RARA-AVIS: Blue books

From: Karin Montin ( kmontin@sympatico.ca)
Date: 29 Feb 2004

Semicoincidentally, I took out two other Blue-titled books at the same time as Bluebottle: Bad Eye Blues by Neal Barrett, Jr., and Leavin' Trunk Blues by Ace Atkins.

Barrett is an extremely prolific writer in several genres. This novel (like his others with Blues in the title, I suppose), features Wiley Moss, Smithsonian "bug artist."

This picaresque mystery is violent enough to be hardboiled. Moss is kidnapped with aim of having him paint portraits of a bunch of prostitutes on a "ranch." Organized crime, large amounts of money, beautiful women throwing themselves at him, quite a lot of gory deaths -- the plot is wildly improbable, with a large case of cartoonish characters, and the whole thing is designed for laughs. Could be a lot worse. In other words, I enjoyed it, but it is anything but noir. Not too bluesy, either, come to think of it.

You can find a review with a pretty thorough plot summary here: http://weeklywire.com/ww/12-01-97/austin_books_feature1_side2.html

Leavin' Trunk Blues is another story altogether. Mark Sullivan has mentioned it a number of times. Ruby Walker, serving life in prison for killing Billy Lyons, asks Nick Travers, a blues tracker -- a university professor who hunts down old songs and musicians and writes about them -- to clear her name. At first he doesn't really believe she is innocent, but then events lend credence to her claim.

An unusual thing about this story is not just that it is based on a well-known song about a murder, which tells us whodunnit right off the bat, but that virtually all the characters are either from songs or are actual historical figures. At the same time, I was reading the companion book to the PBS blues series produced by Martin Scorscese, and the same names kept cropping up. I wondered how their descendents feel about having them portrayed as they are in the story.

The historical background was interesting and there was a lot of action. It was good, but not great. I think I'll try to read his Crossroad Blues, about the death of Robert Johnson, which most people seemed to agree was better.


# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 29 Feb 2004 EST