cover image The Hot Jazz Trio

The Hot Jazz Trio

William Kotzwinkle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $17.95 (153pp) ISBN 978-0-395-50096-5

The three stories that comprise this collection are rightfully termed ``illusions,'' for Kotzwinkle is a wizard of wordplay and his creations are spellbinding achievements. Few authors can juggle fantasy, humor, stark realism and horror as Kotzwinkle does. Thanks to his magic, the reader is transported to Paris in the 1920s, to ancient Egypt and to the American West. The wonderfully diverse cast of characters includes hobos, a pharaoh, a talking silk handkerchief and Jean Cocteau. In the longest story, ``Django Reinhardt Played the Blues,'' Loli, a magician's beautiful assistant, is abducted by a lovesick Vanishing Box during a performance. In pursuit of Loli and the Box is a group of hapless jazz musicians, who scour Paris and the world of fantasy trying to solve the mystery. ``Blues on the Nile'' is a bizarre and humorous account of a dead pharaoh who discovers that his workmen forgot to build him a boat to sail into eternity. The chilling ``Boxcar Blues'' follows two circus performers who are trying to flee from Death, racing across the country with him on their trail until the inevitable showdown. The illustrations, by Joe Servello, heighten the effect of these strange tales. Kotzwinkle's ( The Midnight Examiner ) necromantic artistry puts him in the same league as Poe and Lovecraft. (Nov.)