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The Ragtime Kid: A Ragtime Mystery (Ragtime Mystery Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Larry Karp
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Brun Campbell, a 15-year-old piano-playing fool, hears Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” played one 1898 afternoon in Oklahoma City. It’s destiny calling. Asking for ragtime lessons, he’s told, “No, Ragtime is colored music.” So Brun runs away from the family farm to Sedalia, Missouri, to persuade Joplin to take him on as a pupil. What Brun doesn’t expect is to trip over the body of a young woman. He thoughtlessly picks up a couple of items before he rushes away from the murder scene.

When Edward Fitzgerald, a man who befriended Brun his first night in town, is arrested for the woman’s murder, Brun is certain he’s innocent. But if the boy shows anyone the things he pocketed at the scene—things he now knows belonged to Scott Joplin—he’ll point the finger at the composer...and himself.
Brun decides to get Fitzgerald, Joplin, and himself off the hook by finding the real killer, but for that he eventually needs some help from Dr. Overstreet, the alcoholic town mayor; and John Stark, a man pushing sixty, who’s been employing Brun at his music store.

Sedalia is rife with suspects, some of them opportunists bent on stealing Joplin’s music. And then there are the girls and women—mysteries to Brun—like a teenager seized with religious fever, a couple of mischievous prostitutes, and an attractive, ambitious young woman with a hint of scarlet in her past, who further complicate his pursuit of the killer.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ragtime suffuses the very air of 1899 Sedalia, Mo., in Karp's sweet-natured historical featuring Scott Joplin and the fictional 16-year-old white boy Brun Campbell, who ignores the racial divide in his determination to play piano Joplin-style. Brun runs away from home in Oklahoma and stumbles on the body of a young woman just hours after arriving in Sedalia. He carelessly grabs a locket and a money clip off the corpse, but soon learns that the objects will incriminate Joplin. To protect his idol, Brun decides to find out who the real murderer is. Karp (First, Do No Harm) does a wonderful job of depicting a town steeped in music history and in portraying Joplin, but the mystery plot pivots on a point that most readers will find hard to swallow, and the identity of the killer comes as little surprise. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Real people, famous and not, comprise most of the cast of this mystery, set in Sedalia, Missouri, known in the late 1800s as a center for ragtime. Teenage pianist Brun loves ragtime, but a white kid isn't supposed to play "colored music." Stubborn as well as talented, he runs off to Sedalia to find Scott Joplin. On his first night in town, he comes across the body of dead woman. Broke, he makes off with a money clip he spots near her body, only later realizing that his discovery links the gifted, driven Joplin to the killing. Racism is a huge part of the story, and Karp weaves the theme thoroughly and convincingly into his depiction of the music business and of Sedalia society at the time. His large cast could have been trimmed, and his characters frequently run to type, but that's not enough to sink this well-intentioned and generally involving novel, which clearly shows the best and worst of human nature in days gone by. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 584 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1590583264
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (May 25, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XNTA6G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,658 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ... I couldn't put the book down! November 19, 2007
Format:Hardcover
THE RAGTIME KID is a historical mystery based on actual people and events surrounding Scott Joplin's composition and publication of The Maple Leaf Rag in Sedalia, Missouri in 1899. The story is told through the eyes of Brun Campbell, a young white piano player who hears Scott Joplin's "colored" Ragtime music and becomes obsessed with it and the composer. He leaves his home to study piano with Joplin in Sedalia and becomes involved in a murder case and an interracial struggle for control of the black composer's music.

Until I read this book, I knew little about Joplin or Ragtime music, but I found this book fascinating. Karp has done a wonderful job of bringing to life a time and place that seems very distant to many us now. Karp's Sedalia is a turbulent mixture of blacks and whites with strongly held feelings about the desired relations of the races - former Union and Confederate soldiers, freed slaves, freeborn blacks, abolitionists, and KKK members all live in this small town. And when Scott Joplin, a talented, educated black man, refuses to sell the rights to his music cheaply to a white man, it is like putting a match to a powder keg.

