Half-blood Blues Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Author: Esi Edugyan

First published: 2011

Genre: Novel

Locale: Berlin, Paris, Baltimore, Poland

Plot: Historical fiction

Time: 1940 and 1992

Hieronymus (Hiero) Falk, a jazz trumpeter. Also known as “the Kid,” Hiero is 19 years old when he meets the other members of the jazz band the Hot-Time Swingers. He is a sweet and extremely gifted jazz trumpeter, earning the moniker “Little Louis” from Louis Armstrong himself. He is Afro-German, a “mischling,” half-black and half-white. Because of his youth, the band members are protective, thinking of him as a little brother while, at the same time, they are in awe of his talent.

Sidney (Sid) Griffiths, a jazz bassist. Sid is often too proud for his own good, becoming jealous of Hiero's talent and his special place in Delilah's heart. Sid has a love affair with Delilah, which only adds to his self-absorption and jealousy. He is often defensive and sometimes morose, though he is highly regarded by the other band members. Hiero looks up to him, though it seems he often goads Sid's jealousy. Sid is sorely disappointed when Armstrong does not include him in making a record with the band. When Hiero's forged documents arrive, which would allow him to immigrate to America, Sid hides them so he can have a chance to make the record with Hiero. Unfortunately, they never get the chance as Paris is overrun by German forces. Sid blames himself for Hiero's internment in a Nazi prison camp, and his (supposed) subsequent death.

Delilah Brown, representative for Louis Armstrong; a friend of the Hot-Time Swingers; a jazz singer. Also a “mischling,” Delilah is a French, light-skinned black woman with pale green eyes. She is very thin, almost boney, and she always wears a head wrap because she has lost most of her hair due to stress. She meets the band in Berlin after Louis Armstrong becomes interested in making a record with them. She is mature and savvy about keeping the band safe, becoming a guide and protector for them. She and Sid have a love affair, though Sid is unable to overcome his jealousy of Hiero, whom Delilah has taken under her wing.

Charles (Chip) P. Jones, a jazz drummer. Chip tends to be an exasperating friend with a penchant for lying. Sometimes he says too much, revealing more than he intended, especially when he is talking in half-truths. He is a fastidious dresser, careful to maintain a “proper” demeanor. Even after a street brawl, he sometimes has trouble understanding social cues. He is a short man—5 feet 4 inches. He becomes the famous “great American drummer.” He and Sid are the only survivingbandmemberswhohavestayedintouch.

Ernst von Haselberg, Berlin club owner and musician. Smart and capable, Ernst had been the owner of the Hound jazz club before the Nazis closed down such establishments in an effort to suppress jazz music, which they considered corrupt. After the band members run into trouble with the Gestapo, Ernst hides them in the club. He is the son of a bigoted, very wealthy industrialist, who uses his influence to attain forged documents for the band members, when it becomes clear they must leave the country to survive. He hates all that his father stands for, including the imminent war. Ernst lives by his strong convictions. Too late, Sid realizes that the cost for the forged documents is for Ernst to stay in Germany, according to his father's wishes.

Paul Butterstein, a jazz pianist. Paul is a ladies' man. Movie-star handsome, with wavy blond hair, crystal blue eyes, and an athletic build, Paul looks like the perfect Aryan, but he is actually a Jew. While the band is hiding at the Hound (Ernst's club), he must return to his apartment for epilepsy medication, and is arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he dies.

Fritz, a jazz saxophone player. Fritz is a huge Bavarian man, with straw-like hair and a prominent hawkish nose. He is slow-moving but strong, which helps a great deal when the group is accosted by a couple of young “boots” (Gestapo police). After the trouble with the Gestapo, he leaves the band to join a more acceptable, though much less talented, band of musicians known as the the Golden Seven.

Kurt Caspar, a famous documentary filmmaker. A pale, plump Scandinavian man, with pale skin and dyed, jet-black hair, Caspar is a smooth talker who speaks a great deal, but says very little. He has produced a documentary film about the Hot-Time Swingers, and Hieronymus Falk in particular, who has become a jazz legend, even though he is thought to have not survived the war. Caspar interviews Chip and Sid, among others, and manages to twist Chip's words such that he appears to be saying that Sid was responsible for Hiero's arrest because of jealousy.

von Haselberg, a very wealthy German industrialist, Ernst's father. He has cropped gray hair, a thin mustache, and “frighteningly” blue eyes. He walks with an easy fluidity, much like his son, Ernst. He is a cold bigot. He arranges for passports for Ernst's band members, though the cost for Ernst is over-whelming—he will not join his band mates in recording with Louis Armstrong.

Categories: Characters