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Thin Blue Smoke [Kindle Edition]

Doug Worgul
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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Book Description

LaVerne Williams is a ruined ex-big league ballplayer and ex-felon with an attitude problem and a barbecue joint to run. Ferguson Glen is an Episcopal priest and fading literary star with a drinking problem and past he's running from. A.B. Clayton and Sammy Merzeti are two lost souls in need of love, understanding and another cigarette.

Thin Blue Smoke is an epic American redemption tale. It is a story of love and loss, hope and despair, God and whiskey, barbecue and the blues. Hilarious and heart-rending, sacred and profane, this book marks the emergence of a vital new voice in American fiction.

Editorial Reviews


" intriguing bunch of picaresque characters." 
—Choice Magazine

"Like the good food holding these stories together, you can’t believe your luck when you sit down before a full plate. Doug Worgul has done what all great writers strive to do: make you crave for more."  —Rajiv Joseph, playwright, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”

"Vivid descriptions of barbecue foods and characters will make it difficult to peel your eyes away from this story."  —KC Magazine  

About the Author

Doug Worgul (born September 13, 1953) is an American writer and editor based in Kansas City.

Raised mostly in Lansing, Michigan, Worgul is the oldest of three siblings. He graduated from J.W. Sexton High School in 1971. He attended Gordon College (Massachusetts) from 1971-1972. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 1976 with a B.A. in political science, and again in 1977 with a M.A. in education, with an emphasis on the teaching of reading.

Worgul moved to Kansas City in 1989 and has worked for The Kansas City Star newspaper as a book and features editor and editor of Star Magazine. He was also editor of Kansas City Magazine. Prior to his work as a journalist, Worgul was a social worker and an advertising and marketing consultant. He is currently the director of marketing at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ in Kansas City, named by Anthony Bourdain as one of the "Thirteen Places to Eat Before You Die."

A nationally recognized authority on the history and cultural significance of American barbecue traditions, Worgul has been interviewed and/or cited in numerous national and regional newspapers and magazines on the subject, and has also appeared on two History Channel programs. He is the author of The Grand Barbecue: A Celebration of the History, Places, Personalities and Techniques of Kansas City Barbecue (Kansas City Star Books, 2001).

Worgul's first novel, Thin Blue Smoke, set in a fictional barbecue joint in Kansas City, is a story of love, loss, despair, redemption, squandered gifts, second chances, whiskey, God, and the secret language of rabbits. It was published in the UK by Macmillan Publishers in 2009. The U.S. edition of Thin Blue Smoke was published by Burnside Books in September 2012.

A strong sense of place permeates Worgul's writing. His writing has been compared to that of John Irving, Richard Russo, and Frederick Buechner.

Worgul has four daughters and three grandsons and lives in Leawood, Kansas with his wife.

Product Details

  • File Size: 767 KB
  • Print Length: 462 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0985295325
  • Publisher: Burnside Books (August 23, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0091NDAEA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,957 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feels like Wendell Berry but urban and modern September 18, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I always find it hard to write reviews of fiction books I really like. I never want to give away too much of the plot. And I usually fall back to talking about how beautiful the language is or how engaging the plot.

In some ways what want is to ask you to just trust me and go ahead and read the book. It is only $3.99 on kindle right now. This version (

But asking you to trust me is not good enough. Thin Blue Smoke is not an action packed story. It is a story that you make your way through. At some point I felt like it might never end. And then I hoped it wouldn't ever end.

The connecting tissue of the book is Smoke Meat. A small BBQ joint in Kansas City. The owner is a former baseball player. His assistant AB is his late son's best friend. Their regular customers include an elderly blues singer, an alcoholic Episcopal priest and professor, a wealthy developer, cops, journalists and more.

This books jumps all over time, from character to character revealing more and more about the common human nature and need of all people. There are lots of mistakes and sins that have brought everyone to where they are right now. But there is also a God that is present, even in tragedy.

This is a book about the journey toward redemption. The conclusion is a bit abrupt and not completely satisfying,b ut the point of the book is not the conclusion. The point of the story is the journey.

