Murder at the Crossroads by Doug MacLeod & Debra Schiff

Murder at the Crossroads
by Doug MacLeod & Debra Schiff



“Murder at the Crossroads” transports the traditional mystery into the world of blues music. It was cowritten by Doug MacLeod, a world-touring, award-winning blues musician, and Debra Schiff, author of “Murder to Scale.” This suspenseful story will resonate with music fans of all persuasions as well as diehard blues aficionados.

How does anyone make peace with the paths they choose at crucial “crossroads” in their lives? For Eddie Baker, a middle-aged Black man, those decisions are literally life-or-death matters.

As a teenager, he secretly witnesses the lynching of a civil rights worker in Mississippi in the early 1960s. He flees the dangers of the South to Chicago and is able to forge a career as a blues guitarist. But more than 30 years later, in 1992 Los Angeles, he is still haunted by the horrific act he was powerless to stop.

When a former Klansman is at long last prosecuted for the crime, Eddie reluctantly travels back to his Mississippi hometown for the trial. After the murder of the DA’s star witness, Eddie is pursued by someone who knows what he witnessed and wants him silenced forever.

“Murder at the Crossroads” provides an insider’s guide to the ups and downs of a struggling blues musician. Eddie is helped by real-life blues greats and characters, a sidekick who has the body of a skinhead but the soul of a Black bluesman and loyal friends. Standing in his way are vengeful white supremacists, the animosity of a wronged woman, and his own fears and weaknesses.

Eddie has a final shot at redemption. He must somehow find the path that leads to justice for a victim of past crimes while preventing another murder from happenin –  his own.

Bob (Steady Rollin’) Margolin had to say this in his review:

“Doug MacLeod and Debra Schiff have co-written a mystery novel that moves me like … a Doug MacLeod musical performance. His 50-plus years as a Blues musician, his knowledge of the scene and the people and The Road from then to now, and his storytelling in words and his music are magnetic and soulful. He brings that to this book. It starts strong and grows in power, reflecting the life, light, darkness, tragedy, triumph, history and love in the Blues World. I’m taken and shaken.”

You can order ”Murder at the Crossroads” from your favorite bookseller or download a Kindle version from Amazon. A  portion of profits will be donated to The Blues Foundation’s HART Fund.

“The Blues: The Authentic Narrative of My Music and Culture,” by Chris Thomas King (Chicago Review Press Inc.)

The Blues: The Authentic Narrative
of My Music and Culture,

by Chris Thomas King (Chicago Review Press Inc.)

Review by Randy Murphy

In his new book, “The Blues: The Authentic Narrative of My Music and Culture,” Chris Thomas King sets out on a mission to restore New Orleans to its rightful position as the true birthplace of the blues, and he doesn’t much care whose toes he steps on to do so — white racist musicologists, greedy record producers, even African-American musicians like W.C. Handy, whom, although he doesn’t use the word, King accuses of collaboration in the historical theft of this music. It’s a difficult book and a tough argument to swallow clean, but given the recent attempts to reassess and revise America’s relationship with its racist past, it’s an important book nonetheless. And, as William Faulkner wrote in his novel “Requiem for a Nun:” “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This book provides searing truths that support Faulkner’s observation.

King’s thesis is easy enough to grasp: The blues is not, as the common belief holds, a product of the Mississippi Delta; its true lineage descends from Black Creole culture centered in and around New Orleans during the late 19th century. Its creation owes nothing to the Mississippi Delta, or as King puts it, its slave culture — that narrative is false, the creation of white sociologists, academics, musicologists and folklorists who attempted to dilute the meaning and power of King’s authentic Creole blues heritage to make it acceptable to white, middle-class Americans through associating the music with the stereotypical images of primitive Black slaves. King then takes his claim a step further by arguing that “[w]hites rebranded New Orleans blues, which preceded blues from the Mississippi Delta by more than two decades, [as] “Dixieland jazz” in the early 1900s.” Like I said, it’s a tough argument, but one resting on solid historical footing.

