Early Bright

Early Bright

by Ami Silber, Zoe Archer
     
 
From the black jazz clubs on Central Avenue in Watts, to the tidy homes of the war widows he cons, Louis Greenberg lives life on the outside. No matter how charming and passionate he is, an outsider he will always be. He is white, a Jew, and that never goes away.

Overview

From the black jazz clubs on Central Avenue in Watts, to the tidy homes of the war widows he cons, Louis Greenberg lives life on the outside. No matter how charming and passionate he is, an outsider he will always be. He is white, a Jew, and that never goes away.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Debut novelist Silber delivers a captivating downhill ride through the alleys and clubs of LA's 1948 bebop scene, crafting a fascinating antihero who will do just about anything to keep his fingers on the ivories. At first, Jewish musician Louis Greenberg seems downright courageous, using his charm and piano skills to earn a place in the black jazz clubs of Watts; he's even pursuing an impossible love affair with a beautiful black regular, Beatrice. But soon it becomes apparent that his outsider status is deserved: his day job is swindling war widows out of their money, using the memories of their departed husbands as bait. So certain are Greenberg's future heartaches-especially with Beatrice-and so profound is his love for jazz, it's hard not to root for him, even as he draws an especially vulnerable widow into his web. Though gripping, the narrative's pulp fiction overtones come across as more slapstick than hardboiled ("But here was this woman throwing me for more loops than a ride at Coney Island"), and his worshipful description of the music can be woefully shallow. (Oct.)

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Library Journal

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. Recommended for medium to large fiction collections.
—Leigh Anne Vrabel

Kirkus Reviews
In 1948 Los Angeles, a white grifter haunts black jazz clubs and dreams of bebop fame. Louis Greenberg is a New Yorker by birth, but after a scandal involving his fitness for wartime military service-an imposture easily guessed but not divulged until book's end-he flees west, landing in freewheeling Los Angeles, where he sets up as a con man/lothario who uses his looks and smooth manners to separate lonely war widows from their cash. By night he's a gifted and ambitious pianist, albeit one who can barely find a gig in the hardscrabble, mostly black world of underground clubs. An outsider himself as a Jew, Louis is most comfortable in this scene, where he befriends fellow jazzmen and meets and falls for the beautiful Beatrice-but their love is first consigned to the shadows and then doomed by the wider world's prejudices. To try to win Beatrice back, Louis undertakes a con unlike any he's attempted before. Despite numerous minor anachronisms and a period patter whose swing and color derive less from the needs of human conversation and more from the need to make use of authorial research, Silber mostly makes Louis's first-person voice work. The prose is fast-paced and clever, and Louis's ruminations about the con can be impressive. But his sexual-conquistador rap palls ("after who knows how many hours of uninterrupted sex, when it's a pretty sure bet that all your bodily fluids have taken an express train to the sheets"), as does the trick of granting the con man an unassailable moral authority based on his racial politics. A middling debut novel, but Silber shows much promise. Agent: Kevan Lyon/Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592642410
Publisher:
Toby Press LLC, The
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Pages:
350
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

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