Book Review: The Blues Don’t Care by Paul D. Marks—and an Excerpt @PaulDMarks @DownAndOutBooks

The Blues Don’t Care
Bobby Saxon, Book 1
Paul D. Marks
Down & Out Books, June 2020
ISBN 978-1-64396-050-0
Trade Paperback

The author is an experienced and winning author of thrillers. This novel, from its title to its epilogue shows the research and care directed to the details of such a story set in a previous century. The action takes place in Los Angeles in the 1940s. It was wartime and a period of active and intense musical development and interest as a counter to the war. Los Angeles was an important part of the home front during World War II.

Bobby Saxon is a recent graduate of a local high school. He’s a brilliant pianist and his goal is a gig with one of LA’s top blues and swing bands. That quickly introduces an important theme that affects everything that happens in the novel because Bobby is white and the band is black. The blues was dominated by black artists. Mixing the races in any way, including performing, was actively prohibited in that decade and Bobby has to deal with it. He has other secrets as well and while performing a guest gig with the band, he becomes involved in a murder that may involve another member of the band. Solving the murder, avoiding revealing personal secrets and finding his way through a city engaged in a war effort requires agility, naivety, flexibility, and a level of personal charm not usually found in such strength in a single individual.

The novel is long, fully engaged with its location and history, very well written, episodic in structure, logical and engaging. In the end, the author is right, the blues really do not care.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, August 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

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An Excerpt from
The Blues Don’t Care
by Paul D. Marks

The Blues Don’t Care uses the framing of device of a prologue and epilogue to bring the story into the present, show a little bit of who Bobby Saxon, the main character was – and who he became. In the prologue, Dianne, Bobby’s daughter, comes to L.A. and is intrigued by the person she thought was her father (and he was). But she begins to see another side of him as Booker begins relating Bobby’s story, much of which Diane didn’t know before. She’s drawn into his story, as I hope the reader will be and want to find out more about him, just as she does.

PROLOGUE

San Francisco—The Eve of the Millennium

The late-night phone call jangled Diane awake.

“Diane Saxon?” the officious voice on the other end said.

“Yes.” She tried to shake the sleep out of her voice.

“This is the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office—”

Paul D. Marks

In those few words, any leftover sleepiness Diane had escaped, replaced by dread.

She pressed the phone tighter against her ear. Squeezed the receiver until it nearly cracked in her hand. As soon as the phone rang, she knew it couldn’t be good news.

“Are you related to, um—” papers rattling “—Robert Saxon?”

“Yes, I’m his daughter. Did he—”

“I’m sorry to call you so late, but I’m afraid your, uh, father has passed away. Can you come down to L.A. to identify him?”

Diane looked at the clock. Midnight. Bobby would have appreciated that.

Los Angeles—The Next Morning

Diane walked the musty halls of Bobby’s house, killing time before her appointment at the coroner’s office. Bobby, so meticulous all his life—sometimes to the point of driving her crazy—had let things go in the last year or so.

She returned to the scrapbook she’d left on the dining table, turned the yellowing pages in the fragile book. A pristine shellac seventy-eight rpm record spun on an ancient but near-mint condition record player. This record had only been removed from its sleeve a handful of times over the years for fear of breaking the delicate material. “La Tempesta,” an allegro tune for two pianos—Bobby on one of them—spun its satiny web from the player’s speaker. The tune reverberated in Diane’s head; she’d heard it many times. She could picture Bobby wailing on the piano like a possessed demon.

The brittle scrapbook paper nearly crumbled in her fingers. Faded photographs, brown with age, stared up at her. Bobby from the forties, sitting at a grand piano in a snazzy wide-lapelled pinstriped suit. Bobby in a white jacket and bow tie in the fifties. Bobby in black tie and jacket in the sixties. Bobby in shirt sleeves barbequing in the backyard of the rented duplex on Edinburgh. Diane as a baby, on her stomach, feet in the air—cheesecake pose. Her sister Mindy on their favorite red rocking horse with painted on black saddle. Diane’s mom and Mindy’s mom—Diane and Mindy, sisters with different mothers. She sipped the Bubble Up she’d gotten from the fridge. Who knew if they even made that anymore? She wanted to keep turning pages but had an appointment to keep. She gently closed the cover on the scrapbook.

