Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lemone's New Novel

Ferrum resident Charles Shea Lemone, who had his novel Corner Pride at last year's Mountain Spirits Festival, will have his new novel, The Spring of Unexpected Consequences, at the authors' tent for the 2012 festival.

Set during the spring of 1957, the novel is about former police officer Nate Holt, who works as a bartender at Wally's Tavern in Harlem. Holt takes risks and breaks laws in order to help friends solve dangerous problems, a situation his love Lillian Warren is unaware of. When he vows to stem the flow of heroin into the neighborhood, he faces a series of unexpected consequences.

Here's part of the first chapter:

Chapter 1
       An hour into my bartending shift at Wally’s Tavern, a dingy little dive on 145th Street in Harlem, Blinky Carlson walked into the joint. It was a cold and windy midday on a Friday in the spring of 1957, and the weather had turned his face a mottled red. When he sidled up to the bar to slide onto a stool, I could see something was troubling him. There were a few whites who stopped by for a drink and to place bets through me on the numbers racket, but Blinky wasn't one of them.  Being that he was a consummate jazz aficionado, Fifty-Second Street was his scene. He rarely ventured north unless it was to catch an occasional late night show at Small's Paradise or one of the other nearby clubs.
     “How's life treating you, Mr. Nate Holt?”  He spoke in his usual rapid fashion after unwrapping a herringbone scarf from around his neck and sticking a Lucky Strike in his mouth.
      “Everything's copacetic.” I struck a match for the cigarette and set a coaster down on the chipped bar top. “Name your poison.”
    “A double shot of Cutty, straight up.” He unbuttoned his charcoal gray overcoat, removed a black jeff from his head, set it on the bar top and then with an unsteady hand brushed back his thinning, red hair.
     When I set the scotch in front of him, he wasted no time gulping half of it down. Except for his hip jazzman shades, which he no doubt wore to conceal a nervous facial tick, Blinky looked like the thirty-five-year-old accountant, which he was, being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. I took care of my regulars and then positioned myself on a stool across from him.
     “What brings you so far uptown, Blink?” I asked, giving the narrow room another once over to see if my services were needed.
     “I came to see you.” He took his shades off, folded them and laid them beside his cigarettes. “This morning I happened to read an article you wrote a couple of months back for The Uptown Beat. It was on a gig Miles did down at Cafe Bohemia.”
     “And…” I urged him on. Only a few months into writing my music column, I was eager for any and all feedback.
     “I thought the praise you lavished on him was more than well deserved.  I especially liked the part that read, if I may quote you, brother: 'Now that Bird has departed for that big band in the sky, there's nobody on the set who's moving with the force and innovation Miles Davis exhibits with his new quintet'.”
      “No exaggeration there.”
      “I was happy to see you also mentioned Coltrane and Cannonball, favorably.” His right eyebrow jumped up like an exclamation mark, as he seemed to take stock of his reflection in the mirror that ran the length of the bar behind me.
      “Yeah, I never thought I’d hear a group like them. All those geniuses together on the same stage.”
       “Like I said, it was a good piece of writing.”
      “Thanks, Blink.” I replenished his glass and waved off his attempt to pay. “On the house.”
      “Ever hear of a young kid named Joe Weathersby?” he asked a moment later.
      “Can’t say I have.”
      “Well, I’m not surprised. He's only twenty years old and still studying at Julliard.”
      “What’s he play?”
      “He’s a tenor man, who coincidentally comes from your hometown, Philly.”  He smiled briefly. “But he’s not just any tenor. I’m not jiving, man, when I say this kid’s got the bebop chops down and tons of raw talent to match. Given a little time on the set, and any and everybody who seriously follows the music will have heard of him.”
      “Is that so?” I said, wondering why I’d never heard the fella play. “How long's he been in town?”
      “Since the September before last. He came downtown one night, though, for an open-mike jam with Dizzy and some of the cats a couple of months back. I happened to be in the joint at the time. Man, talk about extraordinary. He does things in the upper register I didn't think could be done. I mean he’s bad, bad, bad!” He downed more scotch. “He even had Dizzy scratching his head in amazement.”
      “So, when can I hear him play, so I can make up my own mind?”
      “Soon,” he said, with a deeply etched frown carved in his prominent forehead. “That is, if Weathersby lives that long.”
      “Now you’ve really got me confused.” I poured a dollop of Courvoisier into my lukewarm coffee. “Does he have a health problem or something?”
      “You could put it that way. Ever hear the name Freddie Tucker bandied about in your travels?”
      “Who in the life hasn’t? He’s a big, ugly lout. But what’s he got to do with this kid, Weathersby?”
      “I’m recording him, see.” Blinky said, as the right side of his face twitched. “I been saving dough for years, and investing right. So I decided to start doing something I love, like being more involved in the music.”
      “And…” I said, impatiently.
      “So I talked Joe into letting me manage him. Since last week we’ve been recording some cuts at a little studio down on the Lower East Side. And just when I think we're close to wrapping things up, Freddie Tucker pops up out of nowhere.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “So that's why I'm here.”
      “Can you be a little more specific?”
      “I guess I’ll have to be.” He cracked another brief smile and went on talking. “We were rehearsing the other night. During a break, Joe goes outside to get some fresh air. The drummer I’d lined up, Pee Wee Merkins, has a problem with getting enough duji to stick in his veins. I knew that, of course. I mean, everybody knows he's got a monkey the size of Hackensack on his back. But the cat plays drums like nobody this side of Art Blakey. That’s why I convinced myself his habit wouldn’t translate into a problem. After all, I’m talking about making a demo tape, not doing a long babysitting bus tour.”
~ ~ ~

Those who enjoyed Corner Pride will likely enjoy The Spring of Unexpected Consequences, too.


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