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Don't Start Me Talkin' Paperback – February 11, 2014

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4 Stars and Up Feature: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Blues takes many forms. It is a feeling or a mood. And, of course, it’s a specific musical genre, and in Williams’ modest but satisfying blues novel, the blues epitomizes not only a way of life but also a way of being. Williams’ protagonist is Brother Ben, the last of the True Delta Bluesmen. Accompanied by his dependable harp player, Silent Sam, Brother Ben is on his final North American tour. His story is told from the point of view of his protégé, Peter, who describes the journey as the perennial “last ride.” Williams’ tale is a splendid journey of a lifetime spent on the road—and the toll that it takes—as the author evokes memories of the archetypal bluesmen that serve as Brother Ben’s role models: Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Blind Willie McTell, and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Williams, in fact, turns a difficult life into something quite joyous. He 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

Review

"[...]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."
Kirkus Reviews

"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."
Book Riot

“Tom Williams’ Don’t Start Me Talkin’ reminds me of why I started reading in the first place—to be enchanted, 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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Curbside Splendor Publishing (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0988480441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0988480445
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #722,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Williams is the author of Don't Start Me Talkin' and The Mimic's Own Voice. He lives in Kentucky with his wife and son.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Atkinson on January 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
As Williams showed us in "The Mimic's Own Voice," identity is a curious thing. Imagine if the only way to be who you are is to pretend to be someone you are not. You should be able to, given that most of life is presenting an image we have decided upon. Williams gets deep in this one, often more so in the spaces between the words than in the words themselves. I know nothing about the blues, but both the voice and thoughts of the narrator ring true in this book. There's a kind of quiet sadness about it, but it's the kind that makes you feel content and satisfied to hear. It really is an impressive book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Victor David Giron on January 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
Reading this book reminded me of why I love to read. It engulfs you in the characters and their story. When it ends you keep thinking of the characters, wondering how they're carrying on. Tom Williams is truly a powerful story teller, weaving in heavy topics such as race, identity, and courage with a lightness and a wink. Whether you're into the blues or not, this is a true gem of a book.
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Format: Paperback
Tom Williams gives us a vivid, fictional, look into one of the most specific kinds of music in the USA, Delta Blues, and the people who make it.

Brother Ben (Wilton Mabry) (guitar) and Sam Stamps (Peter Owens) (harp) are embarking on their annual road trip. These days they play mostly college towns and the audience is mostly white. It is interesting to note the pretense these fictional characters use to promote and keep alive this soulful, haunting music. Why? The following quotes from the book may provide an explanation:

"Don't let the truth get in the way of the story they want to hear." (pg.52)

"...the music, no matter how good it is, is always secondary to the act." (pg.55)

A number of real bluesmen's names from the past are mentioned throughout, most of which were not familiar to me, but it's interesting to look them up and hear their unique sound. You'll find them all on You Tube.

You don't have to be an aficionado of music in general or blues in particular to find this road trip story interesting. Brother Ben - The Last True Delta Bluesman and Silent Sam Stamps are interesting enough characters to entertain you along the way.
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By PMc on July 13, 2015
Format: Paperback
DON'T START ME TALKING is one of the most satisfying contemporary novels I have read in a long time. Funny and wise, deceptively complex in its story psychology, DSMT is one of those books that lures you into considering and reconsidering things you might believe you have already figured out. Things like race issues in America, friendship, family, music, and the complicated topography of social status and celebrity. I have bought and passed this book on to friends, and I suggest you do the same.
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By Darlene M. Petri on May 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is a road trip book, and road trip books are about searching_in this case searching for identity. Two men, mentor and protege on the road as the last true Delta Bluesmen. Neither is what he seems to be and knowing this the protege must come to terms with himself and his mentor's lead. The outcome I leave for you to discover for yourself, but, I promise you the trip is worthwhile. by Thom
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