Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Swing" by Rupert Holmes

“Swing” by Rupert Holmes is an absolute treat. It keeps you guessing from start to finish.

Mr. Holmes has won a pair of Edgars, a Grammy, three Tony Awards and his previous novel (“Where the Truth Lies”) is being made into a film starring Kevin Bacon. Mr. Holmes is no Forest Gump.

“Swing” is not a formulaic mystery…though a death transpires early on. It is a brainy, atmospheric, literate, nimble novel.

Set in 1940 during the Golden Gate International Exposition on the manmade Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, the noirish fictional historic thriller is narrated by sax player and arranger Ray Sherwood. He is part of the Jack Donovan Orchestra of Note…playing an extended gig at the upscale Claremont Hotel in Oakland.

Upon arrival, Berkeley student Gail Prentice entices Ray into helping her score her prize winning piano piece for full orchestra. Part of the prize is a performance by Japan’s Pan Pacific Orchestra.

Ray agrees and enters into a world of betrayal, deceit, double crosses, murder and political intrigue.

Nazi sympathizers, a former lover from twenty years past, Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch, Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, the Lindy Hop, Japanese diplomats, lime phosphates are just a few of the people, places and lingo that transport the reader solidly into the big band era and lifestyle. An era when what musicians loved to play was what the public loved to hear.

The book comes with a CD of original big band music composed by Mr. Holmes. Clues are contained in the music…I, myself, was far too obtuse to locate said clues. However the CD has dominated my player for the past 300 miles.

No matter…the story is about something more ominous and disturbing than a murder, but to tell more would diminish the pleasure of the denouement.

“Swing” is right on key and not to be missed.

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