The holidays are prime time for book giving. Linking a book to current headlines helps jack up sales. Mass coverage of Harvey Weinstein - Donald Trump - Roy Moore and others accused of sexual offenses against young victims have led women to reveal long buried incidents with greater faith they'll now be believed. These factors encouraged Brendan Wolfe to revisit Bix's arrest to stoke interest in his own book and make it seem more contemporary.
That theme is soon buried in irrelevancies from Scott Black, Hans Eekhoff, Rich Johnson (who's actually citing William Roba) and Jean Pierre Lion. If Wolfe wants people to buy his book, he'd do better to tell us more about the fascinating central character - Bix. If he wants to discuss the arrest, he ought to at least furnish the girl's name, Sarah Ivens. That's not Wolfe's sensitivity - her name is a matter of public record, been out there for decades - but an insular neglect that adds insult to what, one way or another, was an injury. The focus of recent news has firmly supported identifying the people involved.
To compound it all, Wolfe writes:
There have been no female biographers of Bix Beiderbecke and even my book is rather too light on women's voices. It might be valuable to know how they might respond
Why yes, it might! Too bad there's no direct way of learning what women might think by writing an email or placing a phone call to one or two! This laziness in Wolfe's approach - this "What can I do about it?" with hands helplessly raised in air ¯|_(ツ)_/¯- characterized his book as well. Nary a sign he spent a decade on a very slim volume that contains what may be a record number of one-page chapters. Or that he worked very hard on this piece either. All he's done is bring forth the same comments he mocked in his book, adding not a sprinkle of insight.
People don't buy a book to read Hans' or Scott's opinion. They buy it because the central character intrigues them, because there are more questions than answers regarding a dramatic incident. I speak as a Bix partisan who found this account lifeless and boring.
Wolfe's newspaper column is labeled "Opinion". Yet the only opinions I see are from others, who are inferred to be biased or pig-headed. Except at the end, when Wolfe suddenly plops in
We have an obligation, when faced with difficult history, to be more honest — with ourselves and about one of our most famous sons.