Ray Richard – Fallen Fret.
Legendary figures swirl throughout the plot of of this work of fiction that revolves around two sisters, each trying to make it through music. The older sibling, Sarah O’Malley, writes about music for several music publications while trying to stay ahead of housing issues and a publisher growing increasingly agitated as she waits for Sarah to finish her book on Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. The sticking point is the final chapter, in which Sarah wants to prove that a long-whispered-about session between the two giants actually did take place.
Her research takes her to Chaz Russell, known as the King of the String Benders, who played along side Otis Rush in the Muddy Waters Band. Long rumored to have been part of the late-night Hendrix – Davis session, Russell may hold the key to unraveling the mystery. The writer also mentions her sister, Liz, is looking to join a band after developing guitar skills while serving prison time for being an unwitting partner in her then-boyfriend’s bank robbery. Russell heads for some gigs in New Orleans, where he suffers damage to his hand while fending off an attempt to steal his custom guitar. “Thelma” was built by the renown luthier Johnny Durrell, whose character parallels that of Wayne Henderson, a real-life master guitar builder.
Temporarily unable to play his instrument, the String Bender hires Liz to fill in until he recovers. From there the story spins several plot lines as Sarah continues to track down any lead on the Hendrix-Davis connection while Russell and Liz head to Durrell’s workshop to get Liz a new guitar. Once she has “Jasper” in her hands, the band heads to Maine for a major appearance at a festival that strongly resembles promoter Paul Benjamin’s North Atlantic Blues Festival. While Liz is unwinding after late-night revelries, her guitar is stolen, setting off a chain of events as the sisters join forces to try to track down the instrument thief and nail down hard evidence of the legendary jam.
Assistance comes from a prostitute and former thief who has seen the light, a record producer eager to make big bucks on music from the Hendrix– Davis collaboration, a stoned out hippie guitar collector and her bodyguard boyfriend. Liz also tries to form a band with a disparate trio of female players, an effort that crashes & burns in short order. The band briefly adopts the name Strictly Blue, which suddenly changes on the following page to Simply Blue without any explanation, then back to the first name in the next paragraph.
The author certainly has enough plot elements to fashion a solid mystery. But the character development, particularly for the O’Malley sisters, fails to move them beyond some basic traits and emotions to the point where readers would become invested in their characters. The book’s denouement over the last three pages comes across as a weak attempt to bring closure to the various plot elements. The story-line deserved a stronger finish.