Review: Beem Weeks' Jazz Baby

We've been dying to start reviewing books here at Koobug, and here we are! We've started with Beem Weeks' Jazz Baby, but there will be many more to come!

I started reading Jazz Baby in near-perfect conditions - a pleasant, cooling breeze blowing through windows that opened onto a hazy summer afternoon outside, with ringlet and white butterflies dancing over the long grass to the Sidney Bechet jazz that was playing in the background.

Jazz Baby follows the fortunes of Emily Anne Teegarten (Baby), a speakeasy singer trying to make it big in the poverty-striken Deep South in the 1920s - a world dominated by gangsters, drugs, and violence. It wasn't hard to be carried away to Baby's world - Weeks captures the mood and tenor of a harsh, brutal life in America sliding into depression.

This is a hard book to categorise, and no doubt everyone that reads it will draw their own conclusions. To my mind, this book defies categories, and is ultimately about people. Beem Weeks follows in the footsteps of Hemingway and Fitzgerald by focusing on vivid characterisation, evoking imagery, building identities and setting scenes through their atmospheric use of a character's speech.

While Weeks' style pays homage to these literary giants, he claims his own identity as an engaging writer with his own voice and the freedom that modern writers have to unflinchingly take on difficult subjects with a raw reality that sometimes bites. It left me asking questions about the central characters; a tribute to Weeks' ability to bring Tanyon, Rydekker and Baby Teegarten to life.

Beem Weeks' style may pay homage to the literary greats, but he claims his own identity: he's an engaging modern writer with his own voice and the freedom that the 21st Century permits to unflinchingly take on difficult subjects with harsh realism.

This is a fine first novel from a writer that we will be seeing a lot more of in the future.

Beem is in the process of writing his second novel and he has exclusively previewed the opening chapter here on Koobug.com.

You can find out more about Jazz Baby here.

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