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Updated: February 14, 2013 6:28AM

Novel draws on jazz legend’s music

Buddy Bolden is a jazz legend whose powerful, original sound at the turn of the last century was so enthralling that some now call him the first big star of that lively American art form. But his own star died quickly. Increasingly erratic, even violent, he was institutionalized in Louisiana in 1907 when he was still in his late 20s and before the word “jazz” had even entered the musical lexicon. He died without ever performing in a rocking, smoke-filled club again.

Nicholas Christopher, in his new novel, “Tiger Rag” (Dial Press, $26), brings Bolden back to life, full of outsize charm and drive, a virtuoso on his beloved cornet, but quickly losing his mental grip — and ending at the center of a full-blown mystery. To this day, no recording of Bolden has been found. Historical accounts indicate at least one session was captured on an Edison cylinder, the clunky recording equipment of the time. And as “Tiger Rag” opens, Christopher recreates that session and sets spinning a moving, page-turner of a story that spans a century and a hunt for the lost Bolden cylinder.

While the book is fiction, its characters include some of the real figures in Bolden’s life, including the trombonist, Willie Cornish, devoted to Bolden to the end.

Kendal Weaver / AP

‘Kinsey and Me’ offers insight into Grafton

“V Is for Vengeance,” the most recent in Sue Grafton’s popular series, was released in 2011. “W Is for ...” is due later this year. But now, Grafton is giving her fans something terrific while they wait.

“Kinsey and Me: Stories” (Putnam, $27.95) was published privately in 1991 for Grafton’s friends and family. This is its first publication for the general public. It’s perfect for uber-fans, because it gathers in one place nine previously published short stories about the super sleuth. It also offers a closer look at what makes Grafton tick. The 13 semi-autobiographical Kit Blue stories included in the collection go a long way toward explaining why the book is called “Kinsey and Me,” not “Kinsey and Kit.”

“If Kinsey is my alter ego, Kit Blue is simply a younger version of me,” writes Grafton in an introduction. She shares in them what she calls “that rage, that pain, all the scalding tears” of her younger self.

The Kinsey stories and the Kit stories together open a window into Grafton’s soul.

Grafton deserves thanks for bringing back the Kinsey stories. She’s to be applauded for the compelling Kit stories and for what one can’t but think is bravery for sharing them.

Carol Memmott / Gannett News Service

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