November 16, 2014
Joan Merrill’s latest crime novel featuring jazz-loving, San Franciso-based private investigator Casey McKie takes us to the Pacific Coast Jazz Fest at Monterra. Headlining the festival is the country’s leading male jazz singer, Sid Satin, and when he is found shot dead, the local cops suspect veteran jazz singer Dee Jefferson of the crime. Casey lives close to Dee’s club, regularly hangs out there, and regards the singer as her best friend; not surprisingly, she unhesitatingly steps in and sets out to find the real killer. She quickly learns that the murder victim is a decidedly unpleasant individual with dozens of enemies in the jazz world and in his private life, none of whom are sorry to learn of his death. One by one, Casey follows up leads that bring her into contact with jazz singers and instrumentalists, newcomers and veterans, promoters and agents, journalists and fans. All of these men and women, as well as others outside the jazz nucleus have good reasons for seeing Satin dead and unraveling the many motives for the murder proves to be an intriguing puzzle for Casey to solve.
Well established in jazz, especially in the Bay Area, Joan Merrill works as a musician’s agent, concert, film, radio and record producer. Deeply involved in the world in which And All That Motive is set, the author ably explores the highs and lows encountered by musicians. It is all believable as is the interplay between musicians, veterans and newcomers. As Merrill’s fans already know, her background ensures that when the characters express opinions and ideas about jazz as it is now and how it used to be, their words come with the ring of truth. This is a thoroughly enjoyable journey into the (hopefully fictitious) murderous underground beneath the world of jazz.
June 1, 2014
A very welcome addition for the growing army of fans of Joan Merrill’s series of jazz-connected detective novels featuring Casey McKie comes with a newly-available audio book. This features Casey’s latest case, And All That Madness, a tale in which Casey forsakes San Francisco, her home turf, to investigate a New York mystery. The reader is Alisa Clancy, radio host of Morning Cup of Jazz at KCSM Jazz91. Those lucky enough to have heard Alisa Clancy before will not need telling, but for those less fortunate, as indeed am I, she has a warm, husky, thoroughly engaging vocal sound that admirably tells this tale of intrigue surrounding the long-ago death of Georgia Valentine, jazz singing star of the 1950s. As the McKie fan army knows, almost all of the characters, major and minor, in Joan Merrill’s books, are jazz people and here they include musicians and agents, former lovers of the dead diva, criminals and cops, jazz archivists and fans. All of them are realistically portrayed in the author’s words and Alisa Clancy’s voice is a perfect fit for the mood, effortlessly conjuring up the atmosphere, then and now, of New York’s jazz scene. For those who have not seen my earlier page about the Casey McKie books (01 February 2013), the death of Georgia Valentine has always been thought to have resulted from a self-administered drug overdose. A newly-discovered letter opens up new lines of inquiry and in following up on them, Casey McKie encounters Georgia’s ex-husband, a former narcotics agent, a drug dealer, a mafia boss, and a wealthy socialite, among many wholly believable characters before eventually unearthing shocking truths about the jazz legend’s life and death.
The crisp pace and snappy dialogue of Joan Merrill’s books is brought to vibrant life by Alisa Clancy and this will appeal both to lovers of crime fiction and to jazz fans. Those who are fans of both genres will be especially delighted.
February 1, 2013
Given Joan Merrill’s impeccable jazz credentials, her decision to write jazz-based crime novels meant there was a good chance that the characters and the settings would be right. But could she write crime fiction?
Until this point in her life, Joan had worked on the jazz scene in talent management and booking, as publicist for various jazz singers, and had produced radio shows for NPR’s award-winning Jazz Profiles and PRI’s Smithsonian Productions. She also produced excellent CDs by jazz singers Nancy Kelly (Well, Alright!) and Rebecca Parris (You Don’t Know Me), and the masterly video documentary, Saying It With Jazz.
Joan is presently producer of Qué Sera! Celebrating Doris Day, a stage show starring Kristi King (released on CD in September 2012).
So far, so good.
Fortunately for lovers of crime writing, things got even better when Joan’s first novel was published in 2010 and it was immediately apparent that she certainly could write crime fiction.
Creating an exceptionally good lead character, gutsy San Francisco-based PI Casey McKie, who happens to be a jazz fan, Joan set out to write a continuing series of novels.
The first of these is And All That Murder, which kicks off when Casey’s good friend, veteran jazz singer and club owner Dee Jefferson, urges her to inquire into the death of a jazz club owner. As Casey investigates, the bodies pile up, all linked to jazz; alarmingly for some of us, these include less than generous critics.
“Jazz lovers will feel … joy as Ms Merrill craftily deflects suspicion from suspect to suspect before sounding the final chord in this swinging whodunit.”
–– Harvey Siders, Jazz Times
And All That Murder by Joan Merrill, iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4401-9163-3 (ebook ISBN 978-1-4401-9164-0)
In the sequel, And All That Sea, Casey McKie takes a Caribbean vacation aboard a jazz cruise ship. Dee Jefferson is one of the star attractions and others on board include jazz veterans and newcomers, some of whom turn out to have shady secrets when Casey investigates the disappearance of a mysterious and very rich jazz-loving countess.
And All That Sea by Joan Merrill, iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4502-7539-2 (ebook ISBN 978-1-4502-7540-8)
The third book, And All That Stalking, finds Casey again pulled into a case by Dee Jefferson, who asks her to help jazz drummer Greg Sanderson. He is suspected of murdering his girlfriend, an aspiring jazz singer, but when Casey investigates, she soon discovers that she is on the trail of a serial killer targeting young jazz singers.
And All That Stalking by Joan Merrill, CreateSpace. ISBN 1-4679-7283-5 (ebook ISBN 9 781467 972833)
Casey McKie’s latest case, And All That Madness, takes her to New York and a mystery surrounding the long-ago death of Georgia Valentine, jazz singing star of the 1950s. Only the authorities believe the death was from a drug overdose; Georgia’s friends have other ideas. With a newly-discovered letter opening fresh lines of inquiry, Casey encounters Georgia’s ex-husband, a former narcotics agent, a drug dealer, a mafia boss, and a wealthy socialite, along the way to eventually unearthing shocking truths about the jazz legend’s life and death.
And All That Madness by Joan Merrill, CreateSpace. ISBN 13: 978-1480278981 (ebook ISBN 0 000000 000000)
Throughout Joan Merrill’s books, almost all of the characters, major and minor, are jazz people: singers, instrumentalists, agents, promoters, jazz writers, a mob-linked owner of a seedy club, a writer of bad songs, a vocal coach, the publisher of a jazz magazine, and some fans. There is on-going commentary on today’s jazz scene and how it differs from yesterday. No preaching, just strong and well-argued opinions during realistic conversations between characters.
Writing with flair and imagination, Joan’s pace is crisp, her dialogue snappy and apposite, and comments on jazz, the music and the people, are insightful. These are books that will appeal both to lovers of crime fiction and to jazz fans. To those who are fans of both genres they will be a special delight.
With four novels completed, and more on the way, Joan Merrill has clearly demonstrated that she has enough jazz and crime in mind to keep her private investigator, Casey McKie, busy for a long, long time.
Reviews of these books appear in Jazz Journal.
All the books, CDs and DVDs mentioned here are available from various sources, but probably best direct from Joan Merrill’s Website.
And speaking of Websites, you must visit Joan’s wonderful tribute to Carmen McRae.