Going Back to The Hilly Country…
…won’t be worried no more.
Time for the annual blog update…
Blues purists (alright, anoraks) will no doubt recognise the title as a line from High Water Everywhere Pt 1, by Charley Patton. A song which provides a tenuous link to my efforts in 2016 to market my novel, Fat Man Blues , and to record the kindness of strangers (and friends old and new that I have encountered both at home and abroad).
I live near the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. It may not have quite the blues heritage of North Mississippi (the place Mr Patton sang about), but blues parallels exist nonetheless.
When Charley Patton sang of “High Water Everywhere”, he was referring directly to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Here in Worcestershire, we’re no strangers to High Water, ask anyone who lives anywhere near the rivers Severn or Teme.
Upton upon Severn, for example, is a small village a few miles from Malvern, which floods with depressing regularity.
Upton also hosts an annual Blues Festival, which has grown from a small event in a couple of pubs into a festival that swamps the town with many thousands of music fans, two main stages, an acoustic stage, and ten pub venues creating over 100 performances in three days.
Last year, I was there hawking my wares and meeting great bunch of people, including local musician and self-described ‘One man kick ass band’, Tone Tanner . Check him out!
Ever since Fat Man Blues came out in paperback, my agent, Kizzy Thomson and I have been collaborating to tout it relentlessly, and we have been surprised to receive help from some unexpected quarters.
Jennifer Sinquefield, who lives just outside the Mississippi Delta, contacted me to tell me how much she enjoyed reading Fat Man Blues. This in itself was a kind gesture, but Jennifer took it several steps further by photographing her copy of the book at blues sites and blues icons across the Delta:
For a blues nut like me, these pictures are amazing and I’m eternally grateful to Jennifer for taking the time to create them. They also belong to Jennifer, so please be nice and ask permission if you want to use them.
Not only that, the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, now have Fat Man Blues adorning the bookshelves of their gift shop.
I’m extraordinarily proud of this. Visiting the blues museum has long been on my bucket list. Clarksdale is where the idea for Fat Man was “born” and it means a lot to me that my novel can be found in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, alongside books written by such eminent blues historians as Alan Lomax, Ted Gioia and Peter Guralnick. Huge thanks to Richard Crisman for making this happen.
If that wasn’t enough, I was approached by a lady from Las Vegas called Rita King, who told me that she loved my book. These kind words in themselves were great to hear, but imagine my excitement when I realised that Rita is the daughter of blues legend B.B. King!
I’ve also experienced similar acts of kindness closer to home in my own “hilly country”.
Malvern has a rich seam of writing talent and literary history. Malvern Writers’ Circle (of which I am proud to be a member) has been in existence since 1948, boasts a wealth of authors far more talented than I, and was once visited by J.B. Priestley. Also, one Peter Mark Roget (he of the thesaurus) is buried, entombed, interred, inhumed, covered and hidden in West Malvern.
In a tiny side street, just off Abbey Road, is Hunky Dorey , a cool little shop selling all manner of clothing, arty gifts and eclectic treasures. To celebrate their first anniversary of trading they held an open evening, and owners Sue Street and Anne Tompkins very kindly invited me to bring along a few copies and hold a book signing event.
This was great fun, and I met some very friendly and interesting people. Among the first to walk in were three ex-pat Brits based in Tenerife, one of whom said he used to play in several blues bands and knew Rory Gallagher – he bought three signed copies, so I believed him.
Hunky Dorey are now selling copies of Fat Man Blues, as are the Malvern Book Cooperative, a thriving little book shop in St. Anns Road, who are especially keen to promote the work of local authors like me.
If you ever visit Malvern, please search out these fine establishments, you won’t be disappointed.
I would like to thank once again, everyone who has helped me so far in the project that is Fat Man Blues. To meet so many people at home and abroad with such generosity of spirit, gives me hope and restores my faith in human nature.
Mississippi and Malvern. 4000 miles apart, and yet closer than you think.
That’s all for now, but stay tuned because it doesn’t end here…