Title: King of Rags
Author Name: Eric Bronson
Author Bio: Eric Bronson teaches philosophy in the Humanities Department at York University in Toronto. He is the editor of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), Poker and Philosophy (Open Court, 2006), Baseball and Philosophy (Open Court, 2004), and co-editor of The Hobbit and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy (Open Court, 2003). In 2007 he served as the “Soul Trainer” for the CBC radio morning show, “Sounds Like Canada.” His current project is a book called The Dice Shooters, based loosely on his experiences dealing craps in Las Vegas.
Book Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Neverland Publishing
Release Date: May, 2013
Buy Link(s): Amazon
King of Rags follows the life of Scott Joplin and his fellow ragtime musicians as they frantically transform the seedy and segregated underbelly of comedians, conmen and prostitutes who called America’s most vibrant cities home. Inspired by Booker T. Washington and the Dahomeyan defeat in West Africa, Joplin was ignored by the masses for writing the music of Civil Rights fifty years before America was ready to listen.
Excerpt Two (500-800 or so Words):
At ten-thirty, Mama Lou took the stage. Scott took his fingers off the piano as Memphis had instructed. One by one, the tables grew quiet. Mama Lou silenced a room just by blinking, it was said, and it wasn’t far from the truth. She was short, fat, old looking—how old was impossible to know—and a little bit angry. Wearing her patented calico dress and gingham apron, Mama Lou preferred to be the only important attraction in the room and never uttered a note until she was.
In more esteemed circles of the colored world, Black Patti was the diva extraordinaire, but around the bordellos up and down the muddy streets near St. Louis’ Union Station, nobody could touch the woman they called Mama Lou.
Scott sat nervously at the bench. Finally, after what seemed to be an interminable pause, she rolled her tongue, clapped her hands and squinted her evil eyes. The result was spellbinding.
“Ta…Ra…Ra…” and then a pause and a snarl and a tight jerk of her immense chin.
And just like that, not one person’s thoughts were turned anywhere else. The cares of the world that may have weighed on someone at some time or another throughout the week didn’t any longer mean a thing.
“Ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay!” she repeated, faster, swaying gently
and flashing her yellow and gold teeth in a wide-open smile.
I can take your love between my hands
And make you feel so sweet and grand
But don’t you think I’ll give a damn
About doin’ the same to another man
Cause ain’t nobody gonna rule me
And ain’t nobody gonna fool me
And ain’t nobody gonna school me
‘bout what I do with my body
Not him, not you, not anybody
When she finished, Scott played and played and played. It was just like that day at the Rodgers home when he discovered the piano for the first time. It started with his fingers, just skin on bone and note to note. Then it shot up his wrists, skittering over the hair on his arms like thousands of
Texarkana red ants stepping out for air. He played the Masters. That is, he started with them. As the beer went through him, and the smoke from his dangling cigarette seeped out from his lungs and lifted him lighter, Scott began to play with speed. Faster and faster. The music kept on coming. He heard coronets and fiddles and rattling drums over the hilltops wrestling their way out from some distant country or faraway dream. The faster Scott played, the more his old life merged into the present. A jolt shot through his shoulders and Scott heard the sure strumming of his father’s banjo. Inside his legs, Scott felt a quiver and a smash as a broom crashed against the floor to the steady time of an old-fashioned church shout-out. Scott heard it all, but he never took his hands away from the piano except to stop now and again for a sip of beer while his left hand kept the time and his feet pushed heavy on the pedals. He heard everything. For the first time in his life, Scott was a real entertainer. Whole worlds collided and when they did, Scott stopped. A pause, here and there off the beat. A stutter and start. It was a kind of love but something deeper. Something older. Older even than love.