For blues aficionados, Goins provides a wealth of information on one of the underacknowledged masters of the Chicago sound.

BLUES ALL DAY LONG

THE JIMMY ROGERS STORY

Biography of blues guitarist Jimmy Rogers (1924-1997), who “created a truly enduring sound that has made a direct impact on every generation that followed.”

Without his association with Muddy Waters, Rogers might be just a musical footnote, an artist whose one hit, “Walking by Myself,” enjoyed minimal commercial success. However, as Goins (Director of Jazz/Kansas State Univ.; Emotional Response to Music: Pat Metheny’s Secret Story, 2001) reiterates throughout, Muddy Waters might not have been Muddy Waters without Rogers, whose guitar was integral to perhaps the finest band in the history of Chicago blues. As much as mercurial harmonica master Little Walter or, later, piano stylist Otis Spann, Rogers was integral to the development and popularity of Muddy’s music, complementing the raw Southern sound of the frontman’s vocals and slide guitar. Of the sound that the two guitarists developed together, the author writes, their “relationship…was somewhere between two ballet dancers and two heavyweight boxers. They could sling each other around the room and never lose faith in one’s ability to catch the other. They could throw hard jabs at each other yet never catch a blow to the body.” Goins never lapses into academic impenetrability, and he demonstrates an impressive passion and ear for the music. Particularly lively are his illumination of the bustling Maxwell Street scene and his analysis of the 1970s blues revival in Austin, Texas, and along the coasts, which brought Rogers out of early musical retirement to attain a popularity beyond anything he’d experienced before—as well as financial success, including royalties from the likes of Eric Clapton recording his songs. However, the book could use some judicious cutting and editing, since it seems to include everything that anyone ever said in print about Rogers, as well as the name of every musician, club owner and tour promoter with whom he worked.

For blues aficionados, Goins provides a wealth of information on one of the underacknowledged masters of the Chicago sound.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-252-08017-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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