book cover of Downtown Strut
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Downtown Strut

(2013)
(The fourth book in the Edna Ferber Mystery series)
A novel by

 
 
A wintry Manhattan, 1927, finds Edna Ferber preparing for "the Ferber season on Broadway." The bestselling author has two shows opening back to back. On December 27, the musical adaptation of Show Boat by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. December 28: The Royal Family, her comedy of manners written with George Kaufman - Ethel Barrymore has pondered legal action for the play's depiction of theatrical royalty like, say, the Barrymores.

Why does Edna miss both opening nights? She has something else on her mind - murder.

Edna has been mentoring some talented, young black writers and actors who are part of the heady milieu of the Roaring Twenties' Harlem Renaissance - the jazz clubs, the faddish dances, the frenzy - and the lively pulse of Broadway that entices these talented young "Negroes" to push for a downtown strut, for mainstream recognition for Negro voices and talents. Only recently have Negroes been allowed on downtown stages with Whites.

Edna knows poet Langston Hughes, but she's most intrigued by unknowns. Her housekeeper's young son, Waters Turpin. Bella Davenport, a beautiful vamp. Ellie Payne, a jazz singer. Freddy Holder, a rabble-rouser. Lawson Hicks, Bella's handsome boyfriend. Taken by some fiction by the boyishly handsome Roddy Parsons, a charismatic man most recently in the "Negro chorus"""" of Show Boat, she heads to Harlem to take him to lunch, only to discover he's been stabbed to death in his bed. Who killed this promising young man?

Recognizing her own fatal attraction to brash Jed Harris, the young producer of The Royal Family, a darling of the Broadway set but a notoriously vain and cruel man, Edna includes him in a pool of suspects. Driven by curiosity, anger, and her sense of justice, Edna Ferber sets out to chase down the murderer rather than attend her plays' opening nights. Edna Ferber, "an equally shrewd but tarter version of Miss Marple." - Publishers Weekly

Genre: Historical Mystery

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