Don't Start Me Talkin' by Tom Williams
Don’t Start Me Talkin' is a comedic road novel about Brother Ben, the only remaining True Delta Bluesman, playing his final North American tour. Set in contemporary society, Brother Ben's protege Silent Sam Stamps narrates an episodic 'last ride,' laying bare America's complicated relationship with African American identity, music, and culture, and like his hero Sonny Boy Williamson once sang, Silent Sam promises "I'll tell everything I know."
Don’t Start Me Talkin’ is not merely a story about the blues, but with its rhythm, language, and sense of self and place, it also channels the DNA of this very American style of music.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tom Williams is the author of The Mimic's Own Voice (Main Street Rag Publishing Co). He has also published numerous stories, reviews, and essays, most recently in RE:AL, The Collagist, Booth, and Slab. An associate editor of American Book Review, he is the Chair of English at Morehead State University.
"You know, I think if I had been born thirty years after hip hop's ascent, I would have written the book about two rappers. But since I can't play a guitar or harp for shit, I did what I could: craft something of an homage and love letter to the blues in this novel." READ AN EXTENSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TOM WILLIAMS HERE.
PRAISE FOR DON’T START ME TALKIN’:
"[...]Williams keeps perfect rhythm with everything he sets in motion: the identity conflicts, the grind of the tour, the danger of being discovered as frauds, and the questionable future of the duo. [T]he amiable voice of Peter [...] guides the reader from the passenger seat of the duo’s styling ’76 Fleetwood Brougham, to the ephemeral privacy offered by a hotel room, to the damp hardwood of the stage: “And when it seems we can’t push past the limits True Delta Blues imposes on us, Ben says, ‘Blow Sam,’ and allows me a solo of two choruses. I push those notes around like they looked at my woman and need a reminder not to try that shit again.” Tense, thoughtful, and funny, this novel will leave readers floating from the show, ears ringing and hearts racing."
—Mel Bosworth, HTMLGiant
"While this is a road-trip story, it’s also a more profound experience—a sometimes sardonic, sophisticated take on race in America, on fame, on mostly white artistic wannabe’s and acolytes co-opting black experience. [...] With allusions to cultural touchstones from Elvis to Robert Johnson, from Cosby to Oscar Wilde, Williams’ metaphorical tale addresses the dualities African-Americans navigate in the American cultural maze while also dealing with the truths we all tell ourselves and the truths we let others see. Part elegy, part master-student story, part road-trip Americana, Williams riffs on the dichotomy between appearance and reality."
"A splendid journey of a lifetime spent on the road—and the toll that it takes—[...]turn[ing] a difficult life into something quite joyous. Williams gets the details right too, such as searching for clothes in “two-for-a-dollar” bins in tacky stores. A humorous, picaresque blue note of a novel." —June Sawyers, Booklist
"Don’t Start Me Talkin’ is a rambling adventure filled with topnotch musical references, vivid storytelling, and astute cultural analysis."
“Tom Williams’ Don’t Start Me Talkin’ reminds me of why I started reading in the first place—to be en¬chanted, to be carried away from my world and dropped into a world more vivid and incandescent. Here is a heartfelt and irresistible novel about the Last True Delta Bluesman, Brother Ben, and his steadfast harp player, Silent Sam. Williams handles this ironic tale of the Blues, race, pretense, and life on the road, with intelligence, grace, and abiding tenderness. Read this remarkable and exhilarating novel, friend, and I promise you’ll start reading it slowly so it won’t ever end.”
—John Dufresne, author of No Regrets, Coyote
“A master storyteller, Tom Williams enters the living history of Delta Blues and emerges with his own thrilling tall tale, alive with American music, American legend, American heart.”
—Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods
“Tom Williams writes like Paul Auster might if he were funnier or like Stanley Elkin might have if he'd ever been able to stop laughing. Darkly charming.”
—Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances
“Tom Williams’ Don’t Start Me Talkin’ takes the wheel of a coffee-brown ’76 Fleetwood Brougham, settles you into its supple leather seats, and tours a world of fried meat and plush polyester through smoky juke joints—a must read for fans of low down sounds everywhere.”
—Preston Lauterbach, author of The Chitlin’ Circuit and The Road to Rock ’n’ Roll
WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER:
Curbside Splendor Publishing
Cover Art: Alban Fischer
Cover Photo: Jacob S. Knabb
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