Riding Solo with the Golden Horde

Richard Hill, Author University of Georgia Press $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8203-1608-6
Set in Florida in 1958, this capable coming-of-age novel paints a close-up picture of a young and gifted musician in the early days of jazz. Teen saxophonist Vic Messenger spends his days at Boca Chica High and his nights at the Cypress Room, where he can sometimes sit in with the house band. There he meets Boop, a singer with all the talent--and the addictions--of a Billie Holiday. Boop's affection for Vic--which turns out to be more than just a fondness for his playing--is set against the appreciation of the boy's music-theory teacher, who takes him under her wing. The novel thus becomes about Vic's choices: a world of drugs and dissipation, or an atmosphere of growth and creativity. Using song titles for chapter headings and employing headlines and magazine advertisements like jazz riffs, Hill has created a moody, believable novel that reads like the prose analogue of a tight jazz arrangement. Especially notable is the author's portrayal of the era's racial attitudes--the assumptions of a segregated society in which racial differences are recognized but unspoken is a provocative undercurrent, climaxing in a memorable scene in which a kind of understanding seems truly possible. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/04/1994
Release date: 07/01/1994
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