The thing I found so interesting about this book was the amount of historical fact that Karp has used in the story. He has basically created the mystery to suit and explain the fantastic and unprecedented events of 1899. While he did create several fictional characters for the story, Karp populated Sedalia with many of its actual inhabitants and businesses. Those of you who know more about Ragtime than I did may already know that Brun Campbell isn't a fictional character, that he did study with Joplin in 1899, and was a professional musician for much of his life. Me? I was surprised.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars strong historical mystery December 3, 2006
Format:Hardcover
Brun Campbell loves to hear and play music. In Oklahoma city he listens to some musicians in a music store playing a tune by Scott Joplin and knows instantly that is what he wants to learn how to play. He runs away from home at fifteen and hops a train for Sedelia, Missouri in the hopes that he can get Mr. Joplin to give him lessons. On the way into town he runs across the body of a woman strangled to death and he takes a musical money clip that is nearby and a locket on her neck.

In town he meets businessman Mr. Fitzgerald who stakes him to a room at the YMCA and money to buy food while he looks for work. Someone who hears him playing music recommends he ask music store owner Mr. Stark for a job. Mr. Stark listens to him play and offers him a job on the spot. He also auditions for Joplin who agrees to give him lessons. When Mr. Fitzgerald is arrested for the murder of the woman Brun saw the first day he was in town; he knows the man didn't do it. The money clip which belonged to Joplin could implicate him and Brun in the murder. Brun decides to find the killer with the unwitting help of the townsfolk as he maneuvers them in the direction he wants them to go for information relating to the murder.

As historical mysteries go, THE RAGTIME KID is one of the better ones. The author doesn't only write a good who done it, he shows the readers how the plight of the black man had changed very little since Emancipation back three decades earlier. Scott Joplin takes a big risk to be paid in royalties with his name as the arranger of the music, something unheard of in the 1890's. The protagonist has a touch of larceny in him that helps him get what he wants but he is so adorable, readers will root for him in spite of his faults.

Harriet Klausner
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Larry Karp's latest book February 15, 2007
Format:Hardcover
I've just re-read Larry Karp's The Ragtime Kid, and just as you shouldn't play ragtime too fast, you shouldn't read Karp's book too fast, either, lest you miss the music of his prose and the nuances of the stories he tells.

In this, his latest book, it's 1899, and young piano player Brun Campbell has run away from his rural home in Oklahoma to Sedalia, Missouri. He's only just heard ragtime for the first time, and hopes to learn this new music from the master himself, Scott Joplin. Arriving in Sedalia, and looking for a room for the night, he stumbles, literally, upon the body of a woman, and picks up two objects that will become vital to the solution of her murder. He finds employment at a music store, and begins studying with Joplin, but when a man he knows is innocent is arrested, Brun is, however unwillingly, drawn into the search for the real murderer.

Though Sedalia is a town filled with music, it is only 30 years since the end of the War Between the States, and racism is very much a part of this story. Joplin insists on being taken seriously as a musician, and receiving royalties on the sheet music which will bear his name as composer, an unprecedented demand for the times. Thus, another plot line develops, as Joplin pursues his ambitions despite some unprincipled and amoral adversaries.

