Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marjorie May Campbell's Concluding Comments on her Ragtime Fool Husband

     I guess it worked out all right, me letting Mr. Karp write in my place the last two weeks. He finished up his California signing tour yesterday by getting put on a puddle-jumper airplane from San Francisco to Portland, and then on another one from Portland to Seattle. Me, I always swore I would never ride on one of those airplanes, and I never did. Even Brun wasn't such a fool, he'd do that. And then, last night, Mr. Karp got up at 3AM to drive his daughter, son-in-law, and grandson to the airport so they could go to Virginia for the son-in-law's brother's wedding. So, he's danged glad to have me filling in today. 
      Where I left off last time was when that Mr. Paul Affeldt came by with Mr. Spiller, they were going to make some acetate records of Brun playing ragtime. Brun was out in the garage, getting ready, so when Mr. Affeldt rang the bell, I told him he'd have to go back to the garage, 'cause that's where Brun's piano was. But then Mr. Affeldt started asking me questions about Brun, like when we were young, back in Oklahoma. I just told him I had nothing to say. I wasn't about to do ragtime or ragtime people any favors. They sure hadn't done any for me. 
        After that recording session, Brun was excited like I'd never seen him. He was sure this was going to be the big break he'd been waiting for. Him and Scott Joplin were going to be famous, and Brun and I were going to have all the money we could ever use. Fat chance, I told him, you get to be a bigger fool every day. And I was right. I don't know if Mr. Affeldt made anything off the records, but we never saw a nickel from them.  
      Back in November, 1952, when Brun was dying, he still wouldn't give up. Stubborn? Like no other man I've ever seen. He said that Scott Joplin used to tell people no one would appreciate his music for 25 years after he was dead, and Brun believed that was starting to happen. I didn't have the heart to tell him no matter how hard you a person might want some things to happen, that isn't going to make them happen. After Brun's funeral, I told our daughters, well, that's the end of that.
      Except it wasn't. I lived until 1988, and I saw and heard a lot of things. When nobody was around, I read that book, They All Played Ragtime, by Rudi Blesh, who you can read about in Mr. Karp's book. I'll sure tell you, it made me even gladder I didn't ever let those trashy ragtime people inside my house. But then one day, around 1970 or so, I heard some music on the radio that I thought was really beautiful. When the announcer said it was called "Maple Leaf Rag," by Scott Joplin, I almost had a conniption, but then the man said it was played by a person named Joshua Rifkin, who was a classical piano player, and he was playing it like a classical piece, which he said was what Joplin wanted. Now, I don't know if I believe that, but I figured Mr. Rifkin had to be pretty darn good if he could turn a piece of garbage into such beautiful music. And then, of course, I saw that movie, The Sting, in 1975, where it had Scott Joplin's ragtime music in the background. Which seemed right to me, because the movie was all about con artists and killers.
      These days, people can buy a CD record of Mr. Affeldt's acetate discs, with Brun playing piano and having an interview. There's other piano players who've made CDs of Brun's music, too, and some of them call themselves "Brun's Boys" (which I doubt they would do if they ever really were Brun's boys). I bet wherever Brun is now, he's laughing, and saying, "So, who's the fool?"
      I knew Brun was different from all my other beaux, but I thought maybe I could change him. So, I guess that does make me the biggest fool of all. I'm glad Mr. Karp wrote this book, The Ragtime Fool, and it's my hope that every young woman in the country will read it, and let what happened to me serve as an example to them not to be foolish like I was about choosing a husband. And I thank Mr. Karp for letting me write this down on his blog.

      You're welcome, Mrs. Campbell. And thank you for being willing to appear in my book.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On the Road Again

   What with my being on the road to publicize The Ragtime Fool, and having to post this week's blog from my Sidekick device, Marjorie May Campbell agreed to wait one more week to finish telling us about her fool husband. Not that she was happy about it, but as she said, after all those years trying to deal with Brun, a person learns to make do.
   The first event on the trip was Monday evening at The Avid Reader in Sacramento, where ragtimers Tom Brier, and Bub and Petra Sullivan came by to hear how I came to write the ragtime trilogy. Then, last night at San Mateo's M is for Mystery, Camille Minichino, a physicist who, as Margaret Grace, writes mysteries set in the world of miniatures,and I had a lively discussion about how we write, why we write what we write, and doing and not doing research. The audience included ragtimers Washboard Kitty Wilson, and Phil and Darwyn (who commented that she'd read Mrs. Campbell's remarks on this blog, which prompted Marjorie May to say she was glad SOMEONE listens to her).
   Now I'm on the way to L.A. I'll go to Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego Thursday, and the L.A. Times Festival of Books Saturday, to sign in the LA Sisters in Crime Booth, the Mysterious Galaxy Booth, and the L.A. Mystery Bookstore Booth. And do a little research in between.  More on that later.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Help Keep the Seattle Mystery Bookshop Open

