"The Blue Door"
(Reviewed by Mary Whipple MAY 5, 2008)
"He reveled in the disjointed symphony of the streets. At the bottom was the grind of cars, buses, and trucks, and the rude noise of jackhammers and steam shovels at work. Then came the voices; people laughing, fighting, and praying out loud, in a dozen tongues. On top, as a joyous crown, was the music. From one street to the next, it was rock and roll, and rhythm and blues, polkas and waltzes, nightclub croons and gospel, an Italian block to an Irish block to a Negro block, and on and on, each contributing to the grand work."
The rhythms and music of the city underlie all facets of this lively mystery novel set in South Philadelphia, where, in the late 1950s, music drew from all cultures, spawned dozens of acts, and led to a vibrant music industry. Among the best of the soul groups was the Excels, led by Johnny Pope, in his early twenties when the group hit its professional stride and started making hit recordings. Suddenly, in February, 1959, minutes after finishing a recording session, Johnny Pope vanished, leaving his cousin Ray, his friend Tommy Gates, and his sister Valerie forever in limbo, mourning his absence, if not his death.
Among his biggest fans was Eddie Cero, a local welterweight with a huge collection of doo-wop, jump blues, rockabilly, and soul, all on vinyl, a collection which has given him hours of listening pleasure between fights and training sessions. Now, three years after Johnny's disappearance, Eddie Cero is looking at the end of his boxing career, not particularly worried about what he will do next, since "a guy who is willing to give or take a pounding can always make a buck." But when Sal Giambroni, a former cop turned private detective, offers him twenty dollars to help out on some surveillance work, Eddie, with nothing to lose, agrees, temporarily. Soon, however, he begins to like the job—and the car and better apartment which come with the territory, compliments of SG Confidential Investigations. Getting his own clipboard becomes the icing on the cake: "Give a bum a clipboard," Sal believes, "and he instantly [becomes] an official with important business at hand." With a job, a friend in Sal, and a place to go, Eddie finds life looking up.
A quick investigation into skimming by the bartender at a club called The Blue Door, brings Eddie directly into the music scene he so loves—and a meeting with Valerie Pope, formerly of the Excels, performing solo. Before long, Eddie has Sal's permission to investigate Johnny Pope's three-year-old disappearance on his own time, a job which becomes significantly more difficult when Valerie and those surrounding Johnny at the time do not want to rake up the past. Gradually, questions about Johnny surface: Who had a contract on Johnny's life? How did Johnny happen to disappear before the contract could be fulfilled? Was Johnny going to leave the Excels? What were his relationships with his agent and producer? Was Johnny going to start his own production company? And whatever happened to the tape that he recorded the night of his disappearance? As Eddie and Sal continue their bread-and-butter surveillance on a high school girl who may have a secret life, an investigation paid for by her wealthy parents, Eddie spends his spare time trying to get to the bottom of the Johnny Pope case.
As author David Fulmer recreates 1962 South Philly and those who made life "happen" there, the inner lives of Eddie Cero and Sal Giambroni unfold. They are likable characters caught in the maelstrom of South Philly, doing the best they can--not always successfully, but always coming back for more and dealing with whatever life dishes out. Fulmer's ability to handle dialogue in realistic street slang is matched by his unique imagery—of hoods "strutting in olive oil operettas." As the complexities of the sometimes sleazy music industry develop, and two new murders occur, Eddie, Sal, and the reader become completely involved in South Philly life and the atmosphere of violence which runs parallel with the music, sometimes infuses it, and occasionally overwhelms it. Fulmer's background as a jazz expert and writer combine with his talent for mystery, for which he has achieved a Shamus Award, to create an assured novel as full of soul as the music which Valerie Pope sings. A terrific music-based mystery which should bring Fulmer loads of new fans.
- Amazon readers rating: from 7 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Blue Door at author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
St. Cyr Storyville Mysteries:
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- Official website for David Fulmer
- Pine Magazine interview with David Fulmer
- Curled Up interview with David Fulmer
- ThrillingDetective page on Valentin St. Cyr
- The Mystery Reader review of Chasing the Devil's Tail
- Red Room Library review of Chasing the Devil's Tail
- Curled Up review of Jass
- Variagate review of Jass
- NewsPress comment/review of Rampart Street
- Page 99 Test of The Blue Door
- Curled Up review of The Blue Door
- Revish review of The Blue Door
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About the Author:
David Fulmer has been a writer and producer for over twenty-five years.
A native of the small town of Northumberland in the Susquehanna Valley in eastern Pennsylvania, he lives in Atlanta with his daughter Italia.