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
"[...]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 experiencea 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 roadand 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 placeto 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 jointsa must read for fans of low down sounds everywhere.”
Preston Lauterbach, author of The Chitlin’ Circuit and The Road to Rock ’n’ Roll