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T.C. Boyle's Robert Johnson Story

Posted: Jul 03, 2011

Stones In My Passway, Hellhound On My Trail

In 1977, T.C. Boyle wrote a story about blues legend Robert Johnson titled "Stones In My Passway, Hellhound On My Trail". Based on nebulous facts surrounding Johnson's life, this story contends as a fine fictional account of the musician's last night in a Mississippi juke joint.

The last paragraph describes Johnson's dose of poison whiskey: "Cramps. A spasm so violent it jerks his fingers from the strings. He begins again, his voice quavering, shivered: "Got to keep moving, got to keep moving,/Hellhound on my trail." And then suddenly the voice chokes off, gags, the guitar slips to the floor with a percussive shock. His bowels are on fire. He stands, clutches his abdomen, drops to his hands and knees.

"'Boy's had too much of that Mexican,' someone says. He looks up, a sword run through him, panting, the shock waves pounding through his frame, looks up at the pine plank, the barrels, the cold, hard features of the girl with the silver necklace in her hand. Looks up, and snarls."

Last fair deal gone down,

James Calemine


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