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The Blues Ain't Nothin': Tales of the Lonesome Blues Pub Paperback – April 1, 2002
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"A warm and delightfully entertaining novel." --Realms of Fantasy Magazine
"Tina Jens knows her riffs. [She] deftly provides enough information along the way to bring readers with little blues-knowledge up to snuff while not bogging her text down for those more in tune with her subject. With high appeal for female readers. Refreshing, appealing, and a whole lot of fun." --Dark Echo Magazine
"Perhaps as no other form of music, the blues goes hand-in-hand with the horrific. It's not just...the legends of musicians who supposedly sold their souls at a crossroads in order to play, but the hard-scuffling and sometimes violent and short lives of the bluesfolk themselves. "The setting here is almost as restricted as that of a one-act play. Jens relies on the world of the living and the dead to mosey in through the doors. In other words, "If you build it, they will come ... and they'll probably be bringing raunchy guitars." Spanning nearly twenty years, the novel's through-point is Sally, the daughter of Miss Sarah, original owner of the Lonesome Blues Pub on Chicago's North Side... We see her evolve from ten-year-old Little Mustang into the full-grown Mustang Sally, destined to not only run the club her mother founded, but play the blues herself. Like her creator, Sally may be a white girl with blond hair, but it's a wholly credible transformation, which is punctuated by all sorts of run-ins with the staples of blues lore: ghosts, hellhounds, devils in long frock coats, and plenty of lowdown, sweet-talking, two-timing men. By the turn of the century, Sally has become extremely adroit at handling them all. Truth be told, the supernatural elements, while abundant, are generally handled with a very light touch. Weightier are the strictly human elements: the growing estrangement between mother and daughter, the racial tensions of white people involved with black music, and the surprisingly touching and heartbreaking portrayal of a harmonica player beset by the brain damage deliberately inflicted on him as a child. There's plenty of warmth, too, in the surrogate family that's come together to raise and mentor the fatherless Mustang Sally, from the elderly retired bluesmen Old George and Ratman, to the friendly resident ghost Jayhawk, to the spirits of such dead legends as Memphis Minnie and Robert Johnson, who stop by to lend a transparent hand when needed. On --HellNotes Book Review
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Part I: 1981 Preacherman Gets the Blues
The Lonesome Blues Pub has a resident ghost, Jayhawk, a blues player who was killed in a fire in the pub, and tradition says the first number of the night must be played on his guitar. But tonight, the guitarist flouts tradition. Big mistake, especially when someone does pick up the house guitar, and starts playing Satan Came Walking, and an old man and a little girl have to play the blues to fight hellfire.
Part II: 1989 Miss Sarah Leaves the Blues Behind
The ghosts are getting to Miss Sarah, so is the loneliness of being a single mom raising her daughter in a blues bar. To deal with the first, she brings in a psychic, and when a handsome man crosses her path, she is smitten. But instead of laying ghosts, the psychic raises them, and being with the handsome man will mean leaving the bar. Her daughter, Little Mustang, though, plays blues with the ghosts, and will keep their home going.
Part III: 1991 Tracks of a Hellhound
In which a long-lost recording of Robert Johnson is found and played, requiring the intervention of Johnson himself to send the hellhound back where it came from.
Part IV: 1996 Damned Fool Man
In which Miss Mustang and her cohorts deal with the ghost of a serial killer, and a bar full of people with the Lovesick Blues
Part V: 2000 Stranger Ev'rywhere
Harpsicrazy is a paranoid schizophrenic harpsichord player, trying to keep the voices quiet. He's a regular at the bar, and Miss Mustang knows just how to handle him. And then a college kid thinks it'll be funny to drop something in Harpsicrazy's drink.
This is the best story of the bunch. Jens gets right into the head of Harpsicrazy, and a good bit of it, the best of the best, is told from his point of view.
In The Blues Ain't Nothin' : Tales of the Lonesome Blues Pub Tina Jens' resident ghost Jayhawk accomplishes the same feat for her: merging the past with the present, and showing that the Blues is music, language, art, communication, that lasts for an eternity ... and beyond.
Three weeks ago I spent an evening in Kingston Mines in Chicago, soaking up the Blues. I only wish that I had read The Blues Ain't Nothin' before that evening. It would have explained the feelings that I had ... the very same feelings that I experienced when I sneaked out of bed, glued my ears to the slightly ajar bedroom door, and with my eyes and mouth wide open, listened to those ghost stories around the fireside of my youth.
Tina Jens is a true seanchai !
To even label this a horror novel is a misnomer. "The Blues Ain't Nothin'" is a poorly sewn together collection of short 'ghost' stories with the intent of being a scary novel. It doesn't succeed. The characters are barely two-dimensional, yet alone three dimensional. The prose is lost in a morass of marginal grammar and insipid tangental thoughts.
Blues references throughout the novel are meant to impress the reader with a 'look-at-me-I-know-what-the-blues-are' attitude. This fails totally and is insulting to true blues officianados. The last word of this novel's title is indicative of what the author knows of the blues: "Nothin'."
To be fair, perhaps the author will grow as a writer in future endeavors. Everyone is entitled to first novel jitters. Perhaps in a completely different genre this novel may have flourished. As horror, it didn't.
Don't be fooled by raves here from family and friends. Save your hard earned money on something with a little more substance and depth. Or, look in the Salvation Army book drop for a used copy.
One star for a pretty nifty looking cover. I can't say much for the interior.
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