Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul

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Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul

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Buy Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: Thin Blue Smoke is an engrossing, original and elegant slice of life story, and comes highly recommended to everyone.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Macmillan New Writing
ISBN: 978-0230737082

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The name of the place is LaVerne Williams' Genuine BBQ and City Grocery, but everyone calls it 'Smoke Meat' because – even though LaVerne Williams' Genuine BBQ and City Grocery is hand-painted in red letters on the restaurant's front window – outside, over the front door painted right on the bricks, are the words SMOKE MEAT in big white capital letters about two feet tall.

So begins Thin Blue Smoke a novel about music, food and love. To try and better explain what it's about in the short space of this review would be like trying to tell my life story in a side of A4, but here goes.

Smoke Meat is a barbecue joint unlike any other. Famous for not serving fries, never the less it has a loyal group of regulars who frequent it, among them Ferguson Glen, a one time literary star and Episcopal priest who loves God, women and whisky (though not necessarily in that order), 'Mother' Mary Weaver, blues legend and Del James, a near deaf sculptor.

The various threads of each character's story meet and intertwine under the roof of Smoke Meat. At the centre of it all are LaVerne Williams and his right hand man A.B. Clayton, LaVerne, a former baseball player and felon, A.B. a young man who knows nothing but barbecue and gets the hiccups when he's nervous. Thin Blue Smoke charts their trials and successes, in both their pasts and presents, exploring along the way faith, race, love, baseball, music and which city proudly boasts the best barbecue technique.

With the most colourful cast of characters I've ever encountered in a single book, Thin Blue Smoke has plenty to keep you interested and entertained. I know nothing about barbecue (literally, I'm a vegetarian) and next to nothing about baseball or God, but Worgul has a gift for incorporating information in his prose without overburdening it. There is no dreary exposition – he keeps a careful balance between sharing his passions with his readers and not being preachy. I know more now about barbecue than I ever imagined I would, yet I don't feel like I've been lectured on it.

Incredibly funny at times, heart-rending at others, Thin Blue Smoke never falters in its gritty honesty, which is what makes it so powerful. It jumps around a lot, from the childhoods of LaVerne and A.B., to the tumultuous late sixties, to current events, which leaves the reader in danger of getting lost. But each chapter is like its own anecdote, making the book feel rather like a series of short stories connected by the various characters that appear in each. As the threads of the story come together it builds up a picture of not only the lives of the characters, but the time, the community and their shared history.

Thin Blue Smoke is an engrossing, original and elegant slice of life story, and comes highly recommended to everyone, even if you aren't a fan of barbecue.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

If you enjoy books about music, you might like High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, for another great book with a food theme, try Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

Buy Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul at Amazon.com.

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