FORGOTTEN BOOK: The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ by Tina L. Jens, 2002
This is the 120th in my series of Forgotten Books.
One of the nice things about doing a column like this is that I get to pick the books. I have an extensive collection which used to be much, much larger. But what I have left is stuff I enjoy. Quite a bit of it is by friends of mine.
Like this week’s book. I think it was Wayne Allen Sallee who introduced to the Red Lion Twilight Tales Reading Group about 20 years ago. We had met at a Louisiana convention, I believe through the auspices of Sidney Williams, another LA horror writer who might show up here one day. I did a lot of work in the Chicago area for a great many years so when I met up with the Red Lion group I found some kindred spirits and we got along wonderfully until my job went away and I did not go to Chicago 2 – 4 times a year anymore.
The leader of this robust writers’ group was a petite and feisty little blond lady named Tina Jens. We became great friends and palled around Chicago whenever I was there. She and her husband Barry live in a nice part of Chicago with hundreds of restaurants and clubs within walking distance. Of course, walking distance in Chicago is different from walking distance in Texas, particularly in the summer.
Tina and Barry love the blues and are known in every blues club for quite a ways from their house. I believe they would go every night and twice on Tuesdays if they could. Barry can play a passable guitar and Tina does not embarrass herself when she sings, two things that I cannot say truthfully about myself.
So, it is no wonder that when Tina turned to writing, the blues would figure into those stories. This novel is a fix up of several shorter pieces about the Lonesome Blues Pub in Chicago. The pub, in the first story “Preacherman Sings the Blues” is run by Miss Sarah, a feisty near-widow (her fiancée died playing a song for her in the rain when he was hit by lightning). Sarah did not even know she was pregnant at the time.
She bought the club and ran it herself. IT was a nice blues club with just one flaw. It was haunted by a spirit called Jayhawk, a bluesman named Billy Jay Hawkins who died in a fire at the club and haunts his old guitar. Players in the club have to play the first song with his crappy guitar or bad things happen.
Miss Sarah is assisted by her daughter Sally, or Little Mustang Sally, or Little Mustang, or just Mustang. She’s known by all these titles during the course of the book. At first she is 10 years, too young to be at the bar, much less serving which she does when no one is watching. Jayhawk serves as her guard and nanny on occasion.
We see her later as an 18 year old, wanting to stretch her muscles and play the blues, making choices with interesting ramifications. Later she comes to manage the bar and places a big sign on the door. “This club is haunted. If you are afraid of ghosts, go away.”
Odd things happen in the club. Various spirits of famous bluesman (and women) show up, take up residency and then move on. There are famous blues songs, some new ones, and some not so famous ones.
The stories are a lot of fun. They move well and they are filled with more blues information than you can get in a ten disc set. I’m not throwing out spoilers here because you should all enjoy it for yourself, fresh and new.
This book was published by The DesignImage Group in 2002. I’m willing to bet that most of you have never seen a copy, so it is pretty forgotten as far as I am concerned. Even if I did not know Tina, I would rave about this book. You should too. Copies can be found at the usual suspects online.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.