Archive for 'Karp, Larry'
THE RAGTIME KID is a historical mystery based on actual people and events surrounding Scott Joplin’s composition and publication of The Maple Leaf Rag in Sedalia, Missouri in 1899. The story is told through the eyes of Brun Campbell, a young white piano player who hears Scott Joplin’s “colored” Ragtime music and becomes obsessed with it and the composer. He leaves his home to study piano with Joplin in Sedalia and becomes involved in a murder case and an interracial struggle for control of the black composer’s music.
Until I read this book, I knew little about Joplin or Ragtime music, but I found this book fascinating. Karp has done a wonderful job of bringing to life a time and place that seems very distant to many us now. Karp’s Sedalia is a turbulent mixture of blacks and whites with strongly held feelings about the desired relations of the races – former Union and Confederate soldiers, freed slaves, freeborn blacks, abolitionists, and KKK members all live in this small town. And when Scott Joplin, a talented, educated black man, refuses to sell the rights to his music cheaply to a white man, it is like putting a match to a powder keg.
The thing I found so interesting about this book was the amount of historical fact that Karp has used in the story. He has basically created the mystery to suit and explain the fantastic and unprecedented events of 1899. While he did create several fictional characters for the story, Karp populated Sedalia with many of its actual inhabitants and businesses. Those of you who know more about Ragtime than I did may already know that Brun Campbell isn’t a fictional character, that he did study with Joplin in 1899, and was a professional musician for much of his life. Me? I was surprised.
While the resolution of the mystery is a little too sensational to ring true, Karp’s exploration of the motivations of the different historical characters is a delightful study of conflict and compromise. Frankly, I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to find out how these real-life people from long ago turned out.
Favorite character? Dr. Walter Overstreet. Did I guess it? Mostly. Will I read another? This is the first book of a Ragtime trilogy and the quality of Karp’s writing and the ability to draw in the reader makes this a definite yes. I have to know how it ends!
You can find Larry Karp on the web www.larrykarp.com. On the web site you will find the first chapter of THE RAGTIME KID, several author interviews, upcoming appearances, and a listing and descriptions of Larry’s other titles.
Mystery Book Reviews by Liz at http://reviewedbyliz.com ©2007