I am seriously moved, definitely warmed and inspired as I just finished a new novel by Doug Worgul, entitled, Thin Blue Smoke.
These characters got into my heart and let me know I still have a heart. They’re real and flawed. Some of them have had some really bad breaks in life, but those bad breaks did not set their destiny; one human being caring about another did.
Having stumbled upon a review while surfing my Facebook updates, it was the context of Kansas City barbecue that intrigued me because I love barbecue and spent a good many years living just north and later, just south of KC. A downtown hole-the-wall barbecue joint is a connecting point for many of the characters in the story.
Food, friends, and faith are all meshed in a raw and real way to keep you eagerly reading. I was sucked in with a mention of my hometown in the first paragraph of chapter one and later references to obscure northwestern Missouri locales, all of which were familiar to me.
Worgul is a former features, book and magazine editor for the Kansas City Star, the author of two non-fiction works, and a bona fide barbecue expert. He writes so beautifully and warmly that you know this man knows something about people, God, relationships, redemption, and barbecue. It’s not preachy in the least and is not a Christian book, in any conventional sense, but its message of love and redemption through relationships is, perhaps, the most beautiful I have ever read.
The characters are colorful, including the cranky old former professional baseball player and proprietor of the BBQ joint, the sort of adopted lost boy who runs the place, the scholarly, alcoholic, has been author Episcopal priest, the real estate developer with a secret, and the seventy-five year-old local legend blues singer, known as Mother. These are real people who have serious regrets, drink too much, have sex, and yes, some of them, are violent and corrupt. Not everyone is redeemed. It’s like life.
There are scenes so tender that they got to a crusty old dude like me. The eccentricities of the people made me laugh out loud and the circumstances of their love and grief caused me to weep silently.
I loved reading this rich and rewarding story set in a place I know, but it is the people (I don’t even think of them as characters) that encouraged me and inspired me to see if maybe, somehow in the twists and turns of life, I could be something of a redeeming influence for somebody.