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Author talks of jazz, Louis Armstrong and WWII

Author Stephen Maitland-Lewis will discuss his new book, 'Emeralds Never Fade,' and his friendship with Louis Armstrong at Queens College Sunday.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Award-winning author Stephen Maitland-Lewis will be at Queens College April 21 to read from his historical fiction novel, “Emeralds Never Fade,” based on two boys who lived throughout the Holocaust.

The story is set before World War II and follows two German boys who get together weekly so one can teach the other to play the piano. When the Nazis seize power, this friendship is put to an end, as one of the boys is Jewish. Forty years later, a lost family heirloom will decide their fate.

While at Queens College, Maitland-Lewis will also discuss his friendship with jazz legend Louis Armstrong and how it affected his life.

As an 11-year-old boy, Maitland-Lewis had a fasination with jazz and Louis Armstrong was one of his idols.

One day, the young boy wrote a fan letter to the jazz legend. Maitland-Lewis said he never expected to receive a reply, so about five weeks later when one arrived he was quite shocked.

Not only had Armstrong responded to the boy’s query, but he sent a four-page, hand-written note as a reply.

Thus began a decades-long pal pen relationship between the young English boy and his jazz idol. The two exchanged letters as well as birthday and Christmas cards for the remainder of Armstrong’s life.

Now a trustee of the Louis Armstrong House, Maitland-Lewis was touched to discover the musician had kept several of the letters sent from England.

“Emeralds Never Fade” received the 2012 Benjamin Franklin Award for historical fiction.

If you go

Stephen Maitland-Lewis will read from his book and discuss his friendship with Louis Armstrong on Sunday, April 21, at 4 p.m. in the Queens College LeFrak Concert Hall, 65-30 Kissena Blvd. The event is free. For more information, call 718-997-3770.

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