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It's1940. Americans struggle to escape the economic despair of the Thirties. A gnawing sense of anxiety grips the nation as Europe explodes in conflict. With the 20th Century's most traumatic events as background, When the music stops follows Johnny Miller, a talented musician intent on making the big time; Jean, the beautiful, devious girl who walks into his life to become his obsession; and his cousin, Herman, a naive union organizer. Jean cares for Johnny but desperately desires financial security. Convinced by her false promise to be true, Johnny leaves drab Northeast Pennsylvania to seek fame in glittering New York City. He befriends Jean's sister, Dee, who helps him find work in radio. Intrigued by her husband's efforts to establish a swing band, Johnny is appalled by the couple's abusive relationship. His attempts to distance himself fail as their musical ambitions draw them together. Can they find success before their personal conflicts destroy them? Corrupt bosses lead Herman into illicit activities. The union and Jean's employer are bitter foes in a labor dispute that ends in violence and betrayal. Someone must be punished. Who will it be? Answers come on a December weekend when the music stops with the slash of a knife and an act of unimaginable treachery. Jean and Herman's lives are forever linked. Johnny's world is shattered as history's most devastating war engulfs America.