Category: Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction

*Author Guest Post* On the inspiration behind creating the story “Night in Shanghai” by Nicole Mones! Set during the Chinese #JazzAge!

Posted Monday, 21 April, 2014 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Guest Post by Parajunkee

Nicole MonesProposed Topic: How did your immersion into Chinese culture and tradition as a textile business owner lead you to uncover an unknown portal into the Chinese Jazz Age? Especially this particular story which would captivate those of us who are only starting to uncover the American Jazz Age and the ripple effects the era had in both music and literature? What did you find in your research that not only spark the genesis of the story but the overlaps in both countries musical movements?

I am honoured to welcome Ms. Nicole Mones to Jorie Loves A Story today, as I was completely captivated by the premise of her novel, Night in Shanghai! I have briefly mentioned my love and zeal of reading a biographical fiction of Ms. Zelda Fitzgerald last year (Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler) previously on my blog and also in the bookish blogosphere. I had participated in reading the book for discussion on Book Browse which allowed me the grace of becoming entranced with the Jazz Age through the lives and eyes of the Fitzgeralds. So much so, that by the time “The Great Gatsby” was released to the silver screen, I could not help but become quite eager to see the motion picture in June 2013! I felt as though I had spent half of the year entrenched with the Fitzgeralds’ in some ways, as Zelda’s voice was vivid and real to me, as if the author had harkened me back to their everyday world with the flick of her pen. My readings of this novel re-instilled my love and passion for the world of jazz music and the Roaring Twenties, as I had previously not sought out books set during the era. A bit of a misstep on my behalf, as whilst studying History in school I had a penchant for the era and for the riveting tales of Flappers and Jazz musicians who dared to live a life on their own terms! This is perhaps why the mystery series out of Australia “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” appeals to my heart as much as it does as well! And, of course who could forget the epic and encompassing “The House Of Elliott” by the BBC? An entire series set in a fashion house in England on the verge of a new time for designers and women wanting to express themselves a bit more freely? You can see, I have a long history in appreciating the 1920s, which is why when I saw “Night in Shanghai” arrive on Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I was quite intrigued to become a part of the virtual tour!

I must confess, I had not known there was a Chinese Jazz Age, as somewhere in the threads of time this bit of information was not readily known to me or to my classmates. There always appears to be a lot of hidden history within the timescope of our knowledge of what happened in the early 20th Century. I oft find the most riveting stories are gathered out of obscurity by those writers who have the intuitive nature of seeking a story where the history recovered would become beneficial for the wider audience. I felt as I had read about “Night in Shanghai” that this is one of those stories that needed to be told and illuminated. It is with great honour that I welcome Ms. Mones to my blog and give her the breadth needed to explain her impetus of writing the story.


Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones}: Book Synopsis :{

In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.

Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.

Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.

In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.


}: The Impetus of Inspiration

behind Night in Shanghai :{

When I signed my first contract with the state-owned corporation in charge of Shanghai’s textile mills in 1977, it was only six weeks after the government had declared a formal end to the Cultural Revolution. The city in those years was quiet, cautious, a ghost of a once-great city—and yet, physically,little changed from its jazz age heyday. Many of the historic buildings and neighborhoods were still standing, though re-purposed to other, more acceptable uses. The Great World, for example, an infamous center for all manner of pleasure and unspeakable vice, had been reborn as Shanghai’s “Youth Palace”—how funny is that? Now, of course, it is once again the Great World, pleasure and vice center, but in the 70s and 80s you had to peel back the socialist layers to find the history, and that’s what I did. It was years before I would start to understand Shanghai, but I took to exploring it anyway, local history books in hand. I scoped out the haunts of gangsters and jazz men; the Canidrome’s dog track, for example, served as Shanghai’s municipal flower market for some years before it was finally torn down, and I loved wandering among the spectator stands, which still had their original wrought iron rails and lamps to remind me of the jazz world that once had been. This was decades before I even conceived of writing Night in Shanghai; I was just young, clueless, trying to figure out how to make a living in the China trade, and fascinated by the city’s past. Even then old Shanghai had me in its spell.

