cover image Face the Music: A Memoir

Face the Music: A Memoir

Peter Duchin, with Patricia Beard. Doubleday, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-54587-7

The pianist leader of the Peter Duchin Orchestra dance band claws his way back from disability while reminiscing about his life in this knotty memoir. Duchin (Ghost of a Chance), who is also a mystery novelist, recounts his agonizing recovery from both a 2013 stroke that paralyzed his left hand and a harrowing battle with Covid-19, which included 47 days of intubation. There’s a wintry edge to these recollections of struggling to salvage what he could from permanent decline—“I sat with both hands on the piano and tried to will my hand to pick up the message from my brain”—while commiserating with old friends. His recovery narrative frames reflections on his childhood and 60-year musical career that are by turns wry and heartfelt— often focused on parties where he was either a guest or entertainer—and include lots of celebrity cameos, from a youthful date with a luminous Audrey Hepburn to an improbable striptease performed by TV news monument Walter Cronkite. Infusing the meandering retrospective is an elegy to an older style of “society” entertainment, with its debutante balls and chic nightclubs, that his band continues to cater to as it dwindles in American culture. The result is a beguiling homage to jazz bands and the glamorous lifestyle they adorned. Agent: Laura Yorke, Carol Mann Agency. (Dec.)