Three recommendation from man-about-town W. Lane...
Stephen Calt, I'd Rather Be The Devil: Skip James & The Blues
"Skip James (1902–1969) was perhaps the most creative and idiosyncratic of all blues musicians. Drawing on hundreds of hours of conversations with James himself, Stephen Calt here paints a dark and unforgettable portrait of a man untroubled by his own murderous inclinations, a man who achieved one moment of transcendent greatness in a life haunted by failure. And in doing so, Calt offers new insights into the nature of the blues, the world in which it thrived, and its fate when that world vanished." -Chicago Review Press
"This is the real thing. I drink up every word. This and Calt’s life of Charlie Patton are the best books ever written on the subject of old-time blues." —R. Crumb
Jack Black, You Can't Win
"A legendary book, bestseller in 1926, and hovering at the edge of our memory since; the favorite book of William Burroughs. A journey into the hobo underworld, freight hopping around the still Wild West, becoming a highwayman and member of the yegg (criminal) brotherhood, getting hooked on opium, doing stints in jail, or escaping, often with the assistance of crooked cops or judges. Our lost history revived. Includes a new afterword by Bruno Ruhland, who tells what became of Jack after the book was written (he gave up the outlaw life and moved to San Francisco), and an essay by Jack Black called "What's Wrong with the Right People," which was originally published in Harper's. With an introduction by William Burroughs." -AK Press
Oakley Hall, Warlock
"Oakley Hall’s legendary Warlock revisits and reworks the traditional conventions of the Western to present a raw, funny, hypnotic, ultimately devastating picture of American unreality. First published in the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era, Warlock is not only one of the most original and entertaining of modern American novels but a lasting contribution to American fiction. " NYRB
"... in ‘59 we simultaneously picked up on…Warlock, by Oakley Hall. We set about getting others to read it too, and for a while had a micro—cult going. Soon a number of us were talking in Warlock dialogue, a kind of thoughtful, stylized, Victorian Wild West diction...
Tombstone, Arizona, during the 1880’s is, in ways, our national Camelot: a never-never land where American virtues are embodied in the Earps, and the opposite evils in the Clanton gang; where the confrontation at the OK Corral takes on some of the dry purity of the Arthurian joust. Oakley Hall, in his very fine novel Warlock has restored to the myth of Tombstone its full, mortal, blooded humanity. Wyatt Earp is transmogrified into a gunfighter named Blaisdell who … is summoned to the embattled town of Warlock by a committee of nervous citizens expressly to be a hero, but finds that he cannot, at last, live up to his image; that there is a flaw not only in him, but also, we feel, in the entire set of assumptions that have allowed the image to exist… . Before the agonized epic of Warlock is over with—the rebellion of the proto-Wobblies working in the mines, the struggling for political control of the area, the gunfighting, mob violence, the personal crises of those in power—the collective awareness that is Warlock must face its own inescapable Horror: that what is called society, with its law and order, is as frail, as precarious, as flesh and can be snuffed out and assimilated back into the desert as easily as a corpse can. It is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes Warlock one of our best American novels. For we are a nation that can, many of us, toss with all aplomb our candy wrapper into the Grand Canyon itself, snap a color shot and drive away; and we need voices like Oakley Hall’s to remind us how far that piece of paper, still fluttering brightly behind us, has to fall.”
— Thomas Pynchon
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