Still, with thirty-seven years’ personal and professional experience across China, and therefore such a broad range of possible stories for a novel, I never expected to write a Shanghai historical. It seemed to have been “done”. The second I stumbled on the startling and totally forgotten story of black American musicians in the Chinese jazz age, however, I changed my mind. These American musicians were part of modernizing China through this revolutionary sound they brought, called jazz—a sound that challenged hearts and minds as well as ears. Their story, their struggle to survive the war, and their contribution to making a new China has been forgotten and overlooked until now. As soon as I began researching, I found to my joy that their vanished world had in fact been documented, since memoirs, interviews, and photos were left behind by musicians (such as trumpeter Buck Clayton), who did not want their experiences in China to be forgotten.

But the one moment that really sparked me, prompted me, forced me to write Night in Shanghai? It was coming across Langston Hughes’ lengthy account of black musicians in Shanghai, told in his autobiography. Hughes starts by describing how his ship docked in Shanghai on a hot July day in the mid-thirties, whereupon he stepped onto the Bund and raised his hand for a conveyance which was encapsulated inside of a quotation from Langston Hughes’s autobiography “I Wonder As I Wander”. As the author graciously had included this quotation to give you an insight into her inspiration of writing her novel, however, I was unfortunately unable to include it due to not being able to find permissions on the publisher’s website.

That was the portal for me, the door at the back of the wardrobe, the sudden light that illuminated Night in Shanghai in my mind. It took years to research and write the book, but from the instant I read Hughes’ lines, I knew I would have to follow that man into the crowd on the Bund, revive his lost world, and bring you his story. Here it is: Night in Shanghai, the jazz age, recreated. I hope you enjoy it!

*Note: I only opened the novel to read this evening and discovered that the author had permission of Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. to reprint the full quotation of Langston Hughes. Therefore, when you pick up a copy of “Night in Shanghai” you can read the quotation in full on the page directly after the Dedication! Thank you for your understanding in why I could not gather the same permissions to post it on my blog. I had gone directly to the publisher’s website(s) and knew it would take extra legwork to achieve as I did not have enough hours to accomplish this in order to post by Monday!

Read an Excerpt of the Novel: {including the quotation by Langston Hughes!}

Author Connections: Nicole Mones website
Converse on Twitter: #NightInShanghaiTour
& #NightInShanghai OR #NicoleMones


I am not sure when I was more excited to read Night in Shanghai, the moment I first read about it going on tour OR the very moment Ms. Mone’s guest post arrived by email! I had proposed the topic due to the overwhelming spark of curiosity that had ignited inside me when I first read a snippet of the excerpt and felt myself drifting backwards into the folds of time to see if I could draw together an image which would help me hinge my hat to Shanghai in the 1920s. The realisation that my foray into seeking literature set during such a revolutionary era of history was not lost on me. And, I have a feeling that my inclinations towards seeking more stories set in the Jazz Age have only just begun, because my curiosity is as piqued as my interest in Revolutionary France!

There are some authors who have the instinctive drive to unearth a story where a blueprint to find the undercurrent research is not readily known, and as I read Ms. Mone’s descriptions of how she found Night in Shanghai holds this truth in her hand. I could nearly envision her walking around the city, sensing whilst exploring and being guided by an unknown desire to learn more and more until the point where the knowledge would bubble up and boil over into a manuscript not yet written. The impetus for all writers to create their stories is always such a vivid veiling of how inspiration guides a writer’s heart, and within each back-story of inspiration I find myself drawn closer to understanding how creativity and writing walk the line of intuition and inspiration. For without an inclining nod of curiosity, the spark of inspiration might fall flat, and then, we would be at the disadvantage as the stories which are able to lift the veils of history backwards to a time where African-American musicians left America in order to carve out a musical revolution in Shanghai might never have seen the light of day. And, how sad would that have been!? To not realise that the American Jazz Age was only half the story of the full scope of the Jazz Age!? I cannot wait to dig into the pages of the novel and watch as history intersected with war and how musicians set the course of cultural discovery in a place I would not have suspected to have embraced jazz.


Watch the Night in Shanghai Book Trailer via NicoleMones.com

Read an Excerpt of the Novel

Return on Wednesday when I review “Night in Shanghai”!

Blog Book Tour Stop, courtesy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours:

Night in Shanghai Tour via HFVBT

Check out my upcoming bookish events to see what I will be hosting next for

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTand mark your calendars!

