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Author Brad Meltzer’s ‘Cool’ Jazz Names

Brad Meltzer is the author of four thrillers that have spent considerable time on the New York Times best-sellers list. In his new book, The Millionaires, one of Meltzer’s characters takes on the pseudonym “Sonny Rollins.” While Meltzer (pictured left) doesn’t know a lot about jazz-“I listen, I dabble, but I don’t know it well enough,” he says-he knew exactly why he picked Rollins’ name for his character’s false name. “I just went for someone who I felt was cool. Sonny Rollins was the man. And the bottom line was, saying Miles is too easy. You gotta work a little.”

Meltzer wrote his first published novel, The Tenth Justice, at Columbia Law School for an independent study class with Kellis Parker, a part-time trombonist and brother to saxophonist Maceo Parker. Parker’s “Jazz Roots Revisited: The Law the Slaves Made” was a favorite among students interest in social and law history. “I never took his ‘Jazz and the Law’ class,” Meltzer says, “but the only reason why I’m a writer is because Professor Kellis Parker taught that [independent study]. I gave him the whole novel, and he gave me 2 to 3 credits per semester to work on the novel. And I turned in the entire thing at the end and he didn’t make a mark on it; not a change on it. I said, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Gotta keep going.’ He just believed nothing should get in the way of the creative process. And when I look back-he passed away last year-I look back on it now, I think he saw writing as like jazz. Let it go, free form. He just let me go. God bless him.”

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