Night Train : A Novel
by Edgerton, Clyde

In 1963, Dwayne Hallston discovers James Brown and wants to perform just like him. Meanwhile, Dwayne's forbidden black friend Larry, aspiring to play piano like Thelonius Monk, apprentices to a jazz musician called the Bleeder. A mutual passion for musichelp Dwayne and Larry as they try to achieve their dreams.

Clyde Edgerton is the author of 10 novels, including The Bible Salesman and The Night Train. Five of his novels have been New York Times Notable Books. He lives with his wife, Kristina, and their children in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He holds a PhD in English Education.

*Starred Review* The delightfulness of the opening scene sets the stage for this novel's key elements. A black jazz-guitarist called the Bleeder sits in the daytime emptiness of a bar in small-town North Carolina-the "only regular jazz spot within a hundred miles"-and conducts an impromptu guitar lesson for a teenage black boy who has just wandered in. It's 1963, and the nascent civil rights movement is moving in locally. But at the same time, black-white differences continue to abound. Music is the best vehicle for cutting across those boundaries. As locally famous performer Bobby Lee Reese says, "I can tell you about my audience on both sides of the track." Edgerton frames his sensitive new novel around the unlikely and disapproved-of friendship between Larry, the boy the Bleeder is teaching to play, and Dwayne, a white boy who fronts a group called the Amazing Rumblers and is determined to break out of town on a talent ticket. It is the wealth of well-understood characters that carries the reader through this engaging novel's easily consumed pages. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Print advertising in the New York Times Book Review and a national media campaign will augment Edgerton's own name recognition in bringing his new novel to widespread attention. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

James Brown connects two boys, white and black, in a light novel about North Carolina in the tense 1960s.

Veteran novelist Edgerton (The Bible Salesman, 2008, etc.) is profoundly skilled at taking on some of Southern literature's most difficult themes—race and religion especially—and addressing them with both respect and humor. The hero of his latest, set in 1963, is Larry Lime, a black teenager whose musical talent is nurtured by the Bleeder, the star pianist at a club on the outskirts of a small North Carolina town. Larry takes what he's learned to his job at a furniture shop, where he advises Dwayne, who's trying to get his band to play a note-for-note version of James Brown's iconic Live at the Apollo¬†album. Southern mores demand that Larry support Dwayne (who's white) without attracting attention, and Edgerton deftly shifts from intimate looks at their growing friendship to wide-angle shots of the racial divides among businesses and residents in the area. And he smartly merges social commentary with comedy: As Larry and Dwayne concoct a ridiculous plot to toss a chicken from a movie-theater balcony during a tense scene in¬†The Birds, Edgerton gently highlights how the theater's segregation policy inspired the idea in the first place. Various subplots involving Larry's extended family underscore the point that the color line was more porous than anybody wanted to admit at the time, though in the closing chapters Edgerton strains to sound an uplifting note without coming off as mawkish. Still, the command of Southern idioms and culture that earned him his reputation remains solid, and his affinity for simple sentences and clean chapter breaks give this slim novel an almost fable-like power.

Edgerton's knowledge about music is on full display, as is his understanding of the subtleties of race relations as the Civil Rights Movement picked up steam.

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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