I decided not to wait that long, though, to check back in with Roy. I have released a short story for kindle called "Stomp Boogie" that picks up where the novel left off. I invite you to check it out- I'm including an excerpt below. If you're not a kindler, Cross Road Blues is available in paperback and on several digital platforms.
Troy D. Smith
It was a slow night at Malcolm’s, but it was turning into a busy night for me.
Malcolm’s was a nightclub in downtown Nashville. It was located a few blocks west of Capitol Hill, on Charlotte Avenue, and was what folks around town called a “colored joint.” It was a place you could hear some live blues, and drink enough alcohol to drown out the live blues that passed for your life. Charlotte Avenue had always been sort of the border for black people there in the Athens of the South—north of that line was where us colored folks went after we washed your car or cleaned your house, to rest up sufficiently to repeat those edifying activities the next day.
When I was growing up, back in the ‘thirties, Charlotte Avenue was a hopping place for black entertainment and commerce, but since the war that stuff had mostly drifted a few blocks north, to Jefferson. Which should tell you something about Malcolm’s, and the kind of musicians that played there. They weren’t good enough to play in a real blues town like Memphis, or Up North in Chicago—and even in Nashville, they were in a joint that was set square where the good times used to be.
That’s where I come in. I am one of those musicians. I had been playing harp at Malcolm’s for a couple of years, backing up whatever bozo was on the payroll for entertainment on any particular night. And I’d played with some doozies, let me tell you. For most of that time I had been supporting my high-toned artistry by pumping gas in the daytime, a job I quit to go on tour with an up-and-coming—and as it turned out, batshit crazy—guitar player. Which is a story in itself. Let’s just say it didn’t work out like I planned.
Since then I’d been plugging away at a new day-job—owner, operator, and sole agent of the Mojo Detective Agency. And when I say day-job, I mean it more as a 24-hour activity. For the most part I spent the nights I wasn’t playing sets at Malcolm’s tailing adulterers, and sometimes getting a little side work from local insurance companies.
You know. Real Sam Spade stuff.
I hoped to someday make enough at one or the other of my little hobbies to afford an office somewhere. Or maybe a place to live, other than on my friend’s couch. One step at a time, as they say. And, undignified as my present way of life might seem, it sure as hell beat pumping gas.
So here I was at Malcolm’s, on a slow Wednesday night. I was at a corner table, nursing a whiskey sour like a crazy old lady on her last can of cat food. Partly I was waiting my next go on stage, but mostly I was working at my other job. I was just settling up with my most recent satisfied customer, a TV repairman who’d paid me to verify that his old lady had been switching somebody else’s dial. He was handing over enough dough to keep me in cigarettes and cheap bourbon for a spell.
I mentioned it was a busy night for me. Something had happened, soon after TV Tommy showed up at my table, that I had never before experienced since taking up this lucrative and exciting new profession. Rhodesia Bain, the walking mountain who served as bartender (no pun intended), came over to inform me that someone else was at the bar inquiring about my services. Two paying customers, living and breathing at the same time? Hot damn, at this rate I might be able to go back to chain-smoking.