Jazz is the foundation of Mark Ruffin’s career as a music historian, journalist and broadcaster. The principles of jazz composition also inspired his fictional takes on topics of race and intolerance.
In “Bebop Fairy Tales: An Historical Fiction Trilogy on Jazz, Intolerance, and Baseball,” Ruffin weaves jazz, baseball and real people — with their very real attitudes — from the past into three fictional stories.
Ruffin was struck by the inspiration to write short stories at a party in Los Angeles. “A guy mentioned a hot movie at the time, ‘Brokeback Mountain,’ and said, ‘You know, that came from a book of short stories.’ And that was the lightning bolt,” Ruffin said.
For his own short stories, Ruffin drew upon his life’s work, just as he had when he was an arts correspondent for WTTW (you may have seen some of his work in our “Throwback” features on our Voices programs).
“I had my career going for a while, and radio and music came to me by osmosis, but when I had that desire to suddenly write screenplays, historical stories from jazz flooded my head,” said Ruffin. “I wanted to elevate jazz stories, kind of like what I did at WTTW, I just wanted to tell jazz stories.”
In addition to jazzy themes, the first story in “Bebop” also features real-life Chicagoans in an unlikely scenario: “I thought about the dichotomy of racism in my hometown, and thought, what if Bob Fosse, who’s from the North Side of Chicago, and Gene Ammons, who’s from the South Side of Chicago, met at a wild time in post-World War II New Orleans?”