It is the time of the Great Depression, in 1936 when jobs were scarce and money tight, but also a time of great public enthusiasm for Big Bands and Swing Music. The novel, Swing Band, tells the story of a group of exhausted musicians in the Mel Copeland Orchestra who have been on the road for months and finally find themselves at an idyllic six week summer location date in a lakefront ballroom in Weldon, a small town north of Boston.
The story unfolds as the bandsmen meet local girls and musicians of the area. The disillusionment of Brad Collins, featured trumpet man, with the band's grinding commercial road experience finds a release as the narrator and Brad date girls and hang out at jam sessions in a local roadhouse. One of them, Gloria, has been dating Joe Ritz, a soft-spoken hipster who likes jazz and has underworld connections in Boston. He disapproves of Gloria's friendship with the jazzmen. This leads to antagonism and complicates her alcoholic and drug habit. Brad finds satisfaction in playing competitively at jam sessions to uphold Gloria's integrity.
Swing Band describes a battle of music in the town park; ballroom scenes of fans and jitterbugs responding to the excitement of the swing band; acts of racial prejudice involving Robert, the black band boy; a crapshooting scene in the woods with Joe Ritz and his gambler cronies; idyllic summer days canoeing on the lake in the early days of pot smoking; the intensity and competition of jam sessions in the roadhouse at the edge of town.
Today there is renewed interest in Swing and the Big Band era. It was a glamorous time and it remains a seminal period of American creativity.