Essays on memoir, music, and more from Beatrice M. Hogg

Book Review of Uncle John’s Band by Deborah Grabien

Finally, I was able to get my hands on Deborah Grabien’s latest installment of the JP Kinkaid Chronicles. In Book 6, Uncle John’s Band, guitarist JP Kinkaid, his wife Bree, and his bandmates stay close to his San Francisco home. I couldn’t wait to enter JP’s world again, the real world of rock/blues musicians told from and by the perspective of an insider.

After British rock band Blacklight’s phenomenal “Book of Days” tour and JP’s successful surgery and recovery after a heart attack, the guitarist finds himself ready to play live again. His local group, the Fog City Geezers, plays the 707 Club in San Rafael. By the end of the show, new faces have made appearances backstage. Promoter Norfolk Lind, his business partner Star Woodley, and Lind’s son Curtis, the new boyfriend of Solange, daughter of Blacklight’s other guitarist Luke Headley, meet JP and Bree. But the meeting isn’t a first for all of them, as Bree and Star share a secret past.

After the show, Bree tells JP about their past connection, which involves him and his first encounter with a seventeen-year-old Bree. But in spite of that decades-old history, Bree agrees to host a meeting at their home for the new owners of the 707 Club, which include Norfolk Lind and Star Woodley. Days after an altercation between Bree and Star during the meeting, Star is the sole casualty in a fire that destroys the 707 Club during a private performance of the Fog City Geezers, who are joined by several members of Blacklight. The fire is determined to be arson and Bree is advised to get a lawyer. JP and Bree hire investigator Patrick Ormand to find out who and what was the real cause of the fire. The mysterious and volatile Norfolk Lind seems to have a lot of enemies, including his own son, but would he have killed his business partner?

But of course, things aren’t always what they seem. As everyone waits for the formal fire investigation to be completed, life goes on. JP works on a new song with singer/guitarist Curtis Lind, Solange gets acclimated to her new San Francisco home and career, and Bree gains and loses an attorney. When Ormond discovers new information about the minority shareholders of the Club, JP visits an old acquaintance that he didn’t expect to see again for a long time.

As she has done in the previous books, Grabien details what life is like for a musician with multiple sclerosis. Now JP’s implantable cardioverter defibrillator and Bree’s diabetes are added to the mix. But life hasn’t slowed down for the couple, nor have their limitations diminished their affection for each other. There are a few well-placed comments about the state of health care in America that resonated, especially in this election year. The resolution of the mystery is satisfying and logical, but a few twists along the way keep it from being obvious.

In spite of the title, there are fewer musical performances in this book when compared with some of the other books in the series.  But with the Fog City Geezers getting a recording contract, the 707 Club being rebuilt, and three more books left in the series, I’m sure that JP will be bringing out Little Queenie and Big Mama Pearl for some more rock and roll blues.

Uncle John’s Band is a great story, with characters and situations that keep readers interested until the last page. Even though there are references to the previous books in the series, this story can be enjoyed on its own merit. I’m looking forward to Book 7 and the next adventure in this rocker’s life.


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