Finalist for the 1997 Oklahoma Book Award
It's 1941 and Swing is King. But as the late Cab Calloway said, in those days music belonged to the mob. Carl Carlson is on the verge of Big Band stardom. He would do anything to make his dream come true and the damned war is just a nuisance. The draft board doesn't see it that way. After being wounded in North Africa, the Army assigns Carl to translation duties in a German prisoner of War camp conveniently near Musso, the Cleveland, Ohio, gangster who can put him back on top.
Musso doesn't ask much in return: one hand washes the other. All Carl has to do us use his charm to seduce the promiscuous Natalie Bixby, locate her thieving boyfriend, and toss him to Musso like raw meat to a shark. Meanwhile, dark undercurrents are also flowing in the prisoner of war camp--Nazi intimidation, torture, escapes, and the murder of a child.
How much evil is Carl willing to ignore in his single-minded quest for stardom? Is he so far gone that he does not care who murdered a boy? Will his attraction to the young and beautiful Italian translator Elizabeth revive the conscience he's been suppressing? Or is Carl in too deep, so tangled in corruption that he is a dead man no matter what he does?
"Set in a prisoner-of-war camp housing German POWs during World War II, its protagonist is a crooner who loses his Mafia career-sponsors when he is drafted. Davis paints a harrowing picture of contained Nazism on U.S. soil and evokles memorably an era when American big-city nightclubs were run by men with names like Charlie Mussolini." --Washington Post