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Blue Bossa by Bart Schneider

Ronnie Reboulet plays trumpet and sings. He’s a junkie who wears false teeth, and he was drop dead gorgeous when young. A fictional Chet Baker? The other characters in this jazz novel include Ronnie’s daughter, Rae, her little boy, Quincy, and Ronnie’s long-suffering girlfriend, Betty. The novel, set in California during the Patty Hearst kidnapping, opens with Ronnie working as a golf pro, staying sober, and not playing jazz. At novel’s end he’s playing jazz in Montreal and “using smartly.” Schneider’s novel has plenty of incident yet the narrative is flat. Conflicts between characters are superficially addressed, then resolved in a sentence or two. We are to believe, for example, that Ronnie and Betty’s differences are suddenly smoothed over by his dedicating the song “This I Dig of You” to her during a nightclub set. I do like Schneider’s honesty in dealing with Reboulet’s drug habit. The musical description is kept to a minimum. Here’s one of the better examples: “The piano player, a tall, lovely man with a pencil-line mustache, laces a rhapsodic intro that seems like a surface of water held up high, a lake in the mountains supported by the muscular bass and crisp drumming.” Schneider’s style remains competent at best and I found much of this novel entirely forgettable.

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