These are two opposite sides of New York in the 1940s; the shadows under the ‘El’, and the floating neon lights of the consumer promised land. These are the extremes the book tries to capture, the variety of the city, from its tenements to its luxury hotels, from its bebop clubs to the bustling wharves of the Brooklyn waterfront. The second photo is by Andreas Feininger (I think).
The quote is from Miles Davis’ autobiography, where he reminisces about seeing his idol, Charlie Parker, in the flesh for the first time.
In 1944 a teenaged Davis, freshly arrived in New York, spent months scouring the city’s clubs, looking for his idol. When Davis eventually found Parker, he was shocked at how bedraggled his hero looked irl. Miles was asked to join the band and the rest is history…
The second photo is from the famed bebop concert at Carnegie Hall in 1947, which was a turning point in the way bebop was viewed.
I couldn’t find an attribution for the first photo, so if anyone knows that would be brilliant. Cut off by the text blocks are Thelonius Monk, Charlie Mingus and Roy Haynes. Quite the super group!
In The Mobster’s Lament, Parker’s quintet from 1947 makes a cameo appearance. This was another super-group line up: it included the young Miles Davis, Duke Jordan, Tommy Potter and Max Roach
EDIT TO ADD…
Tim Clifford got in contact to attribute the first photo. Turns out it’s a really famous photo by Bob Parent which I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t aware of. Tim forwarded a New York Times article all about the photo. The article is titled ‘Is This The Greatest Photo in Jazz History?’
Massive thanks to Tim for supplying the missing information, and the link!
Here are some bits and bobs from the research I did for ‘The Mobster’s Lament’. Hopefully they give a sense of the book’s atmosphere. Its backdrop is New York’s nightlife in the late 1940s. A noirish world of rainy nights, neon lights, basement jazz clubs, artist’s lofts, choirines and wise-guy detectives.
The quote is from Lait and Mortimer’s ‘New York Confidential’, published in the 1940s, it’s a massively racist, sexist and homophobic ‘expose’ of crime in the Big Apple. It’s written in this outraged tone, but it explains, in detail, the places you can go to score drugs, hang out with gays and lesbians, pick up a prostitute, or find a gangster. To the point where it even lists addresses, phone numbers, and street corners to stand on. Basically, you could use this ‘expose’ as a travel guide for all the illegal things you could get up to in the city. It’s one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.
I use Excel to plot my stories (something my mates all make fun of me for). In each draft of each book I mess about with the order of chapters and scenes, add and delete whole sections. ‘Dead Man’s Blues’ had seven drafts. I took screenshots of each draft’s plot as I worked it in Excel and stuck them together here to show the evolution of a plot. Each cell is a chapter and each cell is coloured according to its POV character. Not sure what happened with the 2nd draft.
What editing looks like… I think this is from a round of edits on the 6th or 7th draft of the new book. The published version will be the 9th draft. Much of the stuff I’m cleaning up on this page ended up getting cut from the final version anyway. My process is massively inefficient.
I opened up my sketchpad to start making a bubble map for book 4 of the quartet and found the one I did for book 3…