The Jazz Palace

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

Part his­tor­i­cal nov­el, part mys­tery, and The Jazz Palace by Mary Mor­ris is filled with cul­tur­al her­itage. Mor­ris writes how pover­ty, race rela­tions, romance, immi­grants, migrants, and gang­sters shaped the city of Chica­go and the expe­ri­ence of those strug­gling out­siders” in the face of the day-to-day tri­umphs and tribu­la­tions of the Jazz Age. Although the pri­ma­ry sto­ry is fic­tion­al, the many his­tor­i­cal details and char­ac­ters add to the plot’s authenticity.

The nov­el opens with the sink­ing of the S.S. East­land in 1915, when hun­dreds drowned in a cap­sized Lake Michi­gan fer­ry. Through this tragedy the author intro­duces two of the main char­ac­ters, Ben­ny Lehrman and Pearl Chim­bro­va. As the sto­ry unfolds it becomes appar­ent there are three main pro­tag­o­nists with a major sup­port­ing char­ac­ter: jazz music, insep­a­ra­ble from the character’s lives. 

Ben­ny is a Jew­ish teenag­er grow­ing up on the North Side of Chica­go in the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. His father wants him to par­tic­i­pate in the fam­i­ly busi­ness of mak­ing hats, but Benny’s real pas­sion is play­ing piano, espe­cial­ly jazz. At night he sneaks down to the South Side, slip­ping into pre­dom­i­nant­ly black clubs to hear jazz groups play, until one night when he plays an impro­vi­sa­tion­al piece. It is here that he befriends a black trum­peter, Napoleon, who bears a strong resem­blance to Louis Armstrong. 

Napoleon Hill brings togeth­er Ben­ny and Pearl. She runs a saloon, offer­ing drinks and jazz to its cus­tomers. Rec­og­niz­ing the tal­ents of Ben­ny and Napoleon, she invites them to start play­ing at her fam­i­ly’s saloon, which Napoleon dubs The Jazz Palace.” But Napoleon must con­tend with mob boss­es who see him as their prop­er­ty, includ­ing the real-life gang­ster and music lover Al Capone: The Stroll is a big plan­ta­tion. The musi­cians had their jazz slave mas­ters, just like in the old days.”

The Jazz Palace brings to life the jazz era of the 1920s, bring­ing read­ers into the saloons with Al Capone, Louis Arm­strong, and those who ignored the Pro­hi­bi­tion laws. They will be trans­port­ed to anoth­er place and time with the well-devel­oped char­ac­ters, his­tor­i­cal plot, and mys­te­ri­ous sto­ry that will hold them in sus­pense over what will hap­pen to the char­ac­ters with the music play­ing in the back­ground as the action ratch­ets up like a jazz crescen­do, end­ing with a tri­umphant climax.

Relat­ed Content:

Elise Coop­er lives in Los Ange­les and has writ­ten numer­ous nation­al secu­ri­ty arti­cles sup­port­ing Israel. She writes book reviews and Q and A’s for many dif­fer­ent out­lets includ­ing the Mil­i­tary Press. She has had the plea­sure to inter­view best­selling authors from many dif­fer­ent genres.

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