She walked to Bobby’s mirror—Bobby loved his mirrors—checked her makeup, grabbed her purse. She noticed his favorite cigarette lighter on the dresser, the one with the picture of that “Kilroy Was Here” guy on it, so popular during the war. She squeezed the lighter as if that could bring a memory from it, slipped it into her purse.

“Criminy,” she said, holding back a tear.

She had flown in from San Francisco, but Bobby’s old red-over-white sixty-one Corvette Roadster would take her where she had to go now, probably better than any new car. Bobby was a whiz with cars, always fixing them up and selling them. She headed out the door, “La Tempesta” still spinning its magic.

She drove past familiar haunts from her childhood, down the Miracle Mile, past the fabulous streamline May Company building, the La Brea Tar Pits, where Bobby had taken her and Mindy on picnics, and the old El Rey Theatre, where they’d gone to the movies. Oh boy, how Bobby loved movies. Past Bullock’s Wilshire, the art deco masterpiece, and by MacArthur Park, which Bobby insisted calling Westlake Park, even long after the name had been changed to honor the great World War II general. She jogged up and over, onto North Mission Road, looked for a place to park.

Heart tapping a hard four-four time in her chest, she walked toward the white-trimmed red brick building, beautiful despite its nature. It had been a hospital, once trying to save lives, now dealing with the remains. The green-and-white marble lobby seemed sober enough for its purpose. She did a double take at the Skeletons in the Closet gift store, a gift shop in the morgue that offered up all matter of items, from keychains to beach towels with body outlines on them, even body-shaped Post-it pads. Maybe she’d pick up a monogrammed body bag for some friends—enemies?—on the way out.

“May I help you?” a young man in suit and tie asked. He didn’t look ghoulish, but who else would want to work here?

“I’m here to identify someone’s remains.” Diane thought that’s how it should be put. She wished Mindy was here for moral support but she had refused to come. Some kind of ill-defined bad blood between her and Bobby. Something that neither could figure out how to resolve so they resolved to avoid each other, even though Mindy only lived an hour away from Bobby, up in Lancaster. Something that would never be resolved now.

The young man pointed her to the elevator in a small vestibule. The short trip seemed to take forever. A ride down, into the past.

She stepped out into a world that was more what she expected. Sterile, tile, gurneys. People in white smocks. An attendant escorted her to the viewing room. A spikey-haired doctor joined them.

“I’m Doctor Takamura. I’m sorry you had to come down here.”

“I guess it’s something that has to be done.”

“We don’t usually have people come down to the morgue to identify remains anymore. That’s just in the movies. But this was a special case.”

Diane wasn’t sure why Bobby was a special case. Maybe because he’d been a fairly well-known musician at one time, though that was long ago.

The doctor knocked on the glass. An attendant on the other side opened the blinds and pulled back the glaring white sheet. Diane walked closer to the window, almost pressing her nose against the glass. Bobby had almost made it. Today was the last day of the year; tomorrow would not only bring a new year but a new millennium, the twenty-first century. How Bobby would have loved to see it. He was always excited about things like birthdays and Christmas and New Year’s. Everyone had to die sooner or later, but she wished he could have lived just a few more days. Just long enough to be alive in the new millennium.

“Yes, that’s him. That’s my father.”

“Robert Saxon?” A look passed between the doctor and the assistant.

“Yes.”

“There’s something you should know,” the doctor said.

Before Diane could respond, an ancient black man entered the room. His dark blue double-breasted suit with padded shoulders and long drape was stylish, if out of date. And she hadn’t seen a Dick Tracy hat like that, well, since Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy. The fuchsia silk kerchief craning up from the pocket was just right. All topped off by an ebony cane with a gleaming pearl handle. “Help you?” Dr. Takamura said.

“Booker Taylor,” the man said, sauntering in, very haughty. Lots of bling sparkled from his fingers. Booker “Boom-Boom” Taylor. He was an old friend of Bobby’s. She remembered him from her birthday parties when she was very young. He would toss her over his broad shoulders and play horsey. It started trickling back, Bobby and Booker and several of Bobby’s other friends jamming at her parties. And she remembered a neighbor once remarking, why did Bobby have that colored fella over all the time?

“Are you sure you’re in the right place?” the doctor said. Booker ignored him.

“Diane. Look at you.” Booker’s eyes lit up. “All grown up and quite the lady.” He squeezed her hand. Turned to see Bobby through the glass. “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.” A long sigh escaped his lips. He went to the door that led to the little room.

