Crime writings of John Gilmore to be featured at May 26 Jazzville show

The late crime writer John Gilmore wrote about his subjects — including Charles Manson, The Black Dahlia Murder and the dark side of Hollywood — in an eccentric and esoteric manner.

This month, musician Skip Heller and his Hollywood Film Noirchestra, novelist Jerry Stahl and Amok Books publisher Stuart Swezey are presenting some of Gilmore’s noir writings through a musical genre that goes hand-in-hand with crime: jazz.

On May 26, the Hollywood Film Noirchestra will provide a jazz soundtrack as Stahl reads some of Gilmore’s writings at Jazzville inside Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs.

Swezey, who produced the Desolation Center concerts in Johnson Valley and Box Canyon during the ’80s, said it’s “very site specific” to perform this kind of show in a Palm Springs casino.

Many noir crime films of the ’40s and ’50s such as “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Private Hell 36,” “A Touch of Evil” and “Sweet Smell of Success” featured jazzy soundtracks. The 1959 courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Murder” featured scenes of James Stewart playing jazzy piano compositions.

But why do crime and jazz go hand-in-hand?

Crime writer John Gilmore wrote books about the Tucson Murders and The Manson Family.  He died in 2016.

Prohibition brought in a wave of illegal activity and an underground club culture run by bootleggers and the mob. Jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and their big-band groups would often perform at venues in Harlem such as Madden’s Cotton Club and Connie’s Inn, which were owned by bootlegger Connie Immerman.

But as jazz evolved and “bebop” musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker arrived on the scene, so did noir films.

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