The characters here are a mixture of real, from Joplin and Campbell and other musical figures, and fictional, to some of the townspeople. In skin color, they are black and they are white, and in character they are black and white, as well, but the two categories do not necessarily overlap.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars History and Mystery Combined
The Ragtime Kid is a well written and interesting book. It includes a lot of history of post civil war race relations and the up and coming Ragtime music genre. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Nancy Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars People in the book actually were real, some of them anyhow.
What I liked about this book, besides it being an interesting storyline, was the fact that I discovered, that some of the main characters actually lived in our lifetime. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Dollymop22
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading
Well written
Published 1 month ago by Robert R. Borradaile Sr.
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
NICE AND EASY READ.
Published 1 month ago by GRANDMA
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Since I have never studied music, I had some tough times understanding parts of the story. But I loved the way the author added the fiction to the history.
Published 1 month ago by kma
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Interesting read, not what you might expect.
Published 2 months ago by Zen
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow going but great read.
This book enlightened me to events that I was ill informed of. Slow going but great read.
Published 2 months ago by Nick Moughan
3.0 out of 5 stars It was good telling of the very early days of Ragtime and ...
It was good telling of the very early days of Ragtime and R & B era.
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars ragtime kid
Well written. Exciting plot. Some good ideas on the possible history of Campell & the ragtime personalities around Joplin. Word
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars fun read
A historical mystery fiction. Who could ask for more? It kept me guessing what would happen next. I would recommend this book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Larry Karp grew up in Paterson, New Jersey and New York City. He worked as a specialist in complicated pregnancy care for 25 years, founding the Prenatal Diagnosis Center at the University of Washington, and Swedish Medical Center's Department of Perinatal Medicine. Residents in the Family Practice Programs at both Swedish and Providence Hospitals named him Teacher of the Year.

During his medical years, Larry wrote newspaper and magazine articles on a wide range of subjects, as well as a monthly column of commentary for the American Journal of Medical Genetics. He also wrote three nonfiction books. The View from The Vue described life as a med student and intern at New York's Bellevue Hospital; The Enchanted Ear was a collection of anecdotes about collecting and restoring antique music boxes. Genetic Engineering: Threat or Promise discussed the newly-emerging fields of genetic manipulation in humans. (Of this work, the author of a major genetics textbook wrote, "Of the many recent books on genetic engineering the only one that...carefully delineates the limits of current knowledge and tries to evaluate the significance of recent advances without resorting to sensationalism is by Karp").

Larry collects and restores antique music boxes, and is a regular contributor to Mechanical Music, the magazine of the Music Box Society International. In 1997, the Society presented him the Bowers Literary Award "for outstanding literary contributions to the field of automatic music."

In 1995, Larry left medical work to write full-time. He chose to write mysteries because the genre demands stories to be well-paced and tightly-constructed, but does not preclude the possibility of presenting characters and ideas which refuse to leave the reader's mind once he or she closes the back cover of the book. Larry set his well-received Music Box Mystery Series (The Music Box Murders, Scamming the Birdman and The Midnight Special) in present-day New York City. For his next book, First, Do No Harm, a World-War II home-front standalone involving complex and troubling medical ethical issues, he moved back to 1943 to a fictionalized Paterson.

Then, Larry ranged further back and farther away to write a historical-mystery trilogy, three books which blended fiction into history to look at signal events, social attitudes and racial relations at the birth, death, and revival of ragtime music in America. The first book, The Ragtime Kid, was set in Sedalia, Missouri in 1899, when white music-store owner John Stark made the extraordinary and unexplained offer of a royalties contract for a tune, "Maple Leaf Rag", by a young, little-known black composer named Scott Joplin. The second book in the trilogy, The King of Ragtime, was set in New York City in 1916, and centered on a real-life dispute between Joplin and Irving Berlin over an accusation of musical plagiarism and theft. The third book, The Ragtime Fool, completes the trilogy, as Brun Campbell, the old Ragtime Kid, comes back to Sedalia in 1951 to take care of some unfinished business.

What's the latest? During his first career, Larry served as Medical Director of Swedish Medical Center's Reproductive Genetics Facility and delivered the first baby in the Pacific Northwest conceived through in vitro fertilization. He drew on that experience to write A PERILOUS CONCEPTION, the story of an overly-ambitious young obstetrician in the Pacific Northwest, secretly trying to make medical history by producing the world's first IVF baby. Unfortunately, that sort of secret is hard to keep, and the upshot is blackmail and murder.

Larry's books have been finalists for the Daphne and Spotted Owl Awards, and have appeared on the Los Angeles Times (The Ragtime Kid, December 2006) and Seattle Times (The King of Ragtime, November 2008) Fiction Best-Seller Lists.


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