It's 1925 and Mark Purvis is a 16-yr-old with a summer to kill. He'd rather jam with his jazz band (they need the practice), but is urged by his parents to get a job. As an assistant at The Crisis, a magazine for the "new Negro," Mark rubs shoulders with Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. He's invited to a party at Alfred Knopf's place. He's making money, but not enough, and when piano player Fats Waller entices him and his buddies to make some fast cash, Mark finds himself crossing the gangster Dutch Schultz.