This is not a standard fare Christian novel. It clearly is a Christian novel. God is present here. Thin Blue Smoke presents characters as real people. They drink, have sex, curse, kill, cry and love. This is the type of Christian novel that changes people's perceptions of Christian novels.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars you can't beat bbq and blues February 8, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There was a time when I couldn't put a great book down until it was finished. Now, I find that when I really enjoy a book, I keep putting it down because I don't want it to end! This was such a book!!! This is great writing, full of twists and turns, reflection and anticipation, bittersweet and thought provoking ... all at the same time. It is about the future and the past, about change and resistance to change. Most of all it is about the surprising nature of relationships and how faith simmers and flavors life. I kept wondering how fiction could seem so "real" as I read. There is something here for everyone -- the smell of barbeque, the emotion of the blues, even baseball and redemption. This book can be read on so many levels, and I am already starting it over to see what I might have missed the first time through. This is a book you will have no trouble sharing with someone else!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Page Is Smoke Flavored December 29, 2011
By Hal B
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love this book. Any author who can take the mundane and make it remarkable, make me want to eat at "Smoke Meat" has mastered his craft and displayed his talent. Some will fail to "get" the wonderful writing in this book. For me it will be one I remember from the untold books I've read over the years, books from authors such as John Irving or even Phillip Roth.
The style is simple but feels unique. The characters are people I either have known or want to know.
This is the best novel I've read since "Last Night In Twisted River."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put It Down... July 1, 2009
I was given this book as a gift and thought "wow, that's no thin book--this will last me through vacation." Wrong. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. The characters instantly became part of my life. I literally felt like I was in every conversation. The author did an excellent job of developing a number of complex characters and weaving their stories together in very surprising ways. I was disappointed when it ended...I want, no need, to know what the characters are doing today. Will there be a part 2?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thin Blue Smoke Lingers February 23, 2012
You know the way that your clothes get full of smoke around a campfire and you don't fully notice until you smell them the next day? In the same way, the aroma of the story and characters of Thin Blue Smoke lingered in my mind and heart long after I finished the book. You'll come to love the people you encounter. They're the kind of folks you'd love to meet, hear their story or share a great meal in a BBQ joint like "Smoke Meat". Take a chance on this book! It'll work its smoky magic on you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like the smell of smoke, this story has stayed with me September 11, 2012
By cori67
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to admit, I know the author's sister quite well and she recommended that I buy her brother's book. Initially I was a little reluctant because what if she asked me what I thought and (a) I didn't like it or (b) it wasn't very good?

It turns out my fears were groundless - Doug Worgul is a masterful writer, with echoes of Salinger or a male version of Maeve Binchy.

Thin Blue Smoke is a tale of redemption, the tale of people coming to terms with their past. LaVerne is the owner of Kansas City's best BBQ joint. He is also an ex-con, and a former ball player. Glen is a priest facing some struggles. They meet in LaVerne's BBQ joint and along the way come across some wonderful characters. As you follow the threads of their lives you see how they intersect and are all connected.

I read this book several months ago and it is a testament to Worgul's strong writing that I still remember the characters. I read so much and so many books it is easy to forget sometimes - not this one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great book. Your'e not quite sure where it's going, so you want to keep reading.
Published 4 months ago by Ricki F.
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting read
Excellent character development easy to follow even with the many people the book talks about I read it for book
Published 6 months ago by Marg
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad I found this book....
This is one of the best books I've read in recent years.....I stumbled upon it from the Englewood Review of Books and am thankful they led me to such a gem. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Anna Straight
5.0 out of 5 stars Hungry for some good old comfort food
Thin Blue Smoke is the kind of book that makes the reader hungry. Hungry for some good old comfort food, yes. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars what a gem!
Of the 100's of books I've read from Amazon, I have never taken the time to write a review but felt compelled to do so after reading his one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by nubie
5.0 out of 5 stars Grabs and won't let you go!
I love the characters in this book and how they are woven together. The story takes you back into the past to see the motives and occurrences that will eventually come to light in... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Adele Wyn Eddy, Author of 'The Good Day Baking Company'
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great strong characters. Very good story.
Published 9 months ago by Patricia S. Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story
This book is a joy to read - funny, uplifting, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend Thin Blue Smoke for its well-developed characters, intelligent humor, and thoughtful... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Stacy Tramel
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be much better known
I knew Worgul as a writer on barbecue, author of a terrific book on the Kansas City variety called The Grand Barbecue. Read more
Published 14 months ago by J.S.
4.0 out of 5 stars Doug knows more than barbecue
I loved this book. Not just because I’m from Kansas City, or because I’m a baseball and barbecue fan, or even because I know and love Doug Worgul. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Shawn P. Keene
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More About the Author

Doug Worgul was born into a family of preachers, teachers, and writers, in the state of Michigan. He now resides in Kansas City where barbecue and the blues are a way of life. A strong sense of place is a major theme in Doug Worgul's fiction, as it has been in his career as a newspaper journalist and editor of regional and national magazines. He is a nationally-recognized authority on the history and cultural significance of American barbecue traditions. He is married and has four daughters.

-- photo by Lindsey Hinderer/Sweet Monday Photography --

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