King begins his narrative in a river delta, though not in Mississippi — in Egypt. He argues that it is in the Nile River Valley where the true origins of the blues reside, mostly due to the Egyptians’ creation of its requisite musical instruments. King insists that the “[p]rimogenitors of New Orleans blues instruments such as Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, Sidney Bechet’s clarinet, Lonnie Johnson’s guitar, Warren ‘Baby’ Dodd’s drums, and Jelly Roll Morton’s piano, and even the second-line tambourine man’s percussions, can all be traced back to ancient Egypt.” For instance, he offers as proof, as least as far as Armstrong’s trumpet goes, the sheneb, a bronze “trumpet” (c. 1340 BCE), two of which were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. King describes these horns as “long and narrow with a protruding bell.” The problem with this analysis is that most ancient cultures used some sort of horn-like instrument in their rituals, (Scandinavia’s “Lurs” dates from the early Bronze Age, so too the Jewish Shofar and some ancient Chinese horns) and singling out the sheneb as the ancestor of the modern European trumpet seems disingenuous and unnecessary; the sheneb is an ancestor, not the ancestor of Armstrong’s trumpet. And besides, a horn is not a trumpet, and King admits it was Europeans who added valves to horns. But King’s point is that classical European musical achievements owe a debt to Egypt, and indeed he’s right, but they owe a debt to many other cultures as well. Overstating the role of Egyptian culture in the creation of Western music traditions threatens to undermine his larger, more crucial arguments.

King systematically upends the prevailing myth that the blues was the product of slave narratives and experiences in the Mississippi Delta. He wholly rejects the “cotton field holler” and what he calls slave “work songs” as having anything at all to do with authentic blues. According to King, “[s]lavery was, no doubt, a part of African-American history. It’s crucial to understand, however, the culture of the enslaved was not authentic African-American culture. Indeed, a people must have agency to form a truly authentic culture.” This is a complicated assertion since much hinges on how we define “agency,” “culture” and “authenticity.” There’s no question that Black slaves suffered ghastly mistreatment at the hands of their overseers, but to label their artistic attempts to weather this dreadful treatment as not an “authentic” culture strikes me as absurd, and to further suggest that all enslaved people suddenly lose the ability to form artistic expressions of value since they possess no agency is doubly so — tell that to the Jews who suffered during their Babylonian exile, the Irish under English rule, or America’s Native tribes. King’s zeal to reclaim New Orleans’s Creole culture as the proper source of the blues demands that he diminish any association the Mississippi Delta, and slavery, might have with the origins of the music, even to the point of denying enslaved African-Americans a legitimate culture.

King’s argument shines brightest when he engages in a scathing evaluation of the wretched and wholesale racism that infected nearly all of American culture of the early 20th century and that subsequently led to the appropriation and recasting of African-American music for a white, mainstream audience. Even the language used to market the music fell victim to this racism. King shows how the development of the words and phrases like “jazz” and “Dixieland jazz” replaced New Orleans “blues” and made it more palatable for the established (read European) culture. King argues, and I think he’s absolutely right here, that what we historically call “jazz” is the sure offspring of late 19th century New Orleans blues, albeit hidden under several layers of racial varnish. As King succinctly contends: “It will offend many jazz musicians and devotees to hear me say that jazz is a misnomer for blues. However, if they follow the contemporaneous primary evidence provided by the pioneers themselves, not the distortions of their critics, they will be forced to accept the truthfulness of my assertion.” Indeed.

This is a rich book dealing in a tricky subject and pushing back against more than a century of musical deception, misleading characterizations and pernicious racism. It’s also timely, coming along as our country grapples with its bitter history of prejudice and racial strife. But it’s also not without its flaws. Its tone is often unnecessarily hostile and the book suffers from some rather indifferent editing, for instance, confusing the word “phycological” (which refers to the study of algae and seaweed) with “psychological.” There are also numerous unfortunate and distracting grammatical and factual errors (e.g., Charlie Musselwhite, who was born in January 1944, is not a baby boomer).

King’s book is ripe with so many provocative ideas and exhaustive history that there’s simply not the time nor space to cover them all here. King has included 13 pages of quite extensive endnotes, and the entire second half of the book is devoted to King’s autobiography along with biographical sketches of various musicians, and these are largely terrific.

