Blog

Friday Blues Fix Interview with Author Ed Baldwin

 

Friday Blues Fix posted an interview with Ed Baldwin, author of the newly released novel Sliding Delta, on Friday August 12.  This weekly in depth look at the world of blues music, musicians, and events originates from Oxford, Mississippi and is a useful tool for anyone who enjoys or is curious about this most basic of American music forms.  What’s new?  Who is?  Who was?

Praising Sliding Delta as the best book he’s read this year, editor Graham Clarke says blues fans will be hooked by the engaging story and characters.  His Ten Questions include why Baldwin chose Mississippi John Hurt as the centerpiece for the story and did Baldwin witness any of the racial tensions described in the story.

Go to Friday Blues Fix for the whole interview and some nifty links to music mentioned in Sliding Delta.

Fridaybluesfix

Bonded Bourbon: The Secret!

There is some really expensive Bourbon on the top shelf at the liquor store these days.  Most of it has a story, something about some old guy back in the 1800’s who made whiskey, “and we still do it that way today.”  Bullshit.

Five big distillers using a handful of slightly different mash recipes to fill 40,000 gallon industrial fermenters that feed into giant steam distillation towers make virtually all the Bourbon whiskey in the world.  There are some newbies starting up whiskey distilleries, but most of them buy made whiskey from one of the big boys.  That’s not all bad.  Copper pot distillation in small batches is a sure fire strategy for extreme variability of product.  Ethyl alcohol boils at around 78 degrees Celsius.  If you vary from that you get a bunch of other organic chemicals you don’t want.  That’s why moonshine has a reputation for terrible hangovers.

Notice that your Bourbon was distilled in one place and aged and bottled in another.  Hmm.  The distiller buys white oak barrels with mild, medium, or heavy charring inside from a handful of cooperages in Missouri and Kentucky, fills them with raw whiskey and ships them to the warehouses.  They must age for 3 years; most age longer.  Some over 10 years.  I think Bourbon that old tastes like creosote, and it is really expensive.   Bottlers blend whiskey from different years and mash recipes to achieve a desired taste.  They can even add plain alcohol and who knows what else.   But, not if it’s bonded.

Bonded Bourbon is an anachronism; put in place by the federal government before prohibition to have a standard of quality.  It must be distilled in the same distillery, by the same distiller, in the same year.  It must age under government supervision in a bonded warehouse for four years, and it must be bottled at 100 proof.  That’s a challenge for the distiller and bottler to maintain quality year to year without blending.

Before the “story” Bourbons were created by ad agencies, bonded was the discriminator of top shelf whiskey.  Now a tidal wave of fresh whiskey comes into the warehouses and the market decides what will become of it.  Some sits for four years and is bottled in bond under one of the old brands.  They are now bottom shelf; cheaper; lower margin.  Bottlers age, move barrels around in the warehouse, bottle at barrel proof,  bottle single barrel, blend, and do who knows what else to add perceived value to whiskey.  Higher margin, more profit.  OK.

I drink Manhattans.  You don’t want to put $70 Bourbon in a Manhattan, but you do want 100 proof.  Buy bonded.  I drink Bourbon on the rocks.  I don’t want a story, I want whiskey.  I want to sip my Old Grand-Dad and then refill with some J.T.S. Brown and compare, knowing that any differences would be from mash bill or what they did with the barrels in the warehouse.  I think J.W. Dant is a bit harsh, Old Forester is wonderful, but the bottle I found in a liquor store in Kentucky for $22 may be the last of the breed.  It’s now called Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond, and it’s $50.  Jim Beam, the ultimate bottom shelf Bourbon just came out with a bottled in bond.  It’s been in the same warehouse with the Old Grand-Dad, but it costs $7 more.  J.T.S. Brown rested with J.W. Dant, Evan Williams, Old Fitzgerald, and Henry McKenna in the Heaven Hill warehouse.  I haven’t gotten through taste testing them all, but I will.  You have to look to find bottom shelf bonded Bourbon.  In my opinion, it’s still the good stuff.

Blues Bytes Magazine to review Sliding Delta in August

Blues Bytes Magazine is an online source for everything about blues music; especially new music by current blues artists, performances, clubs, and memorabilia.  Graham Clarke, who writes most of the music reviews has just completed a review of my new novel Sliding Delta for the August edition, due out in less than a month.  Here is an excerpt:

“…readers will almost feel the intense humidity of a Mississippi summer, smell fish frying, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the juke joints where the blues is being played.”

There is much more to the review and much, much more in Blues Bytes Magazine.

 

Sliding Delta Published! And Free!

 

SLIDING DELTA is finally released and will be FREE to download from Amazon for the next two days; Friday and Saturday.  Get one!  SLIDING DELTA is a quest to find legendary musician Mississippi John Hurt and learn to pick the Delta blues that takes a Chicago college boy south of Memphis in the summer of 1965.

Why give ’em away?  As an independent author, book reviews on the Amazon web site are the strongest marketing tool I have.  My market is a huge universe of readers who read a lot, sometimes a book a day.  They browse for bargains, subscribe to blogs that alert them to the fiction they like, and then judge the books by the cover, the blurb, and other reader’s comments.  Until I get a couple dozen reviews I’m at a disadvantage.  So, get a book and give me a review.  Not a literary type?  Afraid your high school English teacher wouldn’t approve?  Don’t worry about it.  Just go to the reviews section below the details about the book and hit the button next to that box.  Rate it and put in what you liked or didn’t like about it.  Thanks.

