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Monday, February 10, 2014

Second Ending by Evan Hunter

I love music and I love books - I love other things too but we won't go into that! 
There are books, just as there are records, that you wouldn't part with yet may never read or play again. There are also books (and records) that you are compelled to come back to time and time again.
Second Ending by Evan Hunter is just such a book. Hunter also wrote The Blackboard Jungle and the Ed McBain 87th Precinct stories but Second Ending is the one I always come back to.
I first read it back in the 1950's and was immediately hooked - perhaps not the word to use in the context of the story!
It describes a bunch of  young college kids/musicians in the late 1930s getting together to form a band that rehearses weekly hoping to get a few gigs. The personalities become exposed with the arrival of a 15 year old trumpet player with more talent than his older contemporaries.
The band gets gigs in youth clubs and meets girls. The trumpet player goes on to greater things. WWII arrives and the trumpet player gets hooked on heroin and, some years later, he meets up again with the pianist who is studying for an exam whilst the trumpet player stays in the pianist's apartment trying to go cold turkey.
It's a book full of mixed emotions, love and potential tragedy between a group of people trying to cope with the trumpet playing genius' attempts to straighten up for an audition and their own conflicting emotions.
There's also the music theme that moves through dance bands, big bands and bebop.
I read it maybe once every 5 or 10 years and it still feels like the first time.
My favourite quote: He wet his lips and Bud noticed for the first time the pink, almost white ring of muscle smack in the centre of his upper lip, the coat of arms of the trumpet player...
Lance.
PS: Do you have a favourite novel with some jazz either as a theme or casual reference?

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