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The King of Ragtime: A Ragtime Mystery    by Larry Karp order for
King of Ragtime
by Larry Karp
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Was Scott Joplin the King of Ragtime? Or was it Irving Berlin? A dispute arose between the two men over who composed Alexander's Ragtime Band. Joplin claims he gave the score for the hit tune to Berlin who never returned it, but later used it for his own benefit.

In 1916, Scott is slowly dying of an STD and wants to leave his wife enough money to live on after he goes. He's working frantically, composing a symphony, but every week showing more signs of the deteriorating effects of his disease. Irrational and subject to bouts of anger, he is difficult to deal with. What is worse is his confusion.

He and a piano student walk into a murder. The student, Martin, whisks Joplin away from the scene and into hiding. Nell Stark, a good friend of the Joplins, calls her father John Stark, a music publisher, asking him to come to New York City and help Scott. The latter claims that Berlin again has a composition of his and won't give it back.

The ensuing story grabs the reader's interest almost immediately. The musical scene at that time could easily be happening today, so clearly does author Larry Karp depict it. He also captures the street scenes of 1916 New York, the clothes and the attitudes of its inhabitants. A cameo appearance of Jimmy Durante is a bonus to be enjoyed.

I won't divulge any more of the splendid plot. I can't spoil it for you. Take my word for it. The King of Ragtime is a good read.

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