Friday, March 20, 2009

Words and Music

By Pat Browning

Once upon another life I lived in a Victory Hall. World War 2 was going full blast. The only men on campus were soldiers, sailors and flyboys. Frat houses had been turned into Victory Halls for female students.

Every evening before dinner, we trooped downstairs and gathered around the piano to hear one of our girls play boogie-woogie. She played by ear and I can see her yet, smiling and tapping one foot while she pounded out Tommy Dorsey’s Boogie Woogie.

Another time, another place. I don’t remember how I surfed into a smokin’ video by the Swiss pianist, Silvan Zingg, but I live on the Internet so whatever I was looking for faded to black when I found Zingg. His video “Dancin’ The Boogie” snapped me right back to college days. Great piano work and two of the best jitterbuggers – William and Maeva – I’ve seen in action since those wartime college dances.

Back then, I had never seen jitterbugs like the sailors from New York and New Jersey. Maybe it was the cute bellbottom trousers, but whatever it was – they had it in spades. My one regret was that I was too bashful to get out on the floor and give it a try.

Silvan Zingg is still working on his web sites. “Dancin’ the Boogie” is on YouTtube, but the video is of poor quality. The best quality video is on his BoogieGroove web site under Gallery. The tiny url is

One YouTube video not to be missed by boogie lovers is Zingg’s twin grand pianos duet with French pianist Jean-Paul Amouroux. It’s at

It’s not just free music you’ll find on the Internet. Short stories abound, as authors look for new audiences.

One example: two delightful short stories by Carola Dunn, free for the reading at

Both stories feature Daisy Dalrymple, Dunn’s character from her novels. In “Storm in a Tea Shoppe” there’s foxglove in the soup at Daisy’s favorite tea shoppe. In “Unhappy Medium,” Daisy and a friend go to a séance in a story with a surprise twist at the end.

Earl Staggs is writer with a short story to be read at Mysterical-E, a free mystery ezine. The Staggs story, “The Missing Sniper,” features Adam Kingston, a psychic who’s called in by a sheriff to figure out who tried to assassinate a state senator. You can read the archived story at .

Adam is the kind of character you wish you could know personally. Staggs developed him further in his mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER. The novel was first published by Quiet Storm in 2005, and republished with an intriguing new cover in 2008 by Cornell Maritime Press.

In the current issue of Mysterical-E you’ll find “Becalmed in Hell” by I. Van Laningham, the latest in Van Laningham’s long-running series of Andi Holmes short stories. Opening line: “Viet Nam, like alcohol, gets into your blood; death is the only cure.”

Set in 1971, this story finds Andi at Fort Monmouth, married, and about to end her army career. An old Viet Nam regular named Phil tracks her down and hires her to find his car, which was stolen by a “pretty boy” he picked up in San Francisco. A gritty, well-written story, you can read it at .

One of my favorite writers is Peter Abresch. We go back to 1998 when he wrote his first James P. Dandy Elderhostel Mystery, BLOODY BONSAI. I reviewed it for The Hanford (California) Sentinel, and have kept an eye on him ever since. He has written five Elderhostel mysteries, going through publishers Quiet Storm, WriteWay and Intrigue Press in the process.

His latest, NAME GAMES, is available through CreateSpace. I read it in a downloaded manuscript and liked it very much. To those who don’t know, Elderhostel is a travel/study program for senior citizens, so the Elderhostel mysteries are set in different locales.

But Abresch doesn’t stop there. Along with free writing tips on his web site, and a newsletter with his poetry (which is quite good and on the spiritual side) he has “founded” Sidewalk Books. You can hear two humorous stand-alone mysteries free on his podcasts – CAPITOL COVEN and IF THEY ASK FOR A HAND, ONLY GIVE THEM A FINGER.

Those two books are also available in print, on CD – oh, heck. Just go to and let the author explain it all to you.

Words and music. They’re part of our makeup – the need to create, to communicate. They started with jungle drums and drawings on cave walls, perhaps even earlier. They’re going strong, out into space and beyond … someone playing boogie woogie, someone writing a few good words


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great post, Pat! Words and music are deeply ingrained in our culture and what a dull world it would be without them.

Chester Campbell said...

Boy, does that bring back memories, Pat. I used to play Pine Top Smith's Boogie Woogie back in my younger days. It didn't sound like Zingg, unfortunately. I, too, was a shy one and never got into the jitterbugging. Your Victory Hall days sound like my experience as an Aviation Cadet in the College Training Detachment at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, SC. It was a girl's school then, but there were a couple of hundred cadets on campus. Interesting time.

Heroinhead said...

Jean, in 1983 my father was murdered, dismembered, boiled & flushed down the toilet by infamous British serial killer Dennis Nilsen. I am posting about this in my blog. Maybe you'd like to have a read?

If not, excuse me for disturbing you.

Best wishes, Shane.

Anonymous said...


Those were the days, eh?
Question: Did you go straight into the cadet program when you enlisted, or did you have to wait until they called you?

If I live long enough, that's the kind of info I need for Book 4 or 5. (-:

Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) was a land grant college and a godsend for poor folks. My total costs for my freshman year were about $700,and that was everything. I did work for my room and board, however.

But with the college boys gone -- and they were dropping out every day to join up -- it was almost a girls school by default. But, oh boy, did we have the military on campus, including the Waves.

You know it's funny -- boogie woogie is actually the easiest thing in the world to play if you know a few chords. I wish someone had told me that when I was in my teens and boring myself to death with "Afternoon of a Faun." (-:


Jean Henry Mead said...

I don't know why you singled me out to visit your blog, Heroinhead, but I'm not into vicious killings. I write about civilized senior sleuths.

Chester Campbell said...

I enlisted in the cadet program right after I graduated from high school, but I had to wait until Nov. 30 when I turned 18. I wanted to go right on active duty then, but the recruiter talked me into waiting until after Christmas, so I picked Jan. 4 (1944).

After I got out in November 1945, I enrolled at the University of Tennessee for the quarter starting in January. I was able to transfer a few hours of credit from my time at Winthrop College.

My old maid aunt (remember those) was a piano teacher, so I had to take music. I didn't want to practice, but as I got older I wished that I had. My favorite to play was "Deep Purple." I had all kinds of sheet music. I struggled with "Rhapsody in Blue" quite a bit but was never good at it.

Anonymous said...

LOL, Chester. The summer before I went off to college I tried to play "Sentimental Journey."

Never succeeded. I always got hung up trying to read the notes and instructions. "Vamp until ready" always intrigued me.

Then I hit college and heard boogie-woogie, and "Sentimental Journey" went the way of "Afternoon of a Faun." (-:

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pat, it's always interesting how certain things flash us back to another time. Some are pleasant; others not so much. Sadly, four Oakland police officers were gunned down yesterday. That act took me back to another time when I was working in Berkeley during the late 60s. Helicopters flew overhead spraying protestors with tear gas, and National Guardsmen stood on every street corner along University Boulevard. Protestors tossed rebar like spears off buildings, and some people were shot in the process. It was a very turbulent time, and one I hope we never see again. Still, the music that came from that era remains some of the most thought provoking we've seen.