Saturday, August 10, 2013

Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber Novel-Ed Ifkovic

Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber Novel

Ed Ifkovic

Poisoned Pen, Aug 6 2013, $24.95

ISBN 9781464201554

In 1927 Manhattan, playwright Edna Ferber knows this is her season as she has two productions opening on wintry Broadway. Just after Christmas, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern have provided a musical version of Show Boat; the following night Jed Harris’ production of her collaboration with George Kauffman, The Royal Family opens in spite of the potential law suit by raging Ethel Barrymore.

Through Waters Turpin, the teenage son of her black housekeeper, Ferber has met several talented black writers and performers who are keys to the Harlem Renaissance; she helps them break the previously white only ceiling. When she finds the corpse of Roddy Parsons, who she got a part in the Show Boat chorus, in his Harlem apartment, Ferber connects the deceased young man with Harris, who denies knowing him or any other of the black artists. Ferber soon uncovers proof that many of the Negros involved in the Harlem Renaissance detested Harris and Parsons, but not which one’s venom led to murder.

The latest Edna Ferber historical amateur sleuth (see Escape Artist and Make Believe) is an enjoyable period piece that brings to life New York City in late December 1927. The whodunit is fun and the look into the Harlem Renaissance and the Ferber Broadway season engaging with tidbits like Show Boat’s Negro Chorus breaking a glass ceiling of whites only. Although the relationship between Ferber and Harris becomes confusing as she bounces back and forth between attraction and loathing (which seems real but difficult to follow), readers will appreciate this 1920s mystery.

Harriet Klausner

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