Sunday, January 12, 2014

Alex Bledsoe

Alex Bledsoe grew up in west Tennessee an hour north of Graceland (home of Elvis) and twenty minutes from Nutbush (birthplace of Tina Turner). He has been a reporter, editor, photographer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He now lives in a Wisconsin town famous for trolls.

Bledsoe's new novel is He Drank, and Saw the Spider.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Since my Tufa novels (The Hum and the Shiver, Wisp of a Thing and the forthcoming Long Black Curl) involve the deep South both culturally and musically, I tend to always be reading books about both.

Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South by Patrick Huber was a brilliant, revelatory exploration of aspects of music I had never really explored: the birth of urban country, with sales driven by those former rural folks who migrated to the cities looking for work. Through this book, I learned about Fiddlin’ John Carson and his daughter Moonshine Kate, who will appear in Long Black Curl.

Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South by Mark Kemp covers the years just prior to my own awakening to the world of popular music, the late 60s and early 70s. One of its central observations took me totally by surprise: that, prior to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., music in the South was actually less segregated than it would be afterwards. King’s death, among its many other cultural ramifications, inspired black musicians to become their own producers, managers, songwriters and session musicians, something that had often been done by white people prior to that.

British author John Collis’s book Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran: Rock 'n' Roll Revolutionaries is an in-depth look at the two original rock and rollers, including a hugely detailed, almost show-by-show depiction of their final tragic UK tour (both were in a car wreck that killed Cochran and injured Vincent). This book actually changed what I had in mind for the plot of Long Black Curl, luckily before I’d written very much of it.

But I don’t read just nonfiction. And because I write books about music and musicians, people are always recommending other books about those topics. Roxy Gunn, a singer/songwriter/actress from Las Vegas, suggested Riding with the Queen by Jenny Shortridge. About a musician battling her demons and trying to reconnect with her family, it features a touch of the supernatural in the ghost of an old blues diva only the protagonist can see, and is so well-written that it just flows. I highly recommend it.

Another novel that had been recommended multiple times, but that I only just got around to reading, was Emma Bull’s classic War for the Oaks. It uses a lot of the same concepts I do--music as magic, fairies existing in the contemporary world--but in a wholly different way (and of course, she did it first). I’d put off reading it because I didn’t want to be influenced by it, but it does its own thing with such style and emotional impact that I’m sorry I waited so long.
Visit Alex Bledsoe's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Blood Groove.

The Page 69 Test: Burn Me Deadly.

The Page 69 Test: Wisp of a Thing.

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe (June 2103).

--Marshal Zeringue