Ivory Joe

Martyn Burke, Author
Martyn Burke, Author Bantam Books $19.95 (303p) ISBN 978-0-553-07182-5
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991
Release date: 02/01/1991
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-58721-515-5
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-58721-540-7
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Mafia infiltration of the record industry in the early days of rock 'n' roll provides the basis for this funny, wonderfully affecting novel. Leo Klein, who owns a New York garment company, occupies himself with nightclubs, parties, horse racing and show girls when he's not fighting with wildly incompatible ex-wife Tina. A larger-than-life figure, Tina does impulsive things like picketing Leo's factory and appointing herself manager of Joseph (``Ivory Joe'') Coulter, a black, streetsmart rocker and ex-boxer with a knack for driving teen audiences into a frenzy. Burke ( Laughing War ) ingeniously interweaves the main story line with flashbacks to the 1930s and '40s, and with the narration of precocious nine-year-old Christie, whose mother drags her and sister Ruthie along on trips up to Harlem and on concert tours of the virulently racist 1950s South. As Christie schemes to reunite her parents, Leo sneakily fights to win custody, gambles in Havana and gets in over his head with the mob. If the writing often seems tailored to Hollywood tastes, this is still a raucous rock extravaganza with heart and soul. Film rights sold to Alan Ladd Productions. (Feb.)
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