Many music fans have fond memories of discovering rock 'n' roll as a teenager and making new friends while flipping through racks of vinyl. The protagonist of Ron Kidd's new novel On Beale Street goes through these formative experiences in the most exciting possible place and time: Memphis, 1954. In this case, the music is the city's new blend of country and rhythm-and-blues; the new friend is Elvis Presley, whom 15-year-old Johnny Ross meets while checking out Beale Street's blues hangouts against his mother's rules. (Other historical figures appear in the novel, including Sam Phillips.) Kidd uses his characters' experiences to show how music can bring down racial barriers: The novel is for young adults, but its portrayal of Memphis history should interest readers of all ages.
Wed., Jan. 21, 7 p.m., 2009