"You don't need to go to the crossroads to make a deal with the devil. The crossroads will come to you."
So says award-winning author and journalist Charles Shaar Murray of his first ever novel, The Hellhound Sample. Off we trooped to the Archway Road crossroads in north London on Wednesday for his combined book launch and 60th birthday celebration at the trendy Boogaloo, haunt of many a cult muso and rock-chick supermodel in north London.
The Hellhound Sample, is published by Headpress in July. It's a handsome beast with a fab photo-mosaic cover of our favourite icons from Bessie Smith to Marlon Brando, the book being a supernatural epic taking in three generations of black American musicians. Charles draws on his extensive knowledge from a 40-year career as "the rock journalist's rock journalist" and biographer of blues legend John Lee Hooker, to weave a vivid tale of the blues. Whatever happened to those who followed in Robert Johnson's footsteps down at the crossroads?
It's a potent mix of secrets, nightmares and lies, spanning decades and continents. James "Blue" Moon has one last chance to escape the hellhound on his trail ... if the cancer doesn't get him first.
Deborah Grabien, creator of the successful JP Kinkaid stories, says:
Charles Shaar Murray has given us a phenomenal story ... It achieves something rare in fiction: it makes you feel and it makes you wonder.
Charles read an extract from the book (see video above) and was then interviewed by another legend of the counter-culture, John Sinclair. John was a major figure in the American underground of the 1960s and 70s. He managed the proto-punk Detroit rabble-rousers MC5 band, supported the Black Panthers and formed the White Panther party in solidarity, and was then arrested by a narc who'd bummed a couple of joints off him and sentenced to 10 years in prison. This sparked a wave of protest from the left, with John Lennon recording the song, "John Sinclair" on his album, "Some Time In New York City".
The author said that, while it's not exactly a roman a clef, there were elements of several well-known music figures in the characters. F'rinstance, "Blue" Moon's house is based on John Lee Hooker's gaff where Charles stayed while talking to the great man for his biography, Boogie Man. And Mick Hudson's music company office in Soho Square was modelled on Paul McCartney's. There. You were told here first.
The evening ended with a set by Charles's band, Crosstown Lightnin' (a video of which I'll be posting later), and a fab encore where the band was joined onstage by Gary Lammin, Peter Conway and John who recited some of his poetry to a medley of Bo Diddley.
It was a fine way to spend an evening and I had the headache the next day to prove it.
Pix and video by Anna Chen.
Charles Shaar Murray writes.
More pix at Headpress.