Author: Steve Marshall
Pages: 191 (E-books)
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Release Date: December 29, 2016
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion towards the book.
Lenny Ray led a calm life working for the Clarksdale distribution branch of Budweiser Beer. He had a nice home with not such a nice neighbour and a beautiful wife whom he loved. Unlike most men nowadays, he was proud that he had always been faithful to her, but a drink too many could be enough to change that and a bunch of other aspects of his life. One wrong drunken move was enough to turn him into a professional liar, a thief, a drug dealer… Who would guess the turns life could take?
The Johnson Blues was a really quick and entertaining read. What I loved about this book is that it was quite realistic. All the incidents that ruined Lenny’s calm, normal life were things that could happen to anyone, at any moment of our lives. This story was very focused on character arc and I think that it accomplished it perfectly. We get to follow Lenny through his descent into a “world of crime“, but at the same time we never loose track of his personality, of the innocent beer distributor who never thought that his life would take such a turn and plummet him into a life-or-death situation that could indeed destroy all that he knew and loved. This is really the most interesting idea of The Johnson Blues – a wrong decision can turn honest people into unwilling lawbreakers.
I also enjoyed the fact that, although connected to the main plot, we also get glimpses into other aspects of Lenny’s life such as the fact that Bertha, his wife, no longer wanted to have sex with him because she never got pregnant, and that his best friend Beebo showed up for dinner uninvited almost every night. These are intimate details that actually help a lot in building characters, making them more complex and realistic.
But most of all, The Johnson Blues was funny. I had a lot of good laughs while reading it, especially in the part where Reverend Wacker was addressed. I noticed some small critiques towards religion and the contradictory ways in which believers interpret the Bible, but these were always addressed with humour and, to be honest, they made a lot of sense.
There were very little things wrong with The Johnson Blues, but one thing that I questioned was Lenny’s naivety. He often mentioned that his best friend, Beebo, was rather stupid, but he was conned so easily that it’s quite fair to ask who’s the dumbest one. I understand that Lenny was desperate and that surely that can make people rush into decisions without thinking them through, but it kind of felt like stealing candy from a baby.
Another scene in the book that I think made Lenny look really stupid was when he and Bertha tried to adopt a child. Here’s a passage of the interview:
“Do you have any preference as to the sex?”
“Well,” Lenny Ray said, “I kinda like it when she gets on top but it’s all good,”
The room went deadly silent for a moment as Bertha Jean put her hand over her mouth.
“I was referring to the gender of the child,” Leona Fibbs finally said, her words encased in a heavy layer of frost.
I understand that the intention in this part was to make the reader laugh, but I think that this was the only part in the book when I actually thought “Well, now you went overboard!”
If you’re looking for a light read that will certainly keep you entertained and still give some food for thought, I definitely recommend The Johnson Blues! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as we follow Lenny through the perils of his new life. Plus, I bet you’ll be surprised by that awesome twist in the end ;)