Tuesday 31st March saw publication of the latest anthology from Charon Coin Press which will feature stories set in (ultimately) all fifty states in America. The state in this instance is Louisiana and the publishers received so many quality stories that the decision was made to produce two volumes in order to incorporate them all.
I'm glad they made that decision because it gave enough space to allow my story Indigo into Volume II. I can't tell you how chuffed I am to have made it to the final selection. Perhaps fate had a part to play in things - I'd already pretty much completed the story before I even knew that the market was open so it was too good an opportunity to miss not to submit. I'm glad I did - editor Jerry Benns is doing great things with the press and the series is taking off in a big way. It was a pleasure to work with him during the editing process and his enthusiasm for the whole process is apparent and infectious.( He has patience too - especially when dealing with prima donna writers banging on about timelines and tenses...)
I'm honoured, and a little amazed, at having been included. It was a bit of a risk writing a story in first person where the narrator is a character so very different to myself (a young, black blues musician in Depression-era America) so I guess it's validation of a sort that I did it well enough to be included in an American publication about a very American subject.
Music plays a big part in the story, was the reason I wrote it in the first place. Music has mystical properties, has its own powers over and above simple enjoyment and was a major force in the time period in which the story is set, bringing people together, providing an escape from the harsh reality that day to day life really was. In Indigo it provides something else too...
By way of appetite-whetting, here are the opening paragraphs. If I've tempted you to read further, you can buy the book (in real or electronic versions) here.
When Lowell Johnson took out his bottle-top slide, closed his eyes and began to play Indigo a hush fell over the room. While his fingers plucked out that twelve bar blues, the glass slid up and down the strings of his dobro like it was greased, bendin’ those notes into somethin’ more than they really was, somethin’ beautiful.
And then he began to sing, still he had his eyes closed, his deep, bass voice growlin’ out the words. It was like everyone was transfixed, hypnotised or somethin’ – the music took them away somewhere, somewhere different for everyone there but someplace good. Wasn’t like he was such a good singer all told, but it was the story he was tellin’, the words themselves, that held us all in rapture. The room was full of smoke and even it seemed to move in time with the music, driftin’ slowly here and there like clouds of ghosts.
He didn’t open his eyes all the way through that song and not for some time after. When he finished, no one clapped –at least for a moment or two, it was like we all needed time to come back from that place he’d taken us to. We did clap though, and the sound gained its own momentum, startin’ slow but buildin’ to a crescendo of noise. Everyone was smilin’, some was even laughin’, and that was somethin’ you didn’t hear a lot of – not in Briersville leastways.
Lowell nodded slowly in appreciation then got up to leave the stage. It was like somehow the playin’ of Indigo had took it out of him. At least that’s how I figured it at the time. Course, now I know the real reason.
Anyways, just a few moments after he’d gone, the whole place erupted back into life, like the moment had never happened. Much enjoyment was had by all, long into the night and, though there was plenty more music to come, none of it came from Lowell.
That was my first ever visit to Creoles and Mr Johnson had played Indigo. Seems like fate was playin’ her hand even then, right at the beginnin’.