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Book Review: Tishomingo Blues

by Lang Reid

Elmore Leonard is a thriller writer with 39 books to his credit, according to the blurb in this week’s book, and Tishomingo Blues (ISBN 0-06-008394-8) is his latest, published this year in paperback format by HarperTorch.

It is set in Tunica Mississippi and has two main characters, one an Afro-American confidence trickster in a black Jaguar car and the other a none too bright high diver, who may have dived just once too often.

The rest of the characters include some shady ex-local police officers, a federal agent and some other successful real estate developers. Throw in a handful of tarts working out of trailer homes, some long suffering wives, some fading divorcees and a TV anchor lady with a double barrelled surname and you have most of the cast.

The background is set in the context of the American Civil War with re-enactors coming together to re-live (or to die) the (in)glorious days of the Rebel Yell. Our high diver witnesses a shooting, and decides to hush his mouth. The story goes on from there until two thirds of the characters are shot as well.

Tishomingo Blues review copy was supplied by Bookazine, with an RRP of 350 baht, but should be available in all major bookstores. The first four pages of rave reviews are, for this reviewer at least, somewhat of a worry. Am I the only one in the army out of step? I cannot say that I could describe it as “A voyeuristic rush that just won’t quit” (Baltimore Sun) or “Grade A, comic characters and hilarious scenes” (Denver Rocky Mountain News) and four pages more. Newsweek described it as “The coolest, darkest, funniest, most serpentine and surprising thriller to date from the best writer of crime fiction alive.” I’m sorry, I did not find it funny, thrilling or voyeuristic. For me it was more of a bore with most unlikely characters and some gratuitous sex thrown in (for the voyeurs)?

Then I look again at the spine of the book which proudly proclaims it to have been the “New York Times Best Seller” and nagging self-doubts come in again. If they loved it, why didn’t I? Perhaps it is because I am not an American, and I know I do not share the American style of humour? TV sit-coms and canned laughter have never been my bag - Strike One. The American Civil War will also mean much more to Americans than for other nationalities - Strike Two.

Finally, the publishers have managed to produce the definitive biodegradable book. The paper used is so thin that you can feel the pages turning to leaf mulch as you hold them, and the ink fade as you read. You won’t be able to pass it on to someone else, the pages will have self-destructed. Strike Three - I think I’m out!

As an ‘airport novel’ it probably is fine. It does not tax the brain cells, you can put it down very easily when the hostess brings the next session of soggy sandwiches, and you won’t be shattered if you forget and leave it in the seat pocket.


Music CD Reviews: Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman - Jabberwocky

by Mott the Dog

***** 5 Stars Rating

Ah... the concept album, although not actually invented by Progressive Rock, it must go down as the responsibility of people like The Pretty Things with ‘S.F. Sorrow’, or The Who with ‘Tommy’ when they were called Rock Operas. Concept albums suit the genre of Progressive Rock so well, they were made for each other.

The story of the ‘Jabberwocky’ has been set to music by two of Britain’s finest rock musicians. Clive Nolan, the leader of both Arena and Pendragon, who, although well respected in the realms of rock, has never quite reached the international acclaim he should have, and Oliver Wakeman, who has obviously inherited all father Rick’s skills, and then some.

To bring this project to reality, they have surrounded themselves with some of the finest musicians of their ilk including Bob Catley, ex of Magnum, who plays the part of the Jabberwocky’s adversary, ‘The Boy’. Tracy Hitchings of Langmarq, whose distinctively clear vocal style suits the role of story telling, plays the love interest that the lovers fight over. James Plumridge relishes the part of the ‘Jabberwock’, putting real venom and malice into his voice. Paul Allison plays the part of the ‘Magic Tree’ with Gandalf style wisdom, and Rick Wakeman has been pulled into to the Richard Burton role of narrator, which he pulls off with great aplomb. The four singers work together best in the more frantic sections of the saga, when they are all wrestling vocally to get their part of the story over. Now, where could you find four more talented vocalists to play these whimsical parts?

However, no matter how good the vocals are, it is the musicians that shine through, telling their own story. Having both Nolan and Wakeman as leaders of the project obviously leads the music to be very keyboard orientated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t leave room for the other musicians to sparkle - far from it.

Tony Fernandez’ drum and percussion work is superb, especially on ‘The Forrest’, where the relentless tribal drumbeats are used to positive effect over a repetitive choral chant that quite chills the blood (it would make the perfect backdrop to any horror movie).

Pete Gee, Nolan’s band mate in Pendragon, handles all the bass parts in the story, often playing as a lead instrument along with the keyboards or underpinning the vocal sections and allowing them to tell the story while keeping the music flowing.

But perhaps the real stroke of genius was to bring in the original progressive rock guitarist Peter Banks, the man who set the benchmark for all others to be judged. Ex ‘Yes’, ‘Flash’, ‘Blodwyn Pig’, ‘Empire’, and a startling solo career, he laid down a couple of his distinctive electric guitar solos on the two longest tracks on the album, ‘Dangerous World’ and the climax of ‘Call to Arms’, which add great variation to the proceedings, not to mention spine-tingling excitement.

The music starts out perfectly with a spoken introduction before we are acquainted with all the recurring themes of the concept during the ‘Overture’, before the storytelling starts in earnest. Each song opens up like the next chapter in a book, leading you through all the ups and downs of our heroes and villains, and a bit like a violent re-counting of Beauty and the Beast, before taking us to its dramatic conclusion and finale.

Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman are to be applauded for this marvelous work, especially for their own astounding keyboards, which throughout this hour’s worth of music twists from the pomp and glory of the Hammond organ to the wailing of the Moog synthesizer, the subtlety of the harpsichord and piano, not to mention the words and music they penned.

The sixteen-page booklet you get with this collection is worth the price alone. It includes complete lyrics, pictures of all the participants, and wondrous artwork by Rodney Matthews. If you want to know what a Jabberwock sounds like, you will just have to buy the album.

I will leave you with the final verse of Jabberwocky:

“Twas brillig and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All minsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths out grabe”.

Now perhaps you can see why I am so impressed. They managed to make head or tail of this, let alone put together a whole concept album.

I wonder if Jabberwocks like Dogs!

Musicians

Bob Catley - The Boy

Tracy Hitchings - The Girl

James Plumridge - The Jabberwock

Paul Allison - The Tree

Pete Gee - Fretless Bass

Clive Nolan - Keyboards

Oliver Wakeman - Keyboards

Ian Slamon - Guitar & Bass

Peter Banks - Guitars

Jon Jeary - Acoustic Guitar

Tony Fernandez - Drums

Rick Wakeman - The Narrator

Track Listing

1. Overture

2. Coming To Town

3. Dangerous World

4. The Forest

5. A Glimmer Of Light

6. Shadows

7. Enlightenment

8. Dancing Water

9. The Burgundy Rose

10. The Mission

11. Call To Arms

12. Finale

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]