TROUBLE ROUND' MIDNIGHT: JAKE LAMAR'S VIPER'S DREAM
I got word about Viper's Dream from Kristopher Zgorski, over at the site BOLO Books. Anytime crime and jazz mingle in a story, I'm there. Author Jake Lamar tells this rise a possible fall of a drug dealer to some of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century with passion, pathos, and style.
He opens the book in 1961 at one of the most historic jazz hangouts, the apartment of The Baroness Pamica de Koonigswater, "Nica" to her friends, an heiress to the Rothchilds and supporter of jazz musicians, like Charlie Parker who died in the place six years earlier. Viper, The King Of Reefer, works on the famed three wishes she asks many of her guests to write down on a piece of paper the three wishes they'd like to be granted. He has just committed the third murder in his life and a crooked cop has given him three hours to leave the city. He shows more concern about his three wishes.
Lamar then takes us back to 1936, when a young Clyde Morton, a jazz fan and aspiring trumpet player hits Harlem. He tries out for club owner Pork Chop, who tells him he's no good but senses his connection and love with the music. He invites Clyde up on the roof and introduces him to his first jazz cigarette. He offers him a job to work for his boss, Mr. O. a jewish man with a toe in the Harlem underworld, as his bodyguard and a dealer.
We follow Clyde as he becomes Viper, the marijuana kingpin of of the uptown culture. He, Mr. O, Pork Chop, and other associates struggle to keep their business to just grass. The stories main antagonist is heroine. They refuse to sell it due to it's harm to the music than any other morality and harm comes to those who sell it on their turf. However, the big money connected to it causes betrayals and heartache as Viper becomes involved with a junkie chauteuse.
As we follow Viper, we travel to the the rise of jazz init's hey day. Viper crosses paths with the greats like Satchmo, Duke, and Miles. He moves with the venues to Harlem to 52nd Street after the riots. He witnesses an emotionally harrowing night at Birdland with Charlie Parker begging Dizzie Gillespie to save him. By the time he sits in The Baronesses' apartment, crime, hard narcotics, and rock n' roll have put the music in a corner. The heroic aspects of Viper are his devotion to the scene and his concern to it's players.
Lamar writes in a bebop style. He jumps back and forth between Viper's life and his night at Nica's, making as intrigued about his three wishes as his three murders. He swings across time and plot, hitting on the exact right moments like perfect notes.
Viper's Dream introduces an exciting voice . Jake Lamar has a confident manner, knowing what's important in story. Like Kristopher did with me, you'll be telling other's about it like that great recording or musician you discovered.