by Martyn Burke
eBook release: January 2011
New York—1954Leo is pounding on the door telling us to let him in. So far he’s been nice about it. But now he’s starting to remind us that he’s our father. We all know that. We know that’s trouble because most of the time Leo can hardly remember he’s got two daughters. Leo should have had boys. We all know that. Some runty little Leo junior he could take to the fights at Madison Square Garden. Someone to turn his companies over to when he gets old. But that’s not our fault. Ruthie is stalling for time. She’s cooler than I am. She always is. “How do we know it’s really you, Daddy? How do we know you’re not just some man that sounds like you?” she says staring right into the door. Ruthie is older than me. Thirteen. “If it’s really you, tell us what our names are.”Why can’t I think of a good question like that? Half the time when he’s cruising around town being Mr. Broadway in his Cadillac with his girlfriends Leo can’t even remember our names. I’ve seen it happen. His eyes get sort of all jittery when he has to introduce us to one of them—his doxies as Mother calls them. He tries to cover up not remembering our names and he makes it all a big joke. He calls us Rapunzel and Rebecca. Or Betty and Boopsy. And some of his doxies are so dumb they don’t know he’s blown it and is still trying to figure out what he named his own kids. “Well hello Rapunzel,” they’ll say looking at us all gushy and sappy. Like this is the way our new mother should act. But we know they’ll just be around until Leo gets tired of them. A month makes them veterans.”Christie, Ruthie, open the door.” Now we are in trouble. We’ve got to open the door. Even though Mother has told us a zillion times never to let Leo in the apartment when she’s not there. It’s all part of the war between them. But Ruthie and I know what the real problem is. They just love each other too much. It’s that simple. But do you think either of them can see it? Fat chance. I unlock the door and open it. Leo stands there in his silk suit grinning at us. We know he’s the handsomest father in the whole world. The light in the hallway shines down, catching the sharp edges of his face. Most of those edges got there from the times he was beaten up. But if they were trying to make him ugly it didn’t work. The more they broke up Leo’s face the better he looked. The only problem is that when he doesn’t smile he looks like the Aztec mask over in the museum beside Central Park.”Where’s Mother?” asks Ruthie.”She’s fine. I’m going to be looking after you tonight.”This has never happened before. Not like this. And when Stanley comes huffing out of the elevator, we know something is definitely weird. Stanley is Leo’s driver. Almost his friend. Leo always sits in the front seat beside Stanley. Right now Stanley has his tongue sticking between his lips. He is carrying a big silver tray with white napkins covering some lumpy stuff underneath.
“I had Stanley go out and get us all some dinner.”
We’ve got to be the only kids in all New York and probably the world to have food sent in from the Copacabana. But Leo can be sneaky sometimes. Not answering you directly and hoping you’ll forget. “When’s Mother coming back?” I ask.
“Tomorrow morning.” Leo musses up my hair. I like it when he does that.
“Where is she?”
“In jail,” Leo says with a big smile.
“Not again,” says Ruthie.
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“Ivory Joe is the kind of book that reminds you that reading can be tremendous fun…Burke handles competing story lines with the gutsy elan of a ringmaster and his circus has a dazzling array of rings…Martyn Burke is a storyteller of lavish generosity.” Washington Post
“Thanks to a rollicking story and a motley crowd of engaging characters, Ivory Joe is entertaining and compelling, and author Martyn Burke’s enthusiasm for and knowledge about the era, especially its music, makes [for an] agreeable reading experience.” Chicago Tribune
“Mr. Burke weaves a deft plot involving the attempted theft of one of Ivory Joe’s songs, Ghost Lover, and the ensuing escapades are frantic and convincing….Martyn Burke knows his territory and he keeps a jazzed up pace appropriate to the story and the era. …A real pleasure.” Meg Wolitzer, New York Times
“…a raucous rock extravaganza with heart and soul.” Publishers Weekly
“Burke is a master at dialogue, comic subplots and vivid energy…Ivory Joe is wonderfully satisfying, leaving the reader grinning contentedly long after the book’s end.” San Francisco Chronicle
Read or write a review for Ivory Joe on Goodreads here.