Now, I know I should have a button with an active link to the Amazon page, but I can’t make that work.  I’ve killed the whole damn morning and I’ve already set up the freebie for tomorrow and want to get the word out, so while I work with my web designer I’m going to ask you to copy the link into your browser.  I’m a dunce.

Click Here to receive Sliding Delta for Free!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Books! Get Your Copy of BOOKMAN Today!

For the next two days Bookman will be available for download on Amazon for free, nada, zip.  This promotion is offered to direct attention to my first novel, published 25 years ago, because I’m returning to my Southern fiction roots with Sliding Delta.  This is my best work and scheduled for release June 1st.  If you like Memphis in 1965, Delta blues music, the Civil Rights struggle, Beale Street, Mississippi, and Arkansas, then you need to have a look at the promo for Sliding Delta.  Or, just click on the Bookman link on my writings page.

Novel SLIDING DELTA published in Europe!

SLIDING DELTA was published in Europe this week and the 234 page paperback will be featured by Amazon Europe.  The U.S./Canada release date for paperback and electronic Kindle edition is June 1st.  Releasing a book in Europe first is like opening a play on the road to tune it up, get some reviews and build enthusiasm for the big Broadway opening.  I will have galley proofs to send out for reviews, and hope to get some early feedback from European readers.  In spite of proofreading by three editors and myself there might still be some typos.  And, I can always decide to change the ending.  Kindle versions can be pre-ordered now and will load to your Kindle or other reading device automatically on June 1st.  Another advantage of doing it this way is that when all those pre-orders load the book will hit the best seller list right away.  The big publishers have played the book release game this way for generations, so now I am too.  I’m giving away 10 copies on Goodreads.   https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/176057-sliding-delta

SLIDING DELTA: Fiction Compared to John Irving’s Best!

Initial reviews of bestselling author Ed Baldwin’s new book SLIDING DELTA are favorable.

“This is a piece of fiction reminiscent of some of John Irving’s most memorable work. The characters are finely drawn, the descriptions of place and time — the racially charged Sixties in the Deep South — are spot on, and the vulnerable experiences of a young man still searching for his life’s direction will ensure that you read until the last word.”– PUBLISHER’S DAILY REVIEWS

Delta blues music, social turmoil, and a love story; who could want more in a steamy Southern tale?  Look for it in June.

Sliding Delta: The Adventure Of Delta Blues Music

SLIDING DELTA is a quest to find legendary musician “Mississippi” John Hurt and learn to pick the Delta blues that takes a Chicago college boy south of Memphis in the summer of 1965.  The manuscript is edited and in formatting.  Here is the cover.  Steve Meosky, the cover artist who did all the Boyd Chailland adventure novels, created the cover from a Joe Alper photo of John Hurt taken in 1964.  Galley proofs will be available in a few weeks.  Those interested in reviewing send me an email.

“Delta blues taste like sweat and cheap whiskey, smell like jail, and sound best in a concrete block club with no windows, set back along the river where there’s no law after dark.”

 

How to buy an oriental rug

When Becky and I were in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia in November, 2013 researching my novel The Mingrelian we bought this rug.  I’d been there in 1998 on a military exchange trip and wanted to see what had changed (a lot).  Part of the story I was writing revolved around the protagonist, Boyd Chailland meeting his espionage contact at a rug shop.  We visited the shop and I wrote the part based on what I saw.  I’ve bought a few Central Asian tribal rugs over the years and was interested in getting one from Georgia.  They have a small rug making area south of Tbilisi, the skill probably dating from Georgia being occupied by both the Persian and Ottoman empires.  They told me this rug was 100 years old, but they always say rugs are old, as Americans like antiques.  Why would someone own a rug for 100 years and not walk on it?  Anyway, this one looked unique and I liked it, but it was torn.  They wanted $4oo for it.  We dickered.  They agreed to sell it for $300, and repair it for $100.  I told them if they’d ship it to Arkansas for that we had a deal.  They did.  I’ve found rug merchants in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia to be more honest than rug merchants in the U.S.  I’ve been screwed over twice buying rugs here.  If a rug merchant has a shop and a Visa and MasterCard account, that’s the way to buy.  Take a picture of your purchase, let them arrange shipping to your home and if it doesn’t arrive, reverse the sale.  I trust MasterCard to handle the exchange rates.  I love the rug.  It looks new and smells like it might have been in a pile of old rugs in some rug shop for a few generations.  I put it under my pool table so the sun doesn’t shine on on.  Never leave an Asian rug in sunlight.  They will fade.

Mingo River

That’s the Mingo River behind me.  It’s part of the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Stoddard County in the Bootheel of Southeast Missouri.  Geologists tell us that 25,000 years ago this muddy slough was the main channel of the Mississippi River!  It’s named after a group of Iroquois speaking Seneca and Cayuga Indians that moved into the area in the 1830’s on their way from Ohio to Oklahoma. The Mingo would be a lot larger today if the water inflow into it were not blocked by the Castor River Diversion Channel, beginning about ten miles north of this spot and diverting runoff from the Ozark Mountains into the Mississippi River fifty miles to the east.  That’s part of the Little River Drainage District, the largest drainage project in the United States, and it drains 500 square miles of what was impenetrable swamp but is now the best farm land in the world.  That story, beginning with those Indians is the subject of my next book.  In my last post I showed what some of that land looks like today.  I was going to call the book  Bootheel, but I think Mingo River sounds better.

If any of my Bootheel friends have old family tales that have been passed down from their ancestors about the draining of the swamp, give me a call or send me an email.  This will be historical fiction, so names would be changed.  Shamelessly using other people’s stories is what we authors do.  We call it research.