Joseph Epstein once remarked that “one of the things that makes the past so wonderful is that it cannot, finally, be recaptured.” The past, including its residue of bigotry and discrimination, hides behind a shroud of allegory and parable, and this is true here. In the end, though, I see the blues as not unlike baseball: each has an undefinable, mythic element, especially so when we begin to investigate their origins, and I’m not sure that mystery is an entirely bad thing.

This is an important book I unreservedly recommend, and anyone who reads it will come away with a better understanding of the complicated history of the blues, or jazz, or whatever we want to call this music. I know I will not listen to the blues again with quite the same ear, and I imagine a fine final gauge for the success of any book is whether is leaves its readers enlightened when they’re finished.

The Blues: The Authentic Narrative of My Music and Culture

Chris Thomas King, Author: Chicago Review Press, 399 pages, with notes. $30.

Bobby Rush Autobiography - I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya

Bobby Rush Autobiography – I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya

By Randy Murphy

“All bluesmen are optimists,” Bobby Rush explains in his splendid new autobiography I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya.” “You almost gotta be. The next record. The next big gig. And maybe this old bumpy dirt road will turn into a freshly paved easy street.” I’m not sure I’d limit this sentiment bluesmen (or women) alone but the comment is telling and Rush easily qualifies as a classic example of someone who takes the sanguine view on just about everything. While the road to stardom that many of his mentors and contemporaries—Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howling Wolf, Little Milton—followed eluded Rush, he seldom allowed it to discourage his confidence or diminish his love of this music. And now, with two Grammys in his pocket and a newly-minted autobiography in bookstores, Rush’s road seems finally to have received some newly laid and richly deserved blacktop.

I’ve read more autobiographies of musicians, writers, artists, and politicians than I care to admit, and the one theme common to nearly all of them is that of obsession. At some point in the narrative, a passion, sometimes bordering on mania, grips the author, and from that point he is bound to its whims and consequences and heartbreaks. Rush’s story is no different.

Bobby Rush, whose birth name is Emmett Ellis Jr., begins by taking us back to Circuit, Louisiana during the decade before World War II. There, growing up one of ten children in a tiny town that, in his words, was “like a million other[s] in the rural South. It was just a road with a sign,” Rush’s fixation with music began when his father “pulled out of his pocket a dull silver harmonica.” His vivid description of the effects his father’s playing had on Rush will sound familiar to anyone who’s been gobsmacked by music: “On his rock-solid knee, my mouth hung wide open. I was astonished. I could do nothing more than to stare deeply into his brown eyes and listen to the greasy yet melodic sound coming out of the harmonica.” That’s how it starts, isn’t it? Once music chooses you, there’s not really too much one can do about it but let it live in and through your life. To quote Hooker, “let that boy boogie-woogie.”

Through both his music and in his memoir, Rush displays his abilities as a natural storyteller. His prose is rooted in a rural, Southern vernacular—conversational, informal, full of those colorful and clever colloquiums that add spice to our language: “shotgun house,” “smack-dab,” “pig-in-a-poke,” and he’s structured the chapters his book, some barely spanning half of a page, as a series of anecdotes, vignettes, reflections, and commentaries. But oddly enough, it hangs together due to Rush’s ability to maintain twin narratives of survival and redemption throughout the books’ various scenes and episodes.

This memoir is also often hilarious, whether Rush is describing how to create a false mustache from burnt matchsticks (helpful if you’re a twelve year old looking to crash an adult music club) or the proper way to run a “mule hustle,” essentially stealing a mule a couple times a week and then returning it to its owner for the bounty:

We stalked through high brush to the farthest end of Mr. Yuke’s mule corral. Hunched down like commandoes invading enemy territory, we knelt real low and cut that fence. We then clicked out tongues to draw a mule near, carefully looking around to make sure we weren’t seen. That old mule walked out. Alvin put a rope around his neck while I sealed back the fence by twisting the wire together. Taking the long way around, we were soon at Mr. Yuke’s door [and] he thanked us and gave us a dollar. We did that a few times a week. It wasn’t right, but we didn’t feel it was too wrong, either—with the wealth they [White land owners] had inherited and all the Negroes they had working for scraps.

