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The King of Ragtime (Ragtime Mysteries)

The King of Ragtime (Ragtime Mysteries) by Larry Karp

ISBN10: 1590587014
ISBN13: 978-1590587010
Author: Larry Karp
Book title: The King of Ragtime (Ragtime Mysteries)
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
Category: Genre Fiction
Size PDF: 1849 kb
Size ePub: 1493 kb
Size Fb2: 1218 kb
Rating: 4.2/5
Votes: 453
Pages: 308 pages

The King of Ragtime (Ragtime Mysteries) by Larry Karp

It's 1916, and time's running out for Scott Joplin. Before he dies, he wants to provide for his wife and to secure his place in musical history. He's written a musical drama. His young piano student, Martin Niederhoffer, who works as a bookkeeper at Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder Music Publishers, convinces him to try to get Irving Berlin to publish and produce the work.

The next day, Niederhoffer walks into his office and finds Joplin crouched over the blood-soaked body of a young man. He hustles his teacher away; unfortunately, the two are seen leaving the building. Nell Stark, daughter of Joplin's first publisher, John Stark, hides Joplin and Niederhoffer from the police and summons her father from St. Louis to help sort out the mess.

After Berlin flatly denies ever having received Joplin's play, young Niederhoffer breaks cover and engages the services of hit man Footsie Vinny, who gives Berlin a five-day deadline to come up with the manuscript. And just when things couldn't get worse, Niederhoffer's girlfriend, Birdie, is kidnapped....


Well written

Very interesting time in American history & this story gave one a view of society & the acceptance (or not) of a pure type of American music; a genre of very wonderful music & of the genius of Scott Joplin.

In the summer of 1916 Martin Niederhoffer worked for Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder, Music Publishers as a bookkeeper with an eye to his future. He also took piano lessons from Scott Joplin. Martin loved Scott's music and convinced Mr. Joplin to take his musical drama "If" to Irving Berlin to be produced. With bad blood over an earlier piece of music between Joplin and Berlin, and Scott already a very sick man, this was a situation ripe for confrontation.

Martin has discovered discrepancies in the company books pointing to someone skimming money from the company. After spending all day working on the missing money, Martin is told to stay late to finish up his regular work. Birdie, his girlfriend and assistant, has already gone home when his friend Sid Altman arrives to wait for Martin to finish so that they can go to the fights. Martin goes to the men's room and when he returns to his office he finds a dead body and Scott Joplin standing over it with the weapon in his hand.

From here on it is a race to keep the police from finding Scott Joplin and to find "If." The problem of Scott's missing music is taken up by his former publisher, John Stark, at the request of Stark's daughter Nell. still a close friend of Joplin.

This is a tightly written story with ample twists and turns. The characters spring to life with an flourish that is delightful. Mr. Karp caught New York in the summer, and especially the summer of 1916, in a truly admirable manner. I could almost smell, hear, and taste the city of the story. Each character is almost a story on its own. The blending of the different personalities was a delight and I found myself humming ragtime in my head.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in music, history, or just a desire for a finely tuned mystery.

Finally, a sequel to The Ragtime Kid and one that does the groundbreaking Kid more than a little justice. The King of Ragtime follows ragtime's king, Scott Joplin, from Sedalia, Missouri to the end of the line, New York City's Harlem of 1916, a time when Joplin, addled and dying, is still writing his extraordinary music. Joplin, in fact, is a man possessed, a man who remains sane enough to be ambitious for his rightful place in the musical pantheon. But also determined to make his mark in the very same way is a now-famous songwriter named Irving Berlin, and Berlin seems unscrupulous enough to... But wait, you'll have to read Larry Karp's meticulously researched and clever mystery to find out.

The question here isn't who wrote "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (although that's a controversy still alive today), but who killed the young man found stabbed to death in the offices of Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder Music Publishers--with Joplin himself crouched over the bloody body.

This juicy puzzler has a lot going on--characters both black and white interacting in a day and age when racial justice wasn't even a question on most people's minds--young lovers confronted by disapprving parents--gun toting mobsters--a Civil War incident never forgotten, the music business of the day, and not least the little matter of catching a killer.

Consider the book a highly recommended read, rife with history, intrigue, and characters that ring true-to-life complex. This latest novel is another example of Karp's multi-layered literary talents and personal devotion to the world of song.

I read this book along with the other two in the trilogy, and in my estimation it suffers a bit in comparison with the other two. Karp may or may not have nailed the historical characters, but somehow they don't quite come to life as well as, say, Brun Campbell in the latest work. One thing that kept catching me off guard was poor proofreading, particularly in the misuse of quotation marks. Yes, the words were there but I found it distracting.

Another distraction was historic anachronisms, like having a girl singer using a microphone (in 1916?!!) and a reference to a neon-lighted sign. Don't think those came along in popular use quite yet, Larry; and also reading about a character on a train leaving from East St. Louis bound for New York and traveling through the Missouri countryside. Mr. Karp, East SL is in Illinois...

Maybe I am just too much of a purist, but I was distracted from enjoying this book. He has done a better job on the others, imho.

In 1916 in Manhattan a dying Scott Joplin knows he is running out of time to insure his wife Lottie is financially set and to gain his place in the music pantheon. It deeply disturbs him that he believes Irving Berlin cheated him from credit for some work stolen from him; still he has written a musical that he hopes Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder Music Publishers will want to use. Piano student Martin Niederhoffer offers to bring the two men together as he takes lessons from Joplin and works for Berlin.

The meeting proves futile as Joplin accuses Berlin of stealing his work. Soon afterward Martin finds Joplin holding a straight razor while standing over the murdered body of Martin's peer Sid Altman.. Joplin claims his innocence and Martin needs to believe him. Nell Stanley, daughter of a former Joplin publisher, hides him while the cops want him for questioning. Martin hires hit man Footsie Vinny to pressure Berlin into giving up the musical play Joplin says he left with him, but Berlin denies it. Things turn uglier when thugs kidnap Martin's girlfriend.

The second Joplin historical mystery (see THE RAGTIME KID) is a fascinating look at the Manhattan music world during WWI. The story line is a bit loose, but readers will enjoy the wild ride anyway as real figures like Joplin and Berlin come to life beyond the legend. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow but it is the obsessed with insuring for Lottie's future and how history recalls him Joplin who turns this whodunit into a concerto performance.

Harriet Klausner