Jazz Record Collecting + Crime Thriller = Irresistible Combination
Every now and then you start reading a book and you’re soon hooked; hooked to the extent that every spare minute is spent reading it and you find ways of manufacturing, not just spare minutes, but whole hours.
Andrew Cartmel’s, Written in Dead Wax arrived from Amazon on Friday and it was late in the evening that I began reading it, and today, Sunday, I’ve spent most of the day finishing its close to 500 page novel. The main billing on the front cover of the book is for ‘The Vinyl Detective’, which gives a strong clue as to what it’s about’ the actual title of the book tells you the rest… the dead wax being the run off area between the grooves containing the music and the record label. Like many crime thrillers there is a good deal of double entendre.
The publisher’s description goes as follows… “He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others.
Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client.
Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…”
What this doesn’t tell you is The Vinyl Detective is a jazz nut, a collector of rare and precious jazz records, and the record he is tasked with finding is the rarest jazz record of all. Any book that manages to work in the Gil Melle Sextet into the first three pages is clearly onto something. Equally mention of Lexington Avenue Blue Note recordings is someone that knows their stuff. Again this is in the first few pages, from there on it is packed with fascinating jazz trivia
The incredibly skilful thing Cartmel’s book, is the mixing of jazz fact and fiction, sometimes to the point where you start thinking, ‘Is that true?’ But no amount of jazz knowledge and the intricacies of record collecting will matter if the story is no good. Written in Dead Wax has an intricate plot and is gripping, with much of the story centred on London, and later in this fast paced and yet languid book it shifts to Los Angeles.
And here’s something else… we never do find out the Vinyl Detective’s name, it’s a nice little twist a story full of clever twists.
If you love jazz and crime fiction you must read this book. Five big stars!