The Ragtime Fool
A Scott Joplin Mystery by Larry Karp
Review: Larry Karp concludes his ragtime trilogy with The Ragtime Fool, setting the story some 45 years after the events in the previous book in the series (The King of Ragtime) and long after Scott Joplin's death in 1917.
Ragtime seems to be making a comeback. At least it seems so in 1951 Sedalia, Missouri. Plans are underway to place a plaque in the local Negro High School to honor Scott Joplin, the "King of Ragtime", who once lived in the town around the turn of the century. Brun Campbell was Joplin's only white student back in his Harlem days and he is helping to establish the musician's legacy. But tensions run high in this small town. Restaurants and theaters are segregated and the Klan meets regularly. In fact, they are planning to bomb the high school during the ceremony. It isn't clear if they intend to follow through on their threat, but just announcing it may be enough to keep people away and prevent it from occurring.
Separately, 17-year-old Alan Chandler plays ragtime on the piano in his New Jersey home as often as possible, much to the dismay of his parents, who don't find the music appropriate for a white suburban boy. He knows of Brun Campbell from news reports on the radio, and is aware of the upcoming festivities to honor Joplin in Sedalia. He writes Brun, who tells him that Joplin kept a diary that is currently with his aging widow in New York. With the enthusiasm — and just a bit of rebelliousness — of a teenager, Alan and his girlfriend travel to New York to pick up the diary and then on to Sedalia to deliver it to Brun. But someone else wants the diary: jazz critic and historian Rudi Blesh, who would do just about anything to get his hands on it.
The Ragtime Fool is a poignant story, a tale of two generations that share a common love of music, the common thread between them the ragtime composer Scott Joplin. It isn't a mystery by any standard definition, but the characters (many of whom are real, historical figures), settings, and pacing of the at times suspenseful plot will not disappoint fans of the genre.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Ragtime Fool.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of The Ragtime Fool for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The King of Ragtime
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), October 2008
ISBN-13: 9781590585269; ISBN-10: 1590585267
Location(s) referenced in The Ragtime Fool: Missouri
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The Ragtime Fool by Larry Karp — A Scott Joplin Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $24.95