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Twelve Bar Blues
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014028656X, Paperback)An adventurous, musically structured yarn that begins in 18th-century Africa and ends in present-day New York City, Twelve Bar Blues, British writer Patrick Neate's second book, was a surprise winner of the 2002 Whitbread Novel of the Year. For the most part Neate's prose is enthralling, beginning with a semihallucinatory tale of a jealous witch doctor's sabotage of his childhood friend. The latter is stolen by slave traders and sent to America; a century or so later, his descendant, Fortis "Lick" Holden, survives poverty in Louisiana to become an early pioneer of the jazz form. Over the course of Neate's story, we meet up with Louis Armstrong in 1920s New Orleans; cruise the slums and jazz joints of Chicago, London, and Africa; meet up with Tongo Kalulu, the love-conflicted chief of the Zimindo, a strong tribe; and travel to America with a black, retired London prostitute in search of her real father. Neate has a few lapses in judgment: several supporting characters don't ring true (one feels like a thin surrogate for the author), and the air goes out of his writing when he begins to think in clichés. But all is forgiven through the scope of this wild novel, with its inspired network of familial connections over many years and its deep mysteries that reach, like roots, through layers of American history and identity. --Tom Keogh
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:33 -0400)
White folk and black, slaves and slave owners, pimps and prostitutes, African chiefs and New Orleans jazz, three continents, two centuries and one song.
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