Blues bass-player Martin Fender (Rock Critic Murders, Tough Baby), while waiting for a gig to pan out in L.A., agrees to Cyclone Davis's midnight recording session of a song that he claims will prove that Richard James, the legend, didn't die in that plane crash back in the `70's. But Cyclone is a no-show—murdered—and to get back to Austin, his home base, Martin accepts the task of backing up Dovie de Carlo, James's old girlfriend and a survivor of that fateful plane crash, who has made a career of rerecording James's old hits. This decision antagonizes Dovie's ex, the paranoid Nate, and puts Martin under surveillance of drug- enforcement agents, who have long sniffed around Dovie's entourage- -including her manager, Otis, who owns the rights to all the James material and who routinely uses Dovie as a punching bag. Why does she stick with Otis? Is Otis really Richard James? Several beatings and more deaths later, Martin establishes that plane's passenger list and the gory details of what happened when they landed. Excellent riff on the blues, club musicians, sound systems, and chord changes, but the hokey did-he-survive? scenario is an oft-played melody (see Bruce Cook's Death as a Career Move, p. 77). Martin, however, is an appealing, offbeat hero.
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