Deep Water And Blue Souls
Roger Pinckney's Blow The Man Down
By James Calemine
"Got two reasons why I cry away each lonely night
The first one's named sweet Anne Marie
And she's my heart's delight
The second one is prison, baby
The sheriff's on my trail
And if he catches up with me
I'll spend my life in jail."
--"Friend of the Devil"
The Grateful Dead
Published in 2012, Blow The Man Down counts as South Carolina native Roger Pinckney's seventh book. The tale revolves around Grayson Devoe, a treasure diver from Folly Beach, South Carolina, who discovered six rare Spanish coins that changed his life.
Grayson Devoe's business partner Senor Morales' father was a mate on Hemingway's fishing boat. Devoe's inspirations range from Hemingway to naming his own boat after a Grateful Dead song. Devoe's girlfriend--Senor Morales' daughter--leads him into a dangerous, yet prosperous series of mysterious and close-to-the-bone circumstances involving large quantities of cocaine.
Pinckney was born and raised in South Carolina. He now lives on idyllic Daufuskie Island. He attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop as well as being a two-time winner of the South Carolina fiction award. In Pinckney's bio it states: "He taught school, wrote grants and newspaper features and preached the gospel in a little country church." It shows in his writing.
Pinckney's other books include The Beaufort Chronicles, Blue Roots, The Right Side of the River, Little Glory, Signs And Wonders, Seventh Soul On Sacred Ground, Reefer Moon and his latest novel Blow The Man Down. He's also the Editor of the Sporting Classic magazine.
From slave ghosts, Confederate graveyards, coke-snorting, low country history, voodoo and bodies washing ashore, Pinckney takes the reader through an inimitable journey through the South Carolina coast. Page 70 contains a fine sample of the novel's scope in one line:
"Blue is the color of heaven and the Negroes had been using blue to foil ghosts since slave times when they daubed dregs from indigo vats on the door frames and porch posts of their shanties..."
Living near the barrier islands brings an amalgamation of cultures that capture the essence of the land. Blow The Man Down preserves a pure American spirit. Pinckney's first ancestor arrived in the low country in 1697 and was arrested for piracy. "But Uncle Thomas beat the rap..."
Once struck by lightning--Devoe dreams of ghosts and poems while sleeping, but his daily instincts and moves lead him into very dangerous latitudes with sheriff Randall Harvey and Mexican drug lords. When local druggie Jimmy Wiggins turns up dead on the beach, Devoe finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation. These 223 pages waste no words. The reader identifies with every character on some level.
Devoe's maid and muse Miss Tanisha plays an integral role in Devoe's well-being. Tanisha carries a powerful mojo of her own. For those familiar with Highway 17 in Charleston County, this tale takes place near those rustic environs.
Pinckney's writing style proves economical, gritty, insightful and downright hilarious at times. He educates the reader on American history, the shrimping industry, piracy laws and lost treasures amid the nefarious on goings between a cast of memorable characters such as Billy and Charlie, The Root Doctor and Rev. Delmar K. Johnson.
It is only on the last page that the reader survives the story, like several of the aforementioned characters, and escapes into the wild blue yonder...