[Dixielandjazz] Chasing the Devil's Tail

Dan Augustine ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu
Wed Mar 31 18:54:16 PST 2004

     Filling the apparent conversational lacunae with what is probably 
only dross, i herewith commend to your attention a book i just 
started reading called _Chasing the Devil's Tail_ by David Fulmer 
(2001, Harcourt Books).  I haven't seen it mentioned in DJML, and i 
only stumbled across it a couple of days ago serendipitously while 
persuing some other wraith through the ether.
     Here's what Publishers Weekly (never the most critical of organs) 
has to say about the book:

"Storyville, New Orleans, the most historic red-light district in the 
United States, where the music of Jelly Roll Morton and "King" Buddy 
Bolden is ushering in the jazz age, provides the stage for this 
riveting and provocative debut mystery of sex, alcohol, drugs, 
insanity and murder. When two prostitutes are found murdered and 
marked with a black rose, Tom Anderson, political boss and the "King 
of Storyville," calls in Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr. While the 
death toll mounts, St. Cyr doesn't want to believe that all 
indications point to his childhood friend, Buddy Bolden. Bolden, who 
has risen to fame with the "jass" music of his horn, has become more 
than erratic in his behavior. As St. Cyr watches his friend 
self-destruct, he wonders if Buddy is indeed the killer. The author 
vividly describes early 20th-century New Orleans, from the large and 
elegant houses of the madams to the infested rooms of the crib girls 
that reflect the distinct and rigid caste system of the day. After a 
frustrating investigation, the pieces of the puzzle come together in 
a surprising and satisfying conclusion. Fulmer's use of historical 
figures such as Tom Anderson, Buddy Bolden, piano player Ferdinand 
LeMenthe (who would later be known as Jelly Roll Morton), E.J. 
Bellocq, the photographer of New Orleans whores, and the famous madam 
Lulu White authenticate an already believable and spellbinding story, 
which will echo in the reader's mind like the mournful notes of good 

     The year set is 1907, and so far i like it, perhaps more for the 
nitty-gritty feel of the milieu than for any revelations in Bolden 
research. It's primarily a detective novel, not a portrayal of Buddy 
Bolden, but it is interesting, and i thought i'd mention it for those 
who might want to read it. I saw it online at Amazon.com, but i 
bought my copy at Barnes and Noble (quality-paperback size, $14.00).

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
**       "The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and       **
**        likable. In three days no one could stand him."             **
**                      --Joseph Heller, _Catch-22_                   **

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list