Of course, anyone growing up or writing about life in the Jim Crow south will run headlong into questions of race—it’s simply inevitable, but Rush deals uniquely with the vile prejudices of the era by often viewing them through a musical lens. It’s this lens that allows Rush to place all the racial turmoil and wretched injustices into a larger context. Here, he uses the idea of “naming” to examine the cultural appropriation of Black music by White culture.

Daddy taught me biblically, through the Old Testament, that it was an act of superiority to name something. And it was an act of submission to take the name shelled out to you. I know history gets written by the powerful. And white folks were trying really hard to take what we’d cooked up and make it theirs. But the fact remains that the only thing that white folks did to create rock ’n’ roll was Allan Freed giving it the name rock ’n’ roll. And with white folks being in power in every layer of American society, there was an immense power in the naming.

So even today, I hear their voices screaming in my memories and howlin’ from the heavens: the voices of Ike Turner, Big Joe, Little Richard, and they all are shouting the same thing: “It ain’t motherfuckin’ rock ’n’roll! To hell with that. It’s rhythm and blues.”

This is a tough truth to read. I always knew—well, suspected anyway—that much of the music I grew up listening to, rock, blues, most of the jazz, was not really mine in the sense that it didn’t emerge from the experiences of my ancestors. Rush validates that knowledge without belaboring the point. Of course, that does not diminish any of our appreciation for this music or our love for it, but Rush does us a service by placing the origins of the music squarely within its proper context.

In the end, this is a delightful book written by a man who endured much during the course of his life, but who made it out clean on the other side.

Looking to Get Lost

Looking to Get Lost 

Adventures in Music and Writing
By Peter Guralnick 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Peter Guralnick is arguably one of the foremost musical historians and biographers of our time. His books on the lives of Sam Cooke, Sam Phillips and Elvis Presley are definitive, and his collections of his writings such as the tomes Sweet Soul Music and Lost Highway bring to life to personalities and individuality of musicians covering the blues and other forms of American music.  

Guralnick has been doing interviews and stories for numerous publications since the 1960s. His newest book, Looking to Get Lost, is another indispensable collection of his works that features a great deal of those who influenced his musical, and written, tastes throughout his career. His love for the blues that made him want to write about musicto begin with is well presented, from his very first interview with original bluesman Skip James, to encounters with the likes of Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Solomon Burke, Lonnie Mack and a full interview with Eric Clapton. But it much more than just the blues. His pieces cover the history of modern music, with chapters covering people like Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Colonel Tom Parker, Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Doc Pomus and train song balladeer Dick Curless. 

This work is also quite personal as he talks about his family relationships, his love for authors such as Southerner Lee Smith and British writer Henry Green, and those he considers the top entertainers in his experiences that stand out (Solomon Burke, Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf). 

There is much to consume with Guralnick’s pieces. The never-ending heartbreak of Dick Curless’ quest to become more recognized. Colonel Parker’s reluctance to speak directly about himself, but always seemingly willing to give direction to somebody who would. Johnny Cash’s open kindness to his fans always wanting to give back to them. The self-assuredness of musicians like Burke, Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis (with the humorous tale of his first and only piano lesson where the teacher gives him a piece to learn, and he brings it back playing it perfectly. But then asking the teacher, “but doesn’t is sound better like this” as he improvises his own changes to the number.).  

In all of Guralnick’s material, you come to know the subjects more intimately. You may or may not always like how that person represents themselves, but you’re always going to want to keep reading. Finishing one chapter immediately makes you want to go onto the next. That is the true caliber of Guralnick’s skills; it’s hard to put down and leaves you wishing for more when you reach the end. For those who have a love for modern music, nobody will keep you enthralled more than him. 

Little, Brown and Company. Illustrated. 554 Pages. $30.00 


Dark Was the Night - Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey To The Stars 

Dark Was the Night
– Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey To The Stars

By Gary Golio, illustrated by EB Lewis 

Nancy Paulson Books, 2020. 32 pages 

Review by Greg Johnson 

Dark Was The Night is the latest offering from Gary Golio, an award winning children’s book author who has penned several biographical titles, many involving musicians. Among his works are included the stories of Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Carlos Santana, Bob Dylan and John Coltrane. 