Similar to blog tours, when I feature a showcase for an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog.

{SOURCES: Night in Shanghai Book Cover, synopsis, tour badge, author photograph and HFVBT badge were provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and were used by permission. I requested an Author Guest Post from Ms. Mones via Amy Bruno of HFVBT, by suggesting a topic and receiving the response from Ms. Mones via Ms. Bruno. Guest Post badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Tweets embedded by codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Monday, 21 April, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, African-American History, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Trailer, Debut Novel, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Jazz Musicians, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction, Reader Submitted Guest Post (Topic) for Author, Shanghai, the Roaring Twenties

+Blog Book Tour+ The Tenor by Peter Danish

Posted Friday, 4 April, 2014 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

The Tenor by Peter Danish

Published By: Pegasus Books () 28 February 2014
Official Author WebsitesSite | Facebook | Twitter | Danish Media Group
Converse via: #TheTenorVirtualTour & #MariaCallas
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, and E-Book
Page Count: 350

Acquired By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Tenor” virtual book tour through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy the book direct from the author Peter Danish, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

I was always keen to read & watch Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as it spoke to me at the time the film was being released. I never did get the proper chance to explore its story, but as I read about this book being hinged to history as it was lived I decided to take the chance now to read a powerful & evoking story of courage! I’m an appreciator of opera as well, and I find it rather keen that a singer was saved by one man’s selfless act to protect her!

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Book Synopsis:

The Tenor is a sweeping tale of historical fiction in the style of Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” and De Burniere’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” It swiftly moves from Pino Vaggi’s youth in pre-war Italy, to his coming of age as a soldier in war-torn Greece, before ending in a shattering surprise finale at Maria Callas’ historic final performance ever on the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1965. It is based loosely on the stories and anecdotes that I learned from several of Maria Callas’ personal friends and from nearly a dozen trips to Italy and Greece to research the subject.

Pino Vaggi is not like the other children in Italy in 1930. While they play soccer, he listens to opera. By age ten, he is already a child prodigy, an opera singing sensation on the fast track to a major international career. On the eve of his debut, WWII breaks out. The theater is closed. The season is cancelled. Pino is drafted. He is stationed in war-torn Athens, where he hears and ultimately falls in love with another child prodigy, the young Maria Callas. There is one major problem: she is the enemy.

However, as famine devastates Athens, (a famine created by the diversion of humanitarian aid meant for the Greeks to the Russian front to feed the German Army) the artist in Pino can’t fathom the thought of the greatest singer the world will ever know perishing, especially if he is in a position to prevent it. With a firing squad in the balance, he repeatedly risks his own life to protect and feed the young girl and her family. In the process, his love for her deepens, until something tragic happens – something with devastating consequences that blows the young lovers apart.

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Author Biography:

Peter Danish

Peter Danish is the Classical Music Editor in Chief for BWWClassical.com, the classic music site for BroadwayWorld.com,, covering and reviewing the classical music performance in and around New York City and the greater New York Area. A proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America, he is the playwright of the play: “Gods, Guns and Greed,” as well as the new musical: “The Flying Dutchman.” His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Ad Age, Ad Week and Media Week Magazines.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Artistically Determined:

One thing I have always known about artists, is that they are artistically determined to make it on their own terms. Pino Vaggi in the story of The Tenor, is clearly one of those self-confident musical artists whose bold grit in succeeding in singing opera is what thrust him forward whilst his family was a bit less than certain of his choice. Coming from a family who supported my choices, whether I was pursuing art, science, or writing it’s hard to understand why other parents wouldn’t help their children reach for their own dreams. To pursue the gifts they were bestowed and to give them the courage to find their own voice and path. The hardest road an artist has is finding the ability to believe in the impossible because the mark of any artist is how willing they are to stay on their path whilst their road becomes muddled and difficult.

I appreciated the honesty of Pino’s character being painted as a young artist whose misguided brassy personality oft lended him to rows with his family but is his grace of voice gave him purpose from the darkness. Growing up in the age of looming war, the fact that Pino could keep a grip on his artistic soul is impressive.

