Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan, has just been shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize. Previously, it won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, was a Man Booker Prize Finalist (2011), and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction… so if you haven’t already picked it up, you’re missing out!
Chip told us not to go out. said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you, all of us still reeling from the rot—rot was cheap, see, the drink of French peasants, but it stayed like nails in you gut. Didn’t even look right, all mossy and black in the bottle. Like drinking swamp water.
See, we lay exhausted in the flat, sheets nailed over the windows. The sunrise so fierce it seeped through the gaps, dropped like cloth on our skin. Couple hours before, we was playing in some back-alley studio, trying to cut a record. A grim little room, more like a closet of ghosts than any joint for music, the cracked heaters lisping steam, empty bottles rolling all over the warped floor. Our cigarettes glowed like small holes in the dark, and that’s how I known we wasn’t buzzing, Hiero’s smoke not moving or nothing. The cig just sitting there in his mouth like he couldn’t hear his way clear. Everyone pacing about, listening between takes to the scrabble of rats in the wall. Restless as hell. Could be we wasn’t so rotten, but I at least felt off. Too nervous, too crazed, too busy watching the door. Forget the rot. Forget the studio’s seclusion. Nothing tore me out of myself. Take after take, I’d play sweating to the end of it only to have Hiero scratch the damn disc, tossing it in the trash.