A charming appreciation of ragtime music by a longstanding fan who feels smugly superior to those who have just discovered The Sting's soundtrack. The focus is on Scott Joplin, ""King of Ragtime,"" but Gammond also covers early influences (Gottschalk, Sousa, Strauss, Stephen Foster), Joplin's contemporaries--including a man named James Scott whom some have found the King's peer--and Tin Pan Alley or jazzman successors like Irving Berlin, Gershwin, Eubie Blake (who supplies an introduction), Jelly Roll Morton, etc. Little more is known about Joplin's life than that he was born in 1868 in Texarkana, the son of a freed slave, became the protege of an unknown German music professor and later an itinerant piano player in the cat-houses and honky-tonks where the cakewalk and ""jigtime"" began. The Maple Leaf Rag brought overnight fame at the age of 31, but Joplin's dream of writing a ""high-class"" opera was not realized until 1915, when a single performance of Treernonisha bombed in Harlem. He died two years later in a state hospital, unhappy, insane and syphilitic. Gammond's opinion of Treemonisha: ""he aimed too high."" Much of this book is devoted to a catalogue of sheet music publications from ragtime's twenty-year heyday and a chronological assessment of every slow-drag, two-step, coon-song, waltz, lullaby and march Joplin ever wrote. There's a discography, a bibliography, illustrations and the book should profit from the current revival and cult of nostalgia for the gaiety and syncopation of another age.