"[...]Williams keeps perfect rhythm with everything he sets in motion: the identity conflicts, the grind of the tour, the danger of being discovered as frauds, and the questionable future of the duo. [T]he amiable voice of Peter [...] guides the reader from the passenger seat of the duo’s styling ’76 Fleetwood Brougham, to the ephemeral privacy offered by a hotel room, to the damp hardwood of the stage: “And when it seems we can’t push past the limits True Delta Blues imposes on us, Ben says, ‘Blow Sam,’ and allows me a solo of two choruses. I push those notes around like they looked at my woman and need a reminder not to try that shit again.” Tense, thoughtful, and funny, this novel will leave readers floating from the show, ears ringing and hearts racing."
Mel Bosworth, HTMLGiant
"While this is a road-trip story, it’s also a more profound experiencea sometimes sardonic, sophisticated take on race in America, on fame, on mostly white artistic wannabe’s and acolytes co-opting black experience. [...] With allusions to cultural touchstones from Elvis to Robert Johnson, from Cosby to Oscar Wilde, Williams’ metaphorical tale addresses the dualities African-Americans navigate in the American cultural maze while also dealing with the truths we all tell ourselves and the truths we let others see. Part elegy, part master-student story, part road-trip Americana, Williams riffs on the dichotomy between appearance and reality."
"A splendid journey of a lifetime spent on the roadand the toll that it takes[...]turn[ing] a difficult life into something quite joyous. Williams gets the details right too, such as searching for clothes in “two-for-a-dollar” bins in tacky stores. A humorous, picaresque blue note of a novel."
June Sawyers, Booklist
"Don’t Start Me Talkin’ is a rambling adventure filled with topnotch musical references, vivid storytelling, and astute cultural analysis."
“Tom Williams’ Don’t Start Me Talkin’ reminds me of why I started reading in the first placeto be enchanted, to be carried away from my world and dropped into a world more vivid and incandescent. Here is a heartfelt and irresistible novel about the Last True Delta Bluesman, Brother Ben, and his steadfast harp player, Silent Sam. Williams handles this ironic tale of the Blues, race, pretense, and life on the road, with intelligence, grace, and abiding tenderness. Read this remarkable and exhilarating novel, friend, and I promise you’ll start reading it slowly so it won’t ever end.”
John Dufresne, author of No Regrets, Coyote
“A master storyteller, Tom Williams enters the living history of Delta Blues and emerges with his own thrilling tall tale, alive with American music, American legend, American heart.”
Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods
“Tom Williams writes like Paul Auster might if he were funnier or like Stanley Elkin might have if he'd ever been able to stop laughing. Darkly charming.”
Steve Yarbrough, author of The Realm of Last Chances
“Tom Williams’ Don’t Start Me Talkin’ takes the wheel of a coffee-brown ’76 Fleetwood Brougham, settles you into its supple leather seats, and tours a world of fried meat and plush polyester through smoky juke jointsa must read for fans of low down sounds everywhere.”
Preston Lauterbach, author of The Chitlin’ Circuit and The Road to Rock ’n’ Roll
Williams (The Mimic's Own Voice, 2011) hits the road with bluesmen Brother Ben and Silent Sam. "[S]moking dynamite and drinking TNT," Brother Ben makes magic moaning the blues and slide-fingering a beat-up guitar. Ben, the last "True Delta Bluesman," works with sideman Silent Sam Stamps, who wrings a blues harp till it cries like his hero, Sonny Boy Williamson. Brother Ben is Wilton Mabry, his real identity employed as the name of the pair's parsimonious manager. Silent Sam is Peter Owens, a Big Ten cum laude graduate, middle-class boy captured by the blues wailing on Detroit radio direct from the Delta. In the year 2000, working to keep the Brother Ben legend alive with a 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and thrift store two-for-a-dollar polyester flares and iridescent shirts, the duo leave Los Angeles and wander coast to coast playing roots music. Brother Ben's fans bring him pints of Old Crow, but Ben prefers steamed vegetables, green tea, brown rice and his Volvo. For talkative, curious Peter, Silent Sam's also an act, all shuffle and jive, yas suh, while worrying "[t]hat the act doesn't ruin how much the music means to me." While this is a road-trip story, it's also a more profound experience—a sometimes-sardonic, sophisticated take on race in America, on fame, on mostly white artistic wannabes and acolytes co-opting black experience. There's the Canadian investor replicating a Delta juke joint in Las Vegas; and Audrey and April, attempting to bed every circuit-riding blues musician; and the poseur rappers, N2K Posse, sampling Brother Ben for their hook. With allusions to cultural touchstones from Elvis to Robert Johnson, from Cosby to Oscar Wilde, Williams' metaphorical tale addresses the dualities African-Americans navigate in the American cultural maze while also dealing with the truths we all tell ourselves and the truths we let others see. Part elegy, part master-student story, part road-trip Americana, Williams riffs on the dichotomy between appearance and reality.