Last night my friend Pat and I went to a jazz concert, one of a series of concerts given by Germantown, the next suburb over. I already have tickets with Pat Potter (another Pat) for the symphony, but this is the first jazz concert I have been to since I lived in New York years ago. To show my age, I was in the audience at the Village Vanguard the first time Johnny Mathis sang in public. Wow—before Noah’s flood. It was obvious he was going to be a star.
I had a good friend from Brooklyn, transplanted to Memphis to produce local TV shows, who introduced me to Parker and Coltrane and some of the best. At that point, Birdland was still in operation. I, however, always preferred cool jazz. Brubeck and Getz, the Modern Jazz Quartet. I have a real hate on about what my friend called ‘honkers.’ If you listen to jazz, you know what I mean. At the end of an hour, you hope for the blessed pain relief of a migraine.
These guys last night were truly good. They ranged from Jelly Roll Morton to Fatta Hines to Armstrong and up to their own arrangements. I know this makes me a Philistine, but I prefer music with an identifiable motif if not an actual tune. I am no more fond of “noodlers” than I am of honkers. These guys were neither. After two hour-long sets, the audience would have been ready for more, except that the musicians were probably too tired to think straight, much less play actual music. Go listen to some live music. Chances are you’ll enjoy it.
On another note, the ghost stories for our ghost anthology are finally edited, and the line drawings are in hand to head each story. I hope I can send the whole shebang to the publisher next week, and that he approves what we’ve done. The first group of stories, mysteries set in Memphis and called Bluff City Mysteries, has sold quite well. I hope the ghost stories do even better.
We’re already thinking up a theme for the third anthology.
This all started as a simple writing exercise for our Malice in Memphis group of mystery writers. It worked. The ghost stories for this second anthology are tighter and more professional than the first group.
I truly believe it is possible to learn to write. Maybe some of us are born natural writers. If so, I’ve never met one of them. And even the geniuses are constantly learning, practicing, critiquing, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting in hopes of writing better. Even Shakespeare rewrote.
One of my professors in graduate school tore one of my papers apart, because she said I was using the easy word rather than the exact word. I’ve never forgotten that. I am not always successful, but I sometimes sweat bullets hunting for the exact word. Sometimes I don’t find it. But at least I’m trying.