Walking in the Footsteps of Jazz

Apr 5, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Music, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Shannon Muir

When an independent publisher I wrote several short stories for, Pro Se Press, announced they acquired the license to characters from several stories from Charles Boeckman, a prolific pulp writer whose work had enough recognition that Alfred Hitchcock got the rights to develop one short story into an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode. What caught my attention about Boeckman was that not only did he write stories, but also was an accomplished jazz clarinet player. I studied mostly television in my undergraduate years, but our school also had a 10,000 watt FM jazz station; admittedly, I knew very little about the genre, so I pitched a three-hour specialty program called Women of Jazz that would encourage me to learn while setting up my programs. The ad for my show played up “female jazz musicians, both classical and contemporary,” and for the time I was on-air at KEWU-FM in Spokane, Washington, that is exactly what I offered. Though time slots have moved around over the years, as of this writing in 2023, Women of Jazz remains a staple on the air.

That background is needed to understand why I selected these characters. One of them, “A Hot Lick for Doc,” had originally been published in Justice Magazine in 1955, and featured two characters: Doc and Sally. It was the only offering that co-billed a female lead. Immediately, I wanted to know more and asked to see the story. It ended with the two characters on a bus trip to Los Angeles, where I moved to in order to pursue my professional career.

That’s when I knew this would be the story I was meant to tell, that would become the novella Charles Boeckman Presents Doc and Sally in The Death of Buddy Turner.

Contractually, I had to use any and every detail that the original story contained. All the background on Doc’s past life as Buddy Turner was there, though without any explanation as to where the name came from. The fact he was married, and other bandmates mentioned in the story, are there. Even the detail about him speaking French is in that story, but with no explanation why. I had to incorporate all that, while finding something that made the story uniquely mine. So I chose to follow the music.

Interestingly enough, the 1950s is when the West Coast movement of jazz explodes. Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars begin playing at the Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach in 1949, and the lineup over the years would include names like Shelley Manne and Max Roach and guests like Miles Davis and Chet Baker through 1957. This is roughly the same time period as the publication of the original short story featuring Doc and Sally and sets the stage for their return to Los Angeles. Doc’s been gone a few years, so the music isn’t so much in the Hollywood clubs anymore which would have been the case when he was last there. This opened up a wealth of material for me to work with.

At that time, and I believe they have just recently returned to doing them under new ownership, the Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach offered Sunday jazz brunches. My husband and I went out there to experience one and see the Lighthouse Café for ourselves, so I could build a vision of the unnamed fictional club and get a sense of the area. To our surprise, we also found various monuments in that area commemorating the significance of jazz music to the Hermosa Beach area. I knew I was on the right track. We enjoyed the food and the music. I returned home, and by the end of 2015, had completed the first draft and submitted it.

It has been along road, with a variety of delays for various reasons, but I really believe 2023 is the time for Charles Boeckman Presents Doc and Sally in The Death of Buddy Turner to shine. I did not get any input on the cover by Antonio Io Iacono, but I absolutely love it. It features the three main characters of the story: Doc, Sally, and the clarinet. The clarinet symbolizes several things in carrying over from the original story. However, a part of me likes to think that it also symbolizes Charles Boeckman – a jazz clarinetist and storyteller – continuing on the journey with the characters he created years earlier.

I hope you enjoy my love letter to mystery and jazz, coming from the heart of California.

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Find out more about Shannon Muir, Charles Boeckman Presents Doc and Sally in “The Death of Buddy Turner,” and other anthologies that contain short stories by her at shannonmuirauthor.com.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.



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