My Review of The Tenor:

Danish has the ability to ease you into the story-line of The Tenor, by giving you a reason to hone in on Pino! First through recollections of his aromatic memories inter-related to chestnuts, and then, gradually as we start to see the underpinnings of his passion for opera emerge into place! I appreciated the intimate portrait of how a young Pino fell in love with the beauty of opera whilst caught up in a French rendition of Romeo & Juliet! His unexpected emotional connection to the voices and music was a pure joy to read. Music is evoking on such deep levels, each time we individually listen to opera or another form of music, a part of us is transformed; altered for the performance in which we took in. I remember vividly how I felt whilst listening to orchestrations and symphonies as a child, how the music washed over me and inside me at the same time. You become a part of where the musicians are leading you as music is one art form which transcends outside of itself to a greater purpose.

The setting in which Danish places his novel comes alive with the full breath of Italian countryside living lit inside the sturdiness of the people who lived there. He envelopes the story around the everyday interchanges of Pino’s townespeople, whilst giving a greater scope to the impending war between Italy & Ethiopia. Politically charged, we get inside the mind-set of Pino’s father’s beliefs as much as the harrying realities of Italy in the early decades of the 20th Century. The tug-of-war between Pino’s teacher and himself gave a clear view of how you have to develop strength whilst your young to be brave in hours you feel the least able to stand up for yourself. His teacher pushed him past where he felt he could take his voice because his belief in his abilities was paramount to where he viewed Pino could strive in the future to succeed as a tenor.

War is such a heavy hand to be dealt when your young, and seeing the beguiling ignorance and diffidence towards those who are different weighted on Pino’s shoulders and heart. I can imagine that whilst he struggled to find a grasp on the changing world outside, so too were those who were dealing with countries being invaded and worlds being turnt upside down by World War II. Innocence evaporates when the world arrives at one’s feet. The war is very much a part of the story, but only as a backdrop to the whole. In this, I am grateful to Danish, whose sole focus in on Pino.

A tightrope of a dance between Maria (Callas) and Pino grew out of their affection for opera and the innate gift bestowed to both of them which gave them a tie to each other. They were each on the opposite side of the war, Pino was serving in the army and Maria was in Greece employed as a singer. Their lives were ill-fated to intersect at a point in their lives where tragedy and solace would find them. They carved out happiness within the shadows of a dictator’s reign and what they shared amongst them was fit with humour and the joy of singing. They understood each other in ways they both were transfixed by as it isn’t often you can meet someone who understands every inch of you without needing definition. As they each went their separate ways after the war, it show their fates ended up crossing once more that truly was remarkable.

Here is where truth and the shadows of history differ as the story is based on an unknown soldier who could not have survived the war. I think its a more befitting story for Pino to have survived the war and survived in the way he had, as it hardened his character a bit with worldly experience. To think there was a Pino who lived long enough to effectively save Maria Callas is the most incredible part of the story! Where one life is given in order to ensure the freedom of another. And, for Pino his life took an alternative course which would have endeared him to his teacher who gave him the best insight into how to live a life full of worth.

The beauty of opera is revealed:

Peter Danish gives a wonderful introduction into opera, which will satisfy the novice appreciator as much as the devouted follower. The vulgarity used in the story is relegated to the blights of war and thus, are not something I would flinch over as war is war, and the most shocking of realities for all men is being caught up in the face of war. What exits one’s lips whilst a chest is heavy with confliction over the impending approach of a World War arriving at your door is not a mark against language or story; but a notation of how those who lived might have reacted themselves. His writings inside the novel read as part travelogue and part historical remanent of a past most of us might not have recovered without this story.

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This book review  is courtesy of:

The Tenor Tour via HFVBTcheck out my upcoming bookish events and mark your calendars!

Previously, I interviewed Mr. Danish on behalf of “The Tenor”!

The Tenor by Peter Danish Book Trailer by Peter Danish

{SOURCES:  “The Tenor” Book Cover, synopsis, and tour badge were provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and were used by permission. Book Review badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. The book trailer by Peter Danish had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Go Indie
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Posted Friday, 4 April, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Aftermath of World War II, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Trailer, Debut Novel, Geographically Specific, Greece, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Indie Author, Italy, Magical Realism, Maria Callas, Musical Fiction | Non-Fiction, New York City, Opera History, Opera Singers, Passionate Researcher, The World Wars, Vulgarity in Literature