Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

143

Jass

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
David Fulmer
Jass
Harcourt
352 Pages
ISBN: 0-15-101025-0

With Chasing the Devil's Tail David Fulmer gave us a captivating mystery set in turn of the century New Orleans, a city reeking of sweat and liquor where the sound of jass was heard blaring throughout the seedy brothels and bars and voodoo was constantly feared and respected. As Fulmer portrays it, New Orleans was a morally deprived culture where everyone was up to something they shouldn't have been. Real people like Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton played a key part in the narrative (Fulmer made good use of what little we know of Bolden's past), and the fictional characters fit right in. Although it was a great mystery, the real attraction of the book was the way the notoriously sleazy city was brought to life, much like London and it's inhabitants provide a colorful backdrop in Dickens novels. Fulmer convincingly combined two passions - jazz and mysteries - and created an award-winning page-turner.

And now we have Jass , a sequel to the first. The cover indicates that this is "A Valentin St. Cyr Mystery," which prepares us for more of the same - Fulmer has found his story and he is sticking to it. He provides plenty of background details on the characters and events of the previous book so that newcomers will understand the backstory while those who read the first book a while ago get a refresher course.

All the old characters are here, from Justine, St. Cyr's girlfriend with a mysterious secret, to Anderson, the man who runs the town through legal and illegal measures. Jelly Roll is back, and a young Louis and the Colored Waif's Home play a minor role. In addition a handful of new denizens add to the colorful characters created in the first. Once again, Fulmer shows a knack for transforming the usual mystery clichés - the detective wrestling with inner demons, the cop who stands in the way of the investigation - into interesting subplots that don't seem forced.

In Chasing the Devil's Tail the killer was after prostitutes; this time jass musicians are the victims. St.Cyr has to pick up the clues by visiting saloons, brothels, all the usual places you would go to find seedy folk who might know a thing or two. Along the way St. Cyr runs into problems with Lieutenant Picot, who won't waste time investigating murders of worthless blacks, and uncooperative madams who won't share information for fear of being shut down. The events are set two years after the last investigation, and clearly things haven't changed much.

But because Chasing the Devil's Tail was such a great read, it's perhaps inevitable that Jass would fall a bit short. Because Fulmer is establishing a series, much of this book is spent shaping the character of Valentin St. Cyr. While this is important work to do if he is to be a recurring character, the rich detail of New Orleans that made Chasing the Devil's Tail such an enthralling read is lacking. St. Cyr still travels around the city, but there aren't any historical asides or minor characters that give the setting the depth of the previous one. Fulmer's description of Buddy Bolden fleshed out an enigmatic figure in a way that emphasized his importance, while his descriptions of the brothels were appalling; one could only imagine the lengths that people would go to satisfy their bizarre tendencies. Fulmer also expertly captured the class structure in the city by showing the racial biases towards Creoles, octoroons, and so on. There's much less of that local flavor permeating through Jass , and it's sorely missed.

Despite this flaw, Jass is still worth reading, a mystery that will definitely appeal to jazz fans and mystery buffs alike. It's still a great read filled with crisp prose, unpredictable twists and turns, and none of the usual detective story clichés. Obviously this won't be the last of St. Cyr and his New Orleans exploits. Fulmer has found a setting rich with potential storylines and a storyteller's ability to capture them.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017
Read All That's Jazz Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine Book Reviews Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend Book Reviews Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read Softly, With Feeling Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden" Book Reviews Nothing but Love in God's Water by Robert Darden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz" Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Go Slow: The Life of Julie London" Book Reviews Go Slow: The Life of Julie London
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: June 30, 2017
Read "Paul Morley: The Age of Bowie" Book Reviews Paul Morley: The Age of Bowie
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: December 25, 2016

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!