Dr. Takamura stepped in front of him.

“No, it’s okay,” Diane said, smiling at Booker. He looked too sad to smile back. “He knew my father. They were in the music business together.”

Booker opened the door and went inside, Diane trailing. He took Bobby’s hand, tenderly massaged it.

“We weren’t in the music business together. We owned it. We had this town of Los Angeles locked up tighter than a bass drum. And your pop, he really could have gone somewhere. And no one could tap the eighty-eights like he could.”

“Eighty-eights?” the assistant said.

“The piano, hon. Tickle the ivories. Back in the day, Bobby Saxon was the man. And he knew one thing better than anyone, that we’re all bluffing our way through life.” Booker tripped on his words as another man entered the room. Dressed casual-cool.

“Who’re you?” the doctor said.

“Irvin Hernandez, L.A. Times.”

“The Times—what does the Times want here?”

“This is Bobby Saxon, right?”

“Yes.”

“I want his story.”

“I didn’t know anyone remembered my father. He hasn’t played music in years.”

“You’re his daughter? You must have some story to tell.”

To Diane, Bobby was just dad. She didn’t have much to tell. Her puzzlement must have been clear to everyone in the room.

Booker sat on a chair in the corner, leaning his chin on his cane. “I have a story to tell,” he began. “It was the middle of the war when I met Bobby…”

Excerpted from THE BLUES DON’T CARE Copyright © 2020 by
Paul D. Marks Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Book Reviews: The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Requiem for a Gypsy by Michael Genelin, The Big Goodbye by Michael Lister, and Midnight Alley by Miles Corwin

The Keeper of Lost Causes
Jussi Adler-Olsen
Dutton, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0525952480
Hardcover

Carl Morck was an exceptional homicide detective in Copenhagen until a bullet struck him down.  He lived but two of his colleagues weren’t so lucky.  Carl suffers from guilt since he didn’t even get his gun drawn during the battle.  Fellow workers have begun to complain about Carl.  He arrives late to work, rides the staff, interferes with other cases and will not return phone calls.  Marcus Jacobsen, Chief of Homicide, decided that he could kill two birds with one stone.  The Denmark Party is making speeches and complaining about cases that have not been solved.  Marcus makes a decision to create a new department called Department Q.  With outside pressure to create such a department for unsolved cases and with adequate funds to fund the department Carl Morck is put in charge of Department Q.  What appears to be a promotion is actually a demotion.  Carl is given a small office in the basement of headquarters and a ton of unsolved cases.

Carl is not one to be outsmarted though.  Realizing that money is coming in to fund his department but that none is drifting his way he makes demands for equipment and an assistant.  His assistant is very unusual.  His name is Assad and he is from Syria.  Carl realized immediately that he had made a mistake in asking for an assistant.  With an assistant nearby he could no longer sleep in his chair or work Sudoku puzzles to pass away the time.  The more chores he found for Assad the faster Assad accomplished the tasks.  Soon they both begin to sift through some of the cold case files and the case of the disappearance of Merete Lynggaard caught their interest.

Merete Lynggaard is a very attractive woman who served as Vice-President of the Social Democrats.  Merete had a beautiful home but her private life she kept secret from the people she worked with.  At night, she hurries home to spend the evening with her special needs brother.

Carl and Assad are sure that Merete is dead but determine to find out exactly what happened to her.  Merete is not dead but has been held captive for years.  She has almost given up hope of anyone locating her and setting her free.

The book skips back and forth between Carl’s actions and Merete’s struggles as told by Merete. Although the search for Merete is very serious, there are many humorous incidents between Carl and his assistant.  Carl also has a way of getting what he wants from his superiors from the large budget allotted to Department Q.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a long book but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I didn’t want the book to end.  The cover of the book states that this is the first installment in the Department Q series and I cannot wait for the next installment.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.

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Requiem for a Gypsy
Michael Genelin
Soho Crime, July 2011
ISBN  No. 978-1569479575
Hardcover

When Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovakia Police witnesses the assassination of Klara Bogan at a party honoring Oto Bogan, Klara’s husband, Jana immediately begins to wonder if Klara’s death was the fault of a stray bullet or if she was actually the intended victim.  Jana’s Colonel gives her permission to proceed with the investigation even though as a witness to the shooting she is told that she cannot be actively involved.

