Judith Richards

Before becoming a writer, Judith Richards was an actress, an animal trainer, and a carny hauling pig-iron, managing big rides on America’s midways. Thelonious Rising, her sixth novel, reflects her lifelong love of music and fascination with the city of New Orleans. Judith’s other works include After the Storm, The Sounds of Silence, and Triple Indemnity.

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Photograph of Judith Richards, author of Thelonious Rising, Summer Lightning, Seminole Summer, The Sounds of Silence, Too Blue to Fly and contributor to The Shoe Burnin': Stories of Southern Soul.

“Many writers cast musicians as characters in their books. Few get it right. Judith Richards has captured music on the pages of Thelonious Rising the way we hear it, the way we feel it. Music is as important to Monk and Jean as staying above water.”

-Chris Clifton, musician

Excerpt from Thelonious Rising

They began with body slaps and toe taps, creating a rhythm that made people pause to listen. Monk blew full-mouth on his harmonica, suck-n-blow, suck-n-blow, followed by handclaps and steady taps, holding the cadence. Then Percy yielded the rhythm and tongued his harp down to a single quavering note, with a double tongue beat. A melody established, the music gathered listeners. Monk jumped into motion, tapping, grinning, and slapping his chest in time to Percy’s harmony. “Do it like the Spirit’s on you,” Percy counseled. He’d learned that from his aunt Bishop Beulah. “Move where the Spirit says go!” Tap-a-dap, heel and toe, long slide, Quinton wailed and people laughed. Money fell into the hat. Percy joined Monk and side by side they moved in unison, clippity-tap-clippity-clap. Quinton howled again and stepped forward to drop a five-dollar bill in the hat. He’d get it back later. It was seed money to get the folks going. Sidle-slide, leg slap, chest thump, hip bump, Monk dropped back and blew chords on the harmonica. Percy did his stuff. He was smooth and fluid, a polished professional. Tap-a-dap, slap his heel, tap-a-dap, Quinton Toussaint squealed; tap-a-dap, and now Monk took over. His best moves were really the easy ones, but crowds liked them. He twisted his mouth to show concentration, feet flying, taps singing; Percy on the mouth harp hit every other note, a-one-and-two, and-a-one-and-two. Suddenly, Monk twirled, flashed a grin and looked at the spectators one after another; they smiled and laughed. Clickety-clack; slap his back, slap and clap, clickety-clack. Quinton whooped. People applauded.


Thelonious Rising

“Judith Richards weaves a tale of heartbreak, hope and the indomitable human spirit. Set in the Lower Ninth Ward in the days leading up to, and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans, vivid characters sweep the reader along through this compelling story and remind us that, Phoenix-like, Thelonius will ever and always be rising.”

—Chuck Cannon, writer/songwriter

Summer Lightning

“A very special kind of love story, destined for special things.”

Philadelphia Inquirer

Too Blue to Fly

“Too Blue To Fly is a simple tale of lost childhood and forgotten family. It’s funny and sharp, and filled with the swampy descriptions that make Florida seem so familiar. But it’s also a provocative reminder of a time past that’s too vicious to forget.” —Folio Weekly “A sad and moving story, admirably told without pity or condescension.” —Bailey White “A fascinating story written by a wonderful writer!”

—Fannie Flagg

After the Storm

“After The Storm — for the kid in everyone.”

Times Picayuner