Sid, the only one to witness his bandmate's disappearance at the hands of the Gestapo, breaks his silence on the incident over fifty years later when the men are reunited at a documentary premiere. - (Baker & Taylor)
"Berlin, 1939. The Hot-Time Swingers, a popular German American jazz band, have been forbidden to play live because the Nazis have banned their 'degenerate music.' After escaping to Paris, where they meet Louis Armstrong, the band's brilliant young trumpet-player, Hieronymus Falk, is arrested in a cafâe by the Gestapo. It is June 1940. He is never heard from again. He is twenty years old, a German citizen. And he is black. Berlin, 1992. Falk, now a jazz legend, is the subject of a celebratory documentary. Two of the original Hot-Time Swingers American band members, Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, are invited to attend the film's premier in Berlin. As they return to the landscape of their past friendships, rivalries, loves and betrayals, Sid, the only witness to Falk's disappearance who has always refused to speak about what happened, is forced to break his silence. Sid recreates the lost world of Berlin's pre-war smoky bars, and the salons of Paris, telling his vibrant and suspenseful story in German American slang. Half-Blood Blues is a novel about music and race, love and loyalty, and marks the arrival of an extraordinarily 'gifted storyteller' (The Toronto Star)"-- - (Baker & Taylor)
Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize
Man Booker Prize Finalist 2011
An Oprah Magazine Best Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction
Berlin, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris café. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.
Berlin, 1952. Falk is a jazz legend. Hot Time Swingers band members Sid Griffiths and Chip Jones, both African Americans from Baltimore, have appeared in a documentary about Falk. When they are invited to attend the film's premier, Sid's role in Falk's fate will be questioned and the two old musicians set off on a surprising and strange journey.
From the smoky bars of pre-war Berlin to the salons of Paris, Sid leads the reader through a fascinating, little-known world as he describes the friendships, love affairs and treacheries that led to Falk's incarceration in Sachsenhausen. Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues is a story about music and race, love and loyalty, and the sacrifices we ask of ourselves, and demand of others, in the name of art.
- (McMillan Palgrave
*Starred Review* Short-listed for the Booker Prize, Canadian Edugyan's second novel jumps between Berlin and Paris in 1939–40 and Berlin in 1992 to tell the story of a German American jazz band and its star trumpeter, Hieronymous Falk. Having hit it big during the Weimar era, the band—a mixture of expat African Americans and German jazz fanatics, including Falk, who is both black and a German (a mischling, or crossbreed, in the eyes of the Nazis)—now faces tough and increasingly dangerous times in the wake of Hitler's ban against "degenerate music." Drummer Chip Jones and bassist Sid Griffiths, both African Americans, escape to Paris, but Falk is arrrested in Berlin. Cut to 1992: the discovery of the band's unreleased last recording, "Half-Blood Blues," a jazz version of the "Horst Wessel Song," the Nazi party anthem, has made a music legend of Falk, never heard from after the war and presumed dead, and has prompted a celebratory documentary, which will premier in Berlin. Edugyan tells this incredibly rich story of music, politics, and personal betrayal both subtly and dramatically, unveiling the mystery of what happened to Falk as she exposes the tensions between the band members and the secret that has been gnawing at one of them for half a century. Like Paule Marshall's The Fisher King (2000), which tells a similar story of an expat jazzman and his troubled legacy, Edugyan's novel mixes palpable period atmosphere with an interpersonal drama of great emotional depth. That narrow moment in time when the freewheeling decadence of Weimar Germany gave way to jackbooted tyranny has been the subject of much fine fiction, but Edugyan is the first to overlay it with jazz history. It makes a sublime marriage. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.