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Counterpoint Press, 2003 - Fiction - 390 pages
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By 1929, the brief, brilliant career of Bix Beiderbecke--self-taught cornetist, pianist, and composer--had already become legend. From the summer of '26 at Hudson Lake, Indiana, when his genius blazed forth with a strange, doomed incandescence, Bix's career tragically reflected the chaotic impulses of a country suddenly awash in wealth, power, and a profound cynicism. Shy, elusive, inarticulate, Bix was beloved by both the raccoon-coated campus crowd and the men who nightly played alongside him. He is still celebrated in a yearly festival in his hometown of Davenport, lowa. And that is where the novel begins, in Davenport, at the Bix Fest. It then travels back in time to focus on the highlights of a meteoric career: the early jams at the Blue Lantern Casino, a Capone-controlled nightclub; the grueling cross-country tours with Paul Whiteman's "Symphonic Jazz" orchestra; the disastrous Whiteman trip to California to make the first all-color talkie musical; the stock-market crash of 1929, which finds Bix in an asylum, victim of the era's signature product, bootleg gin; and finally, Bix's dying efforts to combine his piano compositions into a suite that would be the pinnacle of his life's work and his evocation of his time and place. Colored by some of the age's most popular characters--Bing Crosby, Maurice Ravel, Al Capone, Louis Armstrong, and Clara Bow--1929 brilliantly illuminates a period in history, personified in the gifted, compelling, and melancholy figure of Bix Beiderbecke.

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Turner, the author or editor of 13 nonfiction works, uses jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke's brief (1903-31) but celebrated life as a frame for this richly atmospheric novel of Chicago during the ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Frederick Turner is the author of seven books of non-fiction and has edited three others. His literary journalism has appeared in numerous national and international publications. The recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, he is currently at work on a new novel and a new nonfiction book. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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