TC THE SEVENTH BEARER.
John C. Boland.
247 pages. $4.99 (paperback).
Stockbroker Donald McCarry is on the best kind of business trip. He is in the South of France, playing mother hen to Imrie de Wohl, a young, rich, spoiled American with more money than brains. Imrie is not satisfied with merely making money from safe but boring investments; he's looking for the excitement of investing in films.
Needless to say, Imrie falls in with a couple of artists more interested in a fast buck than cinema verite. As Donald is tending to Imrie, an assassin tries to run him down. The assailant was sent down by a French crime cartel that he locked horns with in a previous thriller, "Brokered Death." It is not long before Donald is visited by a U.S. Treasury agent with his own agenda, the crime lords and several free-lance criminals. The object is a stock certificate from a seemingly worthless mattress company. Donald must find out why the certificate is worth killing someone over.
John C. Boland's "The Seventh Bearer" is the second Donald McCarry thriller. Mr. Boland, a Baltimore writer, has a breezy style and is able to make the world of international finance understandable. The French locale is nicely described and Donald McCarry a likable character. In all, "The Seventh Bearer" is a blue-chip thriller."
This is minimalist fiction set primarily at Heyton Hall, the Fraser family estate, a place of oak-studded driveways and money. Here, Sarah Fraser had married Edward Scott in 1963. Now, as the story begins, their 22-year-old daughter, Meredith Fraser Scott, and her father watch a film taken on the day of her parents' marriage. Her mother's face is radiantly beautiful but expressionless. "A strange but beautiful woman, your mother," her father says as the film ends.
"Gatherings," the somewhat tedious first novel by Marina Rust, is Meredith's coming-of-age story. In it, Meredith tries to figure out who she is by figuring out the strange but beautiful woman who was her mother.
Doing this, she learns of the suicide of her great-grandfather, her uncle and her aunt. She also learns (and this is the point of the story) that money doesn't buy happiness. It is a lesson lost on the Fraser family, given as they are to depression, insanity and suicide.
Reading this novel resembles looking at a photo album or a scrapbook in order to understand a person's life. You get a collection of impressions. The collection is colorful but doesn't mean much of anything.
FROM BIRDLAND TO BROADWAY: SCENES FROM A JAZZ LIFE.
Oxford University Press.
273 pages. $24.
Memoirs about the music world, particularly jazz and blues, are more compelling than most, presumably because music tends to be a more collaborative art than, say, painting or writing. "From Birdland to Broadway" by bassist Bill Crow is a fine example of the jazz-memoir genre, partly because he is a good writer but primarily because he has led the career of a journeyman musician.
Although he's played with myriad name performers -- many of whom, like Benny Goodman, Lainie Kazan and Peter Duchin, do not come off well here -- the heart of the book is smoke, cheap booze and late-night pickup sessions. Mr. Crow has scores of tales to tell, and so many are funny it's hard to pick a favorite.
Still, it's hard to beat the one about the Benny Goodman protege who was willing to play trumpet for the imperious bandleader during a 1962 tour of Russia but couldn't abide the idea of performing an extra week in Warsaw. He asked his wife to send a phony telegram describing a family emergency, and she complied with a wire saying "Come Home At Once. The Dog Died. The Cat Died. Everybody Died."
The Polish dates did not take place.