       Marjorie May Campbell has graciously agreed to postpone the rest of her story to allow a pressing matter to be posted a day early, in the hope it will help publicize a serious problem for a terrific local independent mystery bookshop.
      The Seattle Mystery Bookshop, on Cherry Street between First and Second Avenues, has long been the city's major resource for readers of crime literature, and the major support for crime-literature writers. Located just off Seattle's historic Pioneer Square, the shop depends heavily upon the tourist trade, and to this end, places a sandwich-board sign at the corner of First and Cherry, to direct tourists the half-block to the store. I've walked past that sign (and others like it, belonging to other area small businesses) for at least a decade, and have never had to swerve to avoid tripping over them.
      About a month ago, a city inspector cited an ordinance, and directed Seattle Mystery to remove the sign, under threat of fine. Shop owner J.B. Dickey reports that since this occurrence, sales have declined significantly. J.B. is concerned that, with tourist season just beginning in Seattle, poor sales through the summer might compel him to close the store. This would be a disaster for local mystery readers and writers.
      Seattle radio host and supporter of the arts, Dave Ross, will interview J.B. tomorrow, Wed. April 14, just after 11am PDT, on KIRO, 97.3FM. Seattle-area residents, please tune in if you can, and consider sending a request to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn,, asking him to rescind this ordinance which threatens to close a small-business Seattle arts landmark - which in the process, will deny the city a nice little chunk of sales tax.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Ragtime Fool is a Killer Book...and Introducing Mrs. Marjorie May Campbell

     Good news for the week: The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association selected The Ragtime Fool as one of its Killer Book recommendations for March.

     Now to the business at hand. Having read The Ragtime Fool, Mrs. Marjorie May Campbell, Brun's wife, has requested space to tell her side of the story of the Ragtime Fool. I'm glad to let her do that. The keyboard's yours, Mrs. Campbell.

     Well, hello. My name is Marjorie May Campbell. I was Brun Campbell's wife, and I'll say right off, if anybody was ever a Ragtime Fool, it was Brun.
     I want to thank Mr. Karp for letting me have my say on this blog of his. He promised not to change anything I write, and I intend to hold him to that. It's not that I think he wrote me up unfair, but there are always reasons why people do and say things, and if I come across a little bit prickly in his book, well, you  just try being married to Brun Campbell for upwards of 30 years.
     Brun and me got married in Oklahoma in 1918. I knew he had some bad habits, but don't all men? But he was very good looking then, and charming besides, and he promised sincerely, no more drinking, and no going to low places to play that ragtime music of his. He'd cut hair in his barber shop 6 days a week, and go to church on Sundays.
     Well, in the next seven years, we had three beautiful daughters. The youngest had asthma, and the doctors said we should move to Venice, California for her health. I was glad, even though I'd be leaving all my friends and family in Oklahoma, but I figured so would Brun, and it was them who kept getting him to drinking and playing ragtime, and I figured in California, we could start off new.  
     Not that it didn't work pretty good for a while. Every so often, Brun would fall off of the wagon, which did grieve me, but like my mother always told me, men are just plain going to do that, so I put up with it best I could. But then around 1940, these musicians in California, this Lu Watters and Turk Murphy, and I don't know who-all else began playing ragtime again, and people took note,. And that was all Brun needed to hear. I could put up with a drink here and there, but when he started playing ragtime on our piano, that was the last straw. I mean, that music is the devil's own, it leads young people into temptation, and the low places they go to hear it just pours gasoline on their fire. And it's not only the preachers who say it's bad - I've read lots of articles by medical doctors, brain specialists, and they all say the same thing. Ragtime can damage young peoples' brains. Well, I had to look out for my daughters, didn't I? I told Brun, no ragtime in the house, period, so he went and moved his piano into the garage out back. Sometimes he and his pals took it down to the barbershop a few blocks away. 
But that wasn't the end of it. He started spending all of his time writing articles for magazines about ragtime and that Scott Joplin person who invented it, who I figure he's burning in you know where on account of that. Then, Brun started to make records of it, and sent the money to Mrs. Joplin, who was still alive then in New York. Never mind what it cost us to make those records. I tried reminding Brun about his promises, but of course, he said he didn't remember making any such promises. Isn't that the living end? Well, you can believe who you want.
     Some man, his name was Paul Affeldt, came to interview Brun around 1948, and he brought along a Mr. Spiller, with some new music recording paraphernalia...hold on. Mr. Karp says I've got to stop here, else it's going to be too long for his blog. He says I can go on next week if I want, and I'll hold him to that.