Keith Crossan is one of the best blues sax players in creation. I first became aware of him during the years he played with Tommy Castro, but these days he’s got his own band and recently cut a new record.
My wife Patrica Smith, one of the greatest poets working in English, and I finally met Keith on a Blues Cruise last fall, and he graciously took the stage with her, backing up her performance of Map Rappin’, a poem about John Coltrane. A few lines:
Don’t play me that way
The way the saxman plays his woman,
blowing into her mouth until she cries,
allowing her no breath of her own.
As readers familiar with my writing know, Liam Mulligan, the hero of my crime novels, is a big blues fan — and so am I.
‘“Why the blues?” Mulligan asks himself in the next novel, The Dread Line, which will be published next fall. “Why was I always drawn to music about hard times at the bottom of a shot glass? The music of the scorned and shattered. At the end of most every day—even the ones that didn’t involve shaking a tail, tracking down thieves, or staring at a broken body—I’d lean back with a glass of something bitter and drown in Koko Taylor’s growl, Buddy Guy’s soulful riffs, or the vibing wire of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar. Just like my dad did before the cancer took him. He’d come through the door, exhausted from another day of delivering milk, put a scratchy Son Seals album on the turntable, pull out his Comet harmonica, and play along. Like him, I belonged to the downtrodden tribe that turns misery into music—the kind of music that warns us what the world is like and steels us against it. My old job as an investigative reporter, like my new one as a detective, was to probe the dark hearts we pray against. I’d locked eyes with murderers. Wondered, more than once, if something rotten was eating away at me, turning me into the very thing that I fear. Then the twang of a blues guitar would fill the room, preaching that even in the darkest of times, the idea of light exists—and that the purpose of life is just to live it.”
A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva is the fourth in my Edgar Award-winning series of hardboiled crime novels featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, R.I. The novel has received rave reviews in The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and a host of other publications. You can order any of the books in the series from independent or chain online bookstores by following this link.