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Downtown Strut Review
American novelist and playwright Edna Ferber was preparing for what some called “the Ferber season on Broadway” in late December 1927. She had two musicals opening on Broadway, an adaptation of Show Boat by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern on December 27, and The Royal Family opening on December 28th. Unfortunately, she missed both openings.
After a couple of exhausting weeks of tryouts for the two plays, she arrived home a couple of days before the openings hoping for peace and quiet. What she found was a living room full of young writers, all black. They were friends of Waters Turpin, the son of her housekeeper, and Edna’s surprise arrival caught them off guard.
At Waters’ request, she agreed to mentor the young men and women and encouraged their writing. While they were looked down upon by the white society of the late 1920’s, Ferber’s interest in their writing led her to resolve to open doors to help them succeed.
Several of the young writers and actors particularly caught her eye; one of whom was Roddy Parsons. Edna was meeting him at his apartment to take him out to lunch when she found him murdered in his apartment. When a homeless felon was blamed for the murder, Ferber didn’t agree. Instead, she began her own investigation with the help of Waters, and his mother Rebecca. The murder tore the group apart and ultimately, the reveal of the murderer shocked Ms. Ferber and those around her.
Downtown Strut, an Edna Ferber Mystery by Ed Ifkovic is the fourth novel in this series. The fast-paced period mystery showcases life in New York City in the 1920’s. It was a dynamic time of creativity with Broadway in full swing. The author has recreated an atmosphere of time and place for readers; the exciting lifestyles of the rich and famous as well as the struggles of those who were on the outside. It was very much a time when there was a large chasm between those who had and those who did not.
The author was adept at mixing real people with a cast of characters that intertwined nicely to tell a tale of a time that we had heard about, but probably had not known in such detail. The gritty streets and low rent apartments sharply contrast with the lifestyle of the mentor of the young people. The inhumane treatment of the “Negroes” by a brash young producer provided a sickening realization as to the struggle the young artists had in order to make it in the arts.
Downtown Strut provides a wonderful opportunity to read about an unlikely and surprising sleuth from an unexpected viewpoint. This book is highly recommended if you are looking for something new and pleasantly different.
A special thank you goes to Poisoned Pen Press for providing us a complimentary copy of Downtown Strut for our review. If you are interested in reading this series, the books are available at Amazon.com.
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