Dark Was The Night is the story of early bluesman Blind Willie Johnson and how despite the devastation suffered early in his life with the loss of his parents and his sight, music turned his life around. He recorded during his lifetime, but by the time of his death he was fairly unknown. Yet, in 1977, when NASA sent the Voyager into space, it included a disc presenting numerous pieces of information to display life on the planet Earth in the event that any life-form came into contact in its mission. Several songs were included on the disc; one of which was Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was The Night.” 

This book is beautifully illustrated by EB Lewis, whose works have adorned more than 70 books and has been recognized with a multitude of awards. Her artwork, along with Golio’s easy reading storyline compliments one another in this very well presented story of a musician worthy of more recognition and a human story perfect for reciting to children and adults alike. 


The Promise of the Blues - Anthony Proveaux

Book Review by Greg Johnson:

The Promise of the Blues - Anthony ProveauxThe Promise of the Blues
Anthony Proveaux
Pro-Arts Production 2020.
181 pages

“The Promise of the Blues” is a work of historical fiction that offers more than you’d expect from such a genre of writing. It does revolve around the central character of Cyris Jordan, a writer for the Chicago Defender, but aside from his encounters with famed musicians and music industry personnel of the early twentieth century, it can also be read as a work of historical document. The research that author Anthony Proveaux, himself a professional musician from the Eugene, Oregon area, is astounding, with great detail going into the landscape of the Delta, racial attitudes, and the music that shaped it all.

The story bounces on occasion, between Cyrus’ earliest time spent in the Delta and the encounters he has of hearing the sound of call & response field hollers to the sounds of musicians on train platforms playing the new sounds of the blues, to his return in 1930 and the changes that the Delta has gone through, while also giving accounts to the famous trip made to Grafton, Wisconsin by Charley Patton, Son House, Willie Brown and Louise Johnson to create some of the most recognized music of the time.

Cyrus makes friends with Charley Patton and Willie Brown early on, and is reunited with them during his return. He also comes into contact with Son House, Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, as well as a friendship made with famed record producer/talent scout J. Mayo Williams. Working for the renowned newspaper The Chicago Defender, the first paper aimed at an African-American readership, also plays a role in his story. His life is greatly influenced by the blues and it is a life-long goal to document what it has meant to him.

The Promise of the Blues is a nice journey into the blues in its earliest years and offers quite a bit of historical fact intermingled with the fictional accounts between the main character and those he meets. Well considered in its presentation and easy to read without losing attention to the detail behind the story. You get to know the man behind Cyris Jordan and experience the personalities (whether factual or fictional) of Charley Patton, Son House and Willie Brown.

Time Is Tight - My Life Note By Note - Booker T. Jones (Little, Brown 2019)

Time Is Tight - My Life Note By Note - Booker T. Jones

by Booker T. Jones
Little, Brown 2019

Book Review by Greg Johnson

Booker T. Jones made his mark in the music annals with his creative energy behind The MGs and working as the house band and songwriter at Stax throughout the 1960s. With multiple chart topping hits including numbers such as “Green Onions,” “Hang ‘Em High,” “ Time Is Tight” and “Hip Hug Her,” he defined the Memphis Sound. But he is much more than that, with a career that has found him writing material and working alongside some of the biggest acts in the world, mostly after he left Memphis.

This first-hand biography by Jones himself takes you on the ride of his life that included failed marriages, financial strife, learning and mastering multiple instruments, being cheated from royalties, racism and the blessings of his love of family. You witness one of his first performances playing behind the great Mahalia Jackson at a house party. His friendship with Al Jackson, William Bell, Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire, Bill Withers, and his part in helping Willie Nelson put together one of his biggest recordings of his career, Stardust.

If you didn’t know Booker T Jones before, you’re going to be amazed at how much musical history this man has been a part of. The book flows nicely, almost like Booker is reading it directly to you. Once you start, you won’t want to put it down and desperately wish for it to continue when you’ve reached the end.

337 pages

Mississippi On The Blues Trail By Bob Gervais

Mississippi On The Blues Trail  By Bob GervaisBook Review by Greg Johnson

“Mississippi, On The Blues Trail” is a new book of images taken by local photographer Bob Gervais, documenting the blues culture of the Mississippi Delta. With over 100 pages of stellar black & white photographs depicting various juke joints, clubs & Delta culture, it is a first-hand exploration of life on the blues highway. Featuring such locales of renown such as Wade Walton’s Barbershop, Poor Monkeys, Blue Front Cafe and Club Ebony as you traverse Highway 49 & 61 from stops in Greenville, Clarksdale, Bentonia, Rolling Fork, Jackson, Indianola and many more that brings you the flavor of the region.

