The Duke Don't Dance

Fiction - Cultural
262 Pages
Reviewed on 05/28/2012
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lee Ashford for Readers' Favorite

"The Duke Don't Dance" by Richard Sharp is a fascinating journey following the lives of a group of friends and acquaintances we first meet at Annapolis in 2011. They are attending the wake of one of their own, who has recently passed away. From there we return to High School in 1960, to begin learning about the people with whom we will be very well acquainted by the time the story concludes. This 50+ year journey ends as we accompany one of the friends back home after the burial at Arlington, the day after the wake. It is a poignant reflection on real life, which will resonate with everyone who lived - and lives - during the years of the so-called "silent generation". Mr. Sharp paints a vivid, pointillist mural of that era.

"The Duke Don't Dance" is a story of real life. Every reader will associate with one or more of the characters, and will recall friends long past in the lives of the other characters. You will love, and you will hate in turn. The story is reminiscent of happier times, and times of grief. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. It will make you wonder how friends from your youth are doing, and might even prompt you to look up a few of them. Perhaps it will give you strength to resolve some long-standing issues in your own life. Above all, you will feel the richer for having read it.

Brenda Ballard

We enter the story in a funeral home, adorned with enough flowers to be considered overkill (if you will pardon the pun). Frank was a well-liked man who hated bereavement yet here he was, the center of attention in a filled building. The guests spanned generations in age, most there in response to being invited by his widow, Lillian. The story unfolds as an unmentionable act astonishes the funeral director and his assistant; the guests, having already exited the building, have no idea; well, all but one. The interactions between one another stir up repressed memories, old spites and more. Each recalls relationships, experiences, and periods in their lives that happened so long ago. The common factor is Frank, albeit sometimes if only by affiliation. It takes but a few pages to become completely engrossed in these personal, funny, tragic tales and before you know it, it is the end. It is not easy to define such distinct characters, their stories, the way their lives intertwine with those of others. With ease and perhaps a touch of pure brilliance, author Richard Sharp guides the reader through each scene.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "The Duke Don't Dance". I found myself laughing out loud at the idiosyncrasies of each character and even identified with a couple of the people with a few in my own life. I think we all know at least a couple in this cast and that is what makes it so enjoyable. The author makes his book real!

Alice D.

Seventy-ish Frank Miller has been killed in an automobile accident and now he is laid out for burial in his dress uniform of a major in the U.S. Air Force. His friends and co-workers for over the many years, Ted, Sam, Beth, Rafi and Frank's wife Lillian gather to mourn his passing. But as Author Richard Sharp writes, "it was more an alumni party with a corpse in attendance than a memorial service". And Author Sharp lays out the complex relations among these friends over the years between their teenage years of the late 1950's to the present times of this decade when they all faced old age and frailty. Frank, Lillian, Sam, Ted, Beth, Tom Inga, and Rebecca were members of the post-war generation who were "lost between the Greatest Generation and the boomers" who were young in those years of the 1960's when the sexual revolution, equal rights, the feminist movement all came about. Now "The Duke don't dance" but does one just accept that hard fact?

"The Duke Don't Dance" is a complex novel about the intertwined lives of longtime friends and co-workers. The story covers chapter by chapter the changing years from the late 1950's and Elvis through Vietnam and Jim Morrison's songs and onto present times where Frank tells his musician son Rick that current songs are just sad. The characters, Frank, Ted, Sam, Beth, Tom, Ari, Lillian and all their friends, lovers, and acquaintances are well-drawn and totally believable. The plot is brilliantly constructed to proceed through decades from the past to the present as though we watch all the characters in "The Duke Don't Dance" live out their lives. "The Duke Don't Dance" is a story that should be read slowly and absorbed. It is not for a light reading. it is most definitely a good read.

Jean Brickell

They are beginning to age now, this group of friends, lovers. They are a part of the "Quiet Generation". They fit in after the "Greatest Generation" of WWII and before the "Baby Boomers". The book begins with the funeral of Frank, as they gather to pay tribute to one of their own. He swerved his car to miss Sledders in the road and drowns. Rough and tumble, he was a pilot in Vietnam in younger years. Wives, children, and friends gather. Sam was in intelligence (CIA) in Thailand during that war, and continued the espionage during the cold war. The group was part of the sexual revolution, feminism, and the intermingling of religion and race. Their lives were connected with Watergate, Gulf War, Trade Center collapse and rock and roll.

This is a tribute to the "Quiet Generation", now approaching seventy or already there. They fought and lost Vietnam. They were part of the sexual revolution and saw the passage of the Civil Rights Bill. They married and or had affairs, raised children, made and lost lots of money, were there for each other. When one needed a job, another would find that person one. They were involved with espionage, war, earning a living, raising children, having affairs, drinking and drugs. The question is raised, who was the "Duke" as in the title of the book, and who wrote "The Duke don't dance" on the wall of the men's room while everyone was at lunch?

Anne B.

Sharp’s book is fictional but reminded me of my parents and most of their friends for they were part of the Silent Generation. In "The Duke Don’t Dance" we meet a group of seven friends and follow them from young adults through adulthood. We watch as they face the Cold War, the early drug culture, peace rallies and much more. I find it rather amazing that it was the Silent Generation that came up with rock. Perhaps they were not always silent. This is the first time I’ve heard that phrase. I was interested in learning more. The Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1945, during the Great Depression and World War II. The Silent Generation would encompass most of the soldiers that fought in the Korean War. As I did a little research I was amazed at the famous names that comprised the Silent Generation: Dick Cheney, The Beatles, George Carlin, Clinton Eastwood and Elvis Pressley among others.

One of the best parts of this book is the use of actual events and allowing the characters to react to them. Sharp combines humor, romance and intrigue in his book. I like this book; I was quickly connected to the characters. Like real life at times they were likable and other times they were not. Sharp successfully developed each character breathing life into them. I found it amazing that this is Sharp’s first novel. He writes like a seasoned author. Well done Mr. Sharp, you gave a voice to the Silent Generation.