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Neanderthal Jazz: An Interview with Michael Baldwin, author of Neanderthal Gita

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Michael Baldwin is a retired library administrator and professor of American Government. He may also be a descendant of the Lakota mystic warrior, Crazy Horse, and will be glad to explain over a couple of beers. As a youngster, Michael wanted to be an astronaut, built his own six-foot telescope, and studied astrophysics. In college, he became active in the civil rights movement and took a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. His intellectual appetite led him to a career as a librarian and teacher. Because of his eclectic interests, he has written books in several genres: a mystery novel, Murder Music, a children’s science-adventure book, Space Cat, four volumes of science-fiction short stories, the Passing Strange series, and five books of poetry.

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Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

My novel, Neanderthal Gita, sprang from my interest in Neanderthals, who until the last ten years were considered stupid brutes. New scientific findings show they were highly intelligent, perhaps more than us, with 15% more brain. They had a highly sophisticated society and they interbred with modern humans, so most of us have several percent of Neanderthal genes. My book assumes a tribe of Neanderthals existed into modern times, and was found by a woman anthropologist who marries a Neanderthal and produces a half-Neanderthal son. When the tribe is wiped out by Russian soldiers, he and his uncle must survive in the wilderness and have numerous adventures. They settle in northern India where he is educated, falls in love, and has further adventures. It’s a novel of high adventure and challenging ideas.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I’ve been a writer of stories and poems since high school. As a wannabe scientist, I read tons of science fiction as well as real science. I’ve been a voracious and wide-ranging reader my whole life. I try to read one classic novel, one non-fiction book, and one modern novel in simultaneous rotation. As a young man, I was influenced by the writings of Colin Wilson, who was an existential philosopher and novelist, famous for his first book, The Outsider. I’ve most recently been influenced by Ian McGilchrist’s book on neuroscience, The Master and His Emissary, which is one of the most important books of the 21st century.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

In addition to being a former public library administrator and professor of American Government, I was a field supervisor for the 2000 Census. I was also a very bad but enthusiastic jazz clarinet player and both Murder Music and my new unpublished novel, Roll Back the Sun, are about jazz musicians.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Neanderthal Gita features a couple of scenes in which the characters discuss and listen to music: classical, jazz, and Neanderthal. They include the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

The perfect reader of Neanderthal Gita is someone who enjoys suspense and action in an exotic locale and who is interested in ideas and foreign cultures.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I’m putting the final revisions on my latest novel, Roll Back the Sun, which follows four jazz musicians from 1985 through 2002 as they become entangled with each other, involved in world events, and try to make music and love in a crazy mixed-up world.

You can buy the book here.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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