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The king of the town
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From Publishers Weekly
Wimberley revisits the rural north Florida featured in A Tinker's Damn (2000) in this powerful portrayal of a segregated community at the height of the Civil Rights movement. In 1963 Cilla Handsom, a high school junior living in Laureate's "Colored Town," learns that her senior year will be spent at an integrated white school on the other end of town, where fear and racist fury permeate the halls. A brash charmer named Joe Billy King blows into town after robbing a church in Tallahassee and becomes Cilla's first lover. He discovers Cilla's gift for music and enlists the help of a teacher to secure Cilla access to music lessons and instruments. Cilla focuses on her music and her studies, but she and Joe Billy attract the attention of the Klan and are brutally assaulted. In the aftermath, Joe Billy sacrifices himself to protect Cilla. Though the tension lags after Cilla leaves Colored Town, Wimberley's take on the prickly themes of racism and poverty is made memorable by a gripping story line, authentic voice and dead-on dialogue. (Apr.)
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Kirkus *** Starred Review *** 1 January 2007
Wimberley paints complex characters against a backdrop of brutally violent racial oppression...[through]truly heartfelt storytelling.
Library Journal, Feb 15th 2007
Wimberley's (Dead Man's Bay) surprisingly affecting novel ... reveals an authentic glimpse of a moment in history. Recommended.
"White blossoms to frame a black man. I straightened abruptly from the casket. Even in mortis Joe Billy seemed to threaten mobility. A laugh. A curse. Nobody could predict what Joseph William King would do in life. Nor even, apparently, in death."
There are good people and bad on both sides of the tracks that divide Laureate from 'Colored Town'. Our instruction in that hard truth comes as we follow two African-American teens, Cilla Handsom and Joe Billy King, as they endure the backlash resulting from the integration of their segregated school with the all-white school run by Lafayette County's all-white school board. The issue of the education of Laureate's children will expose hatreds on both sides of the color divide. Cilla will emerge from her ordeal carrying scars and grace to become a widely traveled classical musician. Joe Billy will be found hanging from the bars of his cell in a Florida penitentiary. Their moving, intertwined dramas put courage, cowardice, loyalty and betrayal side by side in an eloquent, evocative narrative where the demons and angels of a time and place are portrayed in black and white.
She was lying on her side, this female, a nude torso stretched along the axis of the guitar's leering neck and exposed in bold, primary colors on the surface of the guitar's polished body. The soundhole situated her navel. Raven hair played in damascene tangles over the naked round of the guitar's shoulder to display a sensual hip. A kind of bracelet fell in linked motes of turquoise or jade from her wasp's waist in a shallow arc toward the pubis lasciviously suggested below, a G-string dimly realized from visions of Biblical whores, Aholah and Aholibah, say. Or Jezebel.
One evening Joe Billy took his guitar to Tully's Lounge, hoping to jam. Tully's Lounge was never as successful as, say, the Red Bird CafÃ©, but was still, locals insisted, a venue for serious artists. The Adderley Brothers, Cannonball and Nat, were said to have played at Red Tully's place. B.B. King was claimed to have jammed with the boys' quintet on one occasion. This was all in the late forties, fifties, maybe. By Joe Billy's time the club was barely scraping by. The veteran players only occasionally returned. Sometimes they'd let Joe Billy sit in, and he'd be keeping rhythm behind men with sobriquets like Blind John Davis or Pinetop Perkins. Nobody paid any attention to the kid on backup. But the night Joe Billy went behind that stage and unpacked his painted Gibson he acquired an instant audience--outraged, amused, intrigued--depending on the concupiscence of the beholder.
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