Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks

Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks Purchase:

    The tempo is steady and throbbing as a hot jazz tune; the characters and their adventures are as wild and dangerous as a swamp full of alligators.

    While all Mississippi bakes in the scorching summer of 1925, a sudden orphanhood casts its icy shadow across Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten, a pretty young teen.

    Taken in by an aunt bent on ridding herself of this unexpected burden, Baby Teegarten plots her escape using the only means at her disposal: a voice that brings church ladies to righteous tears and makes angels take notice. “I’m gonna sing jazz up in New York City,” she brags to anybody who’ll listen. ’Cept that Big Apple—well, it’s an awful long way from that dry patch of earth she used to call home.

    So when the smoky stages of New Orleans speakeasies give a whistle, offering all sorts of shortcuts, Emily Ann soon learns it’s the whorehouses and opium dens promising to tickle more than just a young girl’s fancy that can dim a spotlight…and knowing the wrong people can snuff it out.

    Jazz Baby just wants to sing—not fight to stay alive.

    About Beem Weeks:

    Beem Weeks
    Beem Weeks

    Beem Weeks is the indie author of several short stories, poems, essays, and the historical fiction/coming-of-age novel Jazz Baby. A divorced father of two grown children, Beem has lived in Florida and Georgia, and is currently calling Michigan home. Among his literary influences he counts Daniel Woodrell, Barbara Kingsolver, and Stephen Geez.

    He’s been writing since childhood, having co-authored a play he saw performed by and for classmates and staff during his time in fifth grade. As a teenager and young adult, Beem wrote concert and record reviews for a small publication. Journalism had been his intended field from an early age, but all that changed with the publication of a short story that eventually led to his first novel, Jazz Baby.

    Beem enjoys indie films, loud music, and a well-told story.

    Review by BookFriend:

    I picked this book up one evening and started reading, soon discovering it’d be one of those that I’d require a stretch of time to chew through without interruption. It is for this reason I put the book back down and picked it up again when I knew I would have a window of quiet time to dive in and really allow myself to absorb the story crafted here. For crafted it is.

    Jazz Baby tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who has the voice of a much more mature woman. I mean that in more ways than one. When everyone she loves dies, I guess that adds to the reasoning there. I was also reminded of a time when girls and boys had to grow up much quicker.

    Some parts of this book made me feel really uncomfortable. Like I said, because of the mature voice you often forget she’s a teenager and the odd quirk in the narrative cleverly reminds us she’s just a young teenager – and still all these nasty, horrible things are happening to her. You have to take a breath for a moment when you realise that. You couldn’t tell that the book (from an entirely female perspective) was written by a man either! The attention to detail was extraordinary and the dialects gotten down to a T.

    I had to attune to the dialect even though I’m used to reading lots of different voices. However, it was strange how this need to listen to the words more carefully made me feel as though I was in Baby’s time and place. Her often poetic turns of phrase and perspectives took me right out of this time and into that one.

    This is not a read I’d go for if I were looking for something romantic and light. The pace picks up massive speed towards the end and you’re on the edge, wondering what the heck is going to happen. There’s blood, guts and guns. You become invested in the story and the twists keep coming. However, it’s certainly a read that tells of meticulous research; knowledge of the Deep South, an interest in that era and a faultless attempt to work something the author is obviously passionate about into such a brave, honest, authentic work.

    I’d like to see a sequel set further down the line. Or I’d like the author to write a gangster novel!

    Review by S. Rose: Jazz Baby reminds me of the time when I, as a small child, peeled open my very first pomegranate. Hidden beneath the unassuming skin I discovered a treasure of sparkling, edible ruby-red jewels that felt smooth to the tongue and when bitten, burst into a luscious sweetness with a tart, sassy edge. So too with Jazz Baby!

    In the interest of disclosure I offered to review the novel for author, Beem Weeks, and was forthwith gifted a paperback copy (since I’m an old fogy who hasn’t broken down and bought a Kindle or other reading devise). I hefted the small book-only 205 pages-in my hand, admired the cover and commenced to reading.

    From the first pages, the voice of protagonist/narrator, Emily Ann A.K.A. Baby Teegarten demands your attention with the raw power one would expect of a character who is a natural born vocal artist. It is easy to imagine her belting out soulful tunes to the accompaniment of various rag-tag “colored” jazz musicians, who more than make up in spirit for what they lack in musical training.

    The novel is set in the deep South during prohibition, in a backwater place called Rayford, Mississippi, with forays over the river to New Orleans where drinkin’, druggin’, whorin’ and the occasional murder are inextricably entwined with the jazz scene of the speak-easies. The language is so southern that as I read, I could almost feel the heat and humidity rise, and swear I smelled a hint of swamp water wafting in.

    Perhaps it’s due to the languid climate, or maybe it was something in the water, but for Emily Ann, just about everyone she encounters (`cept maybe Aunt Frannie) – from the Choctaw Indian boy who works in the garden to the colored help, a girl about her own age– whips up a lust in her loins. I declare, belts come a-loose and panties flutter to the floor like magnolia blossoms in a stiff breeze.

    There are moments when Mr. Week’s writing danced with its back to an erotica cliff, one foot over the edge and the other on an oil slick; truth be told, I think he fell off more than once, but that’s for you to decide. (If you have curious children about the house, you might want to stash the paperback in your sock drawer and read it after they go to bed.)

    In any case, I can just about guarantee that you will not be bored. The tempo is steady and throbbing as a hot jazz tune; the characters and their adventures are as wild and dangerous as a swamp full of alligators (oh yes, there is a scene with a gator!) I couldn’t stop turning the pages and finished it the second day.

    In the final analysis, apples are good for leaving on the schoolmarm’s desk, but pomegranates, well…they’re for something else altogether, so go ahead and drink in the sumptuous juice of Jazz Baby.