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Posted July 9, 2008
In 1926, in spite of being out of the way in a remote rural part of Indiana, the hottest jazz spot in the Midwest is the Blue Lantern Club on Hudson Lake. Especially popular amongst aficionados is the Jean Goldkette Orchestra featuring highly regarded Bix Beiderbecke on the coronet.-------------- Bix has come to isolated Indiana to avoid life as he failed at love, family, and now alcohol. Women love the great coronetist, but they accept that in Bix¿s mind jazz comes before them locals and those from Chicago and Indianapolis accept that is part of Bix his Iowa family never did. Of course I.U. student Harriet understood what a fling with a musician meant until Bix Joy, a flapper who hangs out with gangsters, also has interest in Bix. However, women and jazz may mix, but the big city mob wants bootlegged alcohol and jazz to mix too whereas the Ku Klux Klan plans to own the conservative area, which means no big city jazz. Bix has no time for either violent group as his two women have become possessive.----------------- This superb biographical fiction tale brings to life the Jazz Age in the Midwest as the audience gets an in close look at the band, obviously Bix, and their personal issues re doubts about skills and family. The invasions by the KKK and the Chicago mob add depth to the 1920s in Indiana. However, this is Beiderbecke¿s tale in every sense as his struggles to be loved and accepted are fraught with self tormenting doubt and self destruction when he could not cope with accolades even as he begged people to praise his work. HUDSON LAKE is a strong historical tale in which the reader gains a vivid glimpse of a bygone Americana era through the travails of Bix and the band.------------ Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2007
The Jazz Age is in full swing at Hudson Lake where the Jean Goldkette Orchestra plays on weekends with Bix Beiderbecke on the cornet, the man people come to hear. Bix was a man who loved music over all else. The women like Joy and Harriet who came into his life knew they came second and their affairs would last only until the orchestra moved on to other engagements. It was a time of hot music, hot boodleg whiskey and wild, frenetic dances while in the background lurked old values some felt were being ignored and the young were being led astray. It was a time of turbulence that changed society. Talented Laura Mazzuca Toops opens the door to take us back in time with her lifelike characters and realistic settings. You'll feel like you've been there. This is a book I can highly recommend with pleasure to any reader. Enjoy. I sure did.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 20, 2006
The atmosphere of mid-1920¿s Mid-America is captured in a spectacular manner by Laura Mazzuca Toops¿ new novel. This work is fiction based on fact: in 1926 the Jean Goldkette jazz orchestra took on a season-long assignment at the summer resort of Hudson Lake, Indiana ¿ a location populated by both conservative, straitlaced townsfolk heavily influenced by the Ku Klux Klan which threatened to rule the community (and many Indiana communities just like it) and the hedonistic big city weekenders from Chicago ¿ jazz musicians, gangsters, and the devoted audiences who followed both. The authentic characters are the talented Goldkette musicians Frank Trumbauer, Doc Ryker, Pee Wee Russell ¿ and Bix Beiderbecke, the enigmatic, alluring jazz-age genius whose personality is marvelously portrayed, crackling with realism and flanked by two fictional love interests: Joy, a tragic young woman desperate to escape her sordid past, and Harriet, a college student employed at the resort for the summer, lured away from conventionality by her growing passion for the brilliant musician. Joy is the everywoman persona of jazz age popular culture, the ruined, good-time flapper ¿ raucous, made up with garish cosmetics, a speakeasy frequenter riffling through trashy movie magazines and sleazy confessionals, found at the latest lurid silent picture show or on the arm of the latest gangster come to town, as his moll. Yet she is not some slangy stereotype. She struggles to alleviate the memory of her terrible sad secret from home, and genuinely adores, and emotionally escapes with, her relationship with Bix. They make no emotional demands on each other they don¿t have to answer to each other for anything, until her growing jealousy when his attentions stray to her temporary friend Harriet. Harriet senses there has to be something more to life than being a studious career success and the eventual, conventional wife of a properly providing husband. It is her emotional longing for Bix ¿ at first despite herself - which unlocks this in her ¿ that artistic expression and sheer feeling matters much more than just existing as being someone correct and socially acceptable. It was not adventure-seeking or slumming which led her into this new relationship, but an honest desire to find who she really was, yet struggling to master common sense led to inevitable, disallusioning disappointment. Immediately the reader is drawn into their world, bouncing from the sweaty gin-soaked dance hall to a quiet fishing boat on the lake, from a bucolic waterside to roadsters roaring down dusty country roads on late-night errands ranging anywhere from replenishing illegal liquor supplies to retaliation of Klan outrages, to tender and beautifully realized scenes of sexual passion. Every voice rings as authentic, as if the author herself divulged more than from every biographical account and anecdote exactly how Beiderbecke and his bandmates might have ¿ could have - acted and sounded: Pee-Wee Russell¿s brash, smuttily jocular taunting Tram¿s firm lectures to discipline his musicians and hold them back from too much errant excess, and especially Bix ¿ inwardly tormented, self-disparaging and sensitive, convinced at heart he is undeserving of the creative pinnacle he strives for, pathetically believing his family and hometown community¿s disapproving accusations that he is a lazy troublemaker fraught with problems. As much as people in his life ¿ and his friends were very many, as any biography can attest to - loved Bix and he longed to be loved by them, it truly seems he could not love himself, and the more he groveled for approval with apologies, lies, and promises to his family and girlfriends, the more he despised himself for doing so. Underlying the reigning passion for music which drove his genius was the inner despair of realizing he could never fit into the real world, and even his supreme artistry could not help him to overcome that self-assWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.