(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Poor mannish boy, Danny, hear me singing straight at you
You know you sold your soul. And now
you’ve lost that
If you wanna earn your soul back, find where you’re money’s
Better get down to the crossroads like young Robert did…”
The name “Robert” is referring to early-twentieth century blues guitarist, Robert Johnson. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his tremendous guitar skill. “Danny”, well he’s the protagonist in this novel.
Forty-seven year old Daniel Erickson managed to save over a million dollars by screwing over up-and-coming recording artists. Now he owed that and more to a ruthless Russian mobster after a scheme gone sour . As the gangster’s enforcers accompany Daniel home to get in the safe that is supposed to hold all this money, they find that it’s all gone. In its place is a personalized blues song with lyrics suggesting how Daniel can get his money back.
Daniel manages to get away, though temporarily, from these thugs and makes his way across U.S. Highway 61 through the Mississippi Blues Trail and then to the Crossroads where he can hopefully get his money back. Instead, he finds another CD with more clues. This takes him on a scavenger hunt through American music’s major cities with blood-thirsty hit-men not far behind.
He takes us through New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle…and we visit the spots where legendary music studios like Sun, Stax, Chess, and Motown once stood. Names like Professor Longhair, Sam Phillips, Hank Williams, Alan Freed, Barry Gordy, Jr. pop up as we visit the birth places of commercial blues, country, the Memphis sound, the Philly sound, rock ‘n roll, punk and more. That, in addition to learning about Daniel’s failed marriage and this organized crime ring, all play into the story.
However, through all of this we can’t forget the ultimate questions, “Who is playing this dangerous game with him?”, “Will he survive in the end?”and if he does, “Will he somehow make up for his greedy past?”
This makes for a fascinating read that I couldn’t put down. The novel is both plot and character driven and well executed in both areas. The characters are well fleshed out and we know what makes them tick.
The problem I had with Blues Highway Blues was that too much territory was covered and so the history and significance of these cultural landmarks were just touched upon. I think this would have been better served if author Eyre Price cut out most of the locations and saved them for another book. I can’t tell you which ones though, as I wanted him to go into more depth at each stop. As a long-time fan of the Blues and R & B I was well aware of these musical icons and history.
However, I still recommend Blues Highway Blues for the crime and cat-and-mouse story . Fans of those music genres who are not familiar with the history will be enticed to research further. So I still think that both American music lovers and fans of crime fiction will enjoy this novel. In fact, I think I will look out for more books by this author.