Books are $30 & printed to order. Contact the author at

Weeds Like Us

Weeds Like UsReview by Greg Johnson

They often say that you have to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues. Well, if that is the case then Janiva Magness has paid those dues tenfold over the course of her tumultuous life. Raised in a dysfunctional family (to put it mildly), she faced suicidal ideations and attempts, actual suicides of both parents, incest, rape, heavy drug and alcohol addiction, teen pregnancy, shuffling from one foster home to another, and stints in mental rehab institutions. All before she was even eighteen years old. It became such a pattern in her life, she assumed that it was meant to be, facing each downfall she encountered with a return to the depths of despair.

But she had an outlet for her misery — a desire to sing. Often as a young child she would sing to her pets, but never felt that she was good enough to play before actual audiences. Music consumed her, especially the blues after witnessing the great Otis Rush. Weeds Like Us takes us on Janiva’s path as her life unfolds and eventually turns around, bringing her Grammy nominations and the thrill of being named The Blues Foundation’s BB King Entertainer of the Year, with the award presented to her by personal heroes Bonnie Raitt and BB King himself.

Weeds Like Us: A Memoir by Janiva Magness. Published by Fathead Records. June 2019. Paperback 267 pages.

Up Jumped The Devil

Review by Randy MurphyUp Jumped The Devil

Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, the authors of Up Jumped The Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, are not shy about asserting their purpose for writing this biography. They admit that they’re “[hoping] to free Johnson from being the sign and myth that blues fans created and return him to his human particulars.” It’s this myth-busting desire that fuels their detailed investigation of Johnson’s short life. In the end though, Conforth and Wardlow do not so much demythologize Johnson as demystify him, and perhaps this is for the best — sometimes we need our cultural myths left intact.

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the blues knows the Johnson fable: The infamous rendezvous at that famed Mississippi crossroads where, in exchange for his soul, The Devil turns Johnson into a formidable musician with extraordinary guitar skills. Conforth and Wardlow accurately locate the metaphor of the “crossroads,” along with the idea of the Faustian bargain, solidly within the traditions of voodoo and trace its historical heritage back to its African roots. It’s fascinating reading and sheds considerable light upon how these sacred myths take hold and spread. And although Conforth is a retired professor of folklore and American history at the University of Michigan, he largely avoids the kind of academic jargon that’s often deadly in biographies.

Yet, this biography is overflowing with impeccable research, and I imagine Conforth and Wardlow are correct when they suggest that what is now unknown about Johnson’s life will more than likely stay that way. Through first-person accounts from those who knew Johnson, and their own carefully-crafted analysis, the authors supply their audience with precise details of Johnson’s often harrowing world of share-cropping and itinerant wandering. For instance, their accounts of Johnson’s recording sessions in Texas are superb examples of biographical narrative; so too is their portrayal of Johnson’s brutal death, at twenty-seven, and the speculation surrounding its details.

Johnson is an enigmatic character given his mythic stature in the development of the blues, and this biography does much to lift the haze through which we had viewed his life. It traces Johnson’s early urban-oriented childhood in Memphis through his forced relocation to a share-cropper’s cabin in rural Mississippi to his life as a rambling musician and finally to his death from poisoning in 1938. It deftly examines the effects his experiences, specifically the death of his wife and unborn son, had upon his life and music.

Oddly though, in the end Conforth and Wardlow’s detailed analysis of Johnson’s life doesn’t lessen the power of its mythic qualities, and this is why I’d argue that this biography demystifies rather than demythologizes Johnson. Conforth and Wardlow expose and resolve many of the mysteries that haunted Johnson’s life and our view of it, and rightly so. But that myth of a lone man bargaining with Satan on a dark night at a forsaken crossroads and then emerging as a musician of otherworldly talent still seizes our imagination, and that too is rightly so.

Up Jumped The Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, Authors. Chicago Review Press, 326 pages. $30.00