The department in charge of the main investigation refuses to share all of their information with Jana.  It is not long before Jana is on the trail of the pieces of information that she has no doubt will eventually lead to the reason behind the death of Klara Brogan.  Jana has access to the Murder Book but knows that the contents are incomplete. Jana finds that Oto Bogan as well as his son has disappeared.

A girl whose name is Em Mrvova shows up at Jana’s door, cold and hungry.  Jana takes pity on the girl but soon finds out that there is more to Em than meets the eye.  Em seems to appear and disappear with frequency.  Much wiser than her years Em is able to give Jana a few tips that help in her investigation.

Klara Bogan’s is not the first death that happens in this novel and Jana’s trail eventually takes her to Paris where she learns the real identity of an anonymous man that is run down on the streets of the city.

Jana is a brilliant police officer with a talent for interrogation that eventually gets her the answers she needs to put the puzzle pieces together that eventually tell the story behind the death of Klara as well as a long kept secret that goes back to a dark time in Slovak history.

The author has worked as an international consultant in government reform.  I hope to see Jana Matinova in many future novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2011.

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The Big Goodbye
Michael Lister
Pulpwood Press
Kindle Edition
ISBN No. 978-1-888146-80-6
Also available in hardcover and trade paperback from Pottersville Press

Jimmy “Soldier” Riley is a one-armed Private Investigator in Panama City, Florida and the time is 1943.  Jimmy is in a partnership with Ray Parker, a former Pinkerton detective.  July is a cute little gal that works for the agency.

Ray and Jimmy have a lot going on and things are jumping in Panama City.  When Lauren Lewis walks into the office Jimmy isn’t sure how to handle it.  July wanted to send her in to see Ray but Jimmy insisted he could handle it.  Lauren was married to Harry Lewis who was a leader in the city and getting ready to run for office.  Jimmy and Lauren had an affair that was over now but just seeing Lauren made Jimmy remember every moment of the affair.

Lauren thinks someone is following her and wants to know if it is Jimmy.  Jimmy denies that he is following her but senses that she is in danger.  Jimmy decides whether Lauren likes it or not he is determined to protect her.

Protecting Lauren is easier said than done.  Part of the time, he can’t even find her.  Soon bodies start turning up and Jimmy is facing danger every step of the way.  Jimmy has to call in help from his friends before he eventually is able to locate Lauren and attempt to get her to safety.

The story is puzzling as well as exciting.   I figured out exactly what was going on with Lauren about half a dozen times.  None of my ideas were correct.   The ending was a shocker and I went back and reread some of the book and even though I knew what was going to happen I still couldn’t see it coming.  A great book.

If you like exciting detective novels don’t miss this one.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, August 2011.

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Midnight Alley
Miles Corwin
Oceanview Publishing, April 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-6080-038-9
Hardcover

When I reviewed Kind of Blue I commented that Miles Corwin had written a book full of danger, excitement and secrets and Midnight Alley is more of the same.  The reader learns more about Ash Levine, top detective in the LAPD’s Felony Special squad.  Ash is not an ordinary detective.  He served as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces and this experience gives him a little different outlook.

This second in the Ash Levine series puts Ash in charge of solving the murder of two young black men found shot to death in a Venice alley. The timing could not be worse.  Ash has just left for a weekend with his ex-wife Robin.  When he received the call ordering him back to work, Robin understood, but Ash was very disappointed.

Raymond Pinkney, one of the victims, was the son of City Councilman Isaac Pinkney.  Isaac has been a frequent critic of the LAPD.  Ash is under heavy pressure to find the killer but the case is puzzling.  Teshay Winfield, the other victim, had just returned from serving in the armed forces.  The two victims had known each other when they were younger but had gone separate ways.  What brought them together to be found dead in an alley?  And what was the strange marking on Pinkney’s bicep?  And what does it mean?  These are just a few of the many questions that leave Ash searching for answers.

Ash discovers that Teshay had returned to the States with a mask he discovered while serving overseas.  Teshay had high hopes that the mask would bring him a lot of money.  The more answers that Ash finds the more danger he is placing himself in.

This is a complicated story that reveals itself little by little until the surprising conclusion.  It  leaves the reader waiting  for more about Ash Levine, his life, and the cases he investigates in a manner that is totally devoted to solving the puzzles presented to him.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2012.