Mafia infiltration of the record industry in the early days of rock 'n' roll provides the basis for this funny, wonderfully affecting novel. Leo Klein, who owns a New York garment company, occupies himself with nightclubs, parties, horse racing and show girls when he's not fighting with wildly incompatible ex-wife Tina. A larger-than-life figure, Tina does impulsive things like picketing Leo's factory and appointing herself manager of Joseph (``Ivory Joe'') Coulter, a black, streetsmart rocker and ex-boxer with a knack for driving teen audiences into a frenzy. Burke ( Laughing War ) ingeniously interweaves the main story line with flashbacks to the 1930s and '40s, and with the narration of precocious nine-year-old Christie, whose mother drags her and sister Ruthie along on trips up to Harlem and on concert tours of the virulently racist 1950s South. As Christie schemes to reunite her parents, Leo sneakily fights to win custody, gambles in Havana and gets in over his head with the mob. If the writing often seems tailored to Hollywood tastes, this is still a raucous rock extravaganza with heart and soul. Film rights sold to Alan Ladd Productions. (Feb.)
Ivory Joe and the Classics are an up-and-coming rock 'n' roll band in 1950s New York. Through an accidental meeting, Christie and Ruthie's left-wing mother Tina becomes their manager. Although Tina is divorced from the girls' father Leo, a garment manufacturer with connections to the underworld, they are still very involved with each other, and the girls are constantly scheming to reunite them. Leo is jealous of Tina's connection wth Ivory Joe, and he gets drawn in when his gangster friends try to steal Joe's signature song. Told partly in Christie's voice and partly in that of an omniscient observer, the novel never comes fully to life. A marginal purchase, but film rights have already been sold, so there may be future demand.-- Janet Boyarin Blundell, Brookdale Community Coll., Lincroft, N.J.