Sunday, February 24, 2013

Grave Digger Blues (Bare Bones Edition) / Jesse Sublett

Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Dystopian / Crime

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words

Note: The “Bare Bones Edition” is available only on Smashwords. The “upgraded edition” with photos and graphics is available only from Amazon.    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: YES  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store


Jesse Sublett is an author, musician and artist. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family. Jesse formed a band called The Skunks in the 70’s which still plays today. His works of fiction have been widely published.

You can learn more about Jesse Sublett on his website.


It is the near future, the world as we know it has utterly changed. The social and digital infrastructure has been mainly wiped out by a terrorist plot and a coup. Humanity is nearing its end. Enter Hank Zzybynx, a damaged war vet private eye and contract killer with a job to fulfill…


If there was a continuum with ‘unusual’ at one end and ‘downright weird’ at the other then Grave Digger Blues would tend very heavily towards the latter. It follows two characters, the aforementioned Hank and the Blues Cat, a musician, as they tour across the shattered world with quite different missions.

I still don’t know what to make of this book. It’s the ‘lite’ edition, the other populated with photographs and other supporting elements apparently. Even this edition has a sprinkling of songs throughout. In other words, it’s not your average book.

The narrative proved very confusing and meandering at times with regular breaks, shifts in time and place and bizarre occurrences that seemed only connected by the fact that the world has gone mad. It even made this review difficult to construct.

I quite liked Hank as a character, he’s hired to track someone down and he does this relentlessly. The guy never forgets a face but the army messed with his head, erasing his memories in particular when he left the army. Blues Cat I struggled with, I wasn’t quite sure of the point of him (but again the whole thing is confusing). There are a number of bizarrely morphed characters from real life like Dick Cheney (who now wears drag and talks to himself) and Marilyn Monroe.

Here’s an example of the writing. Hank is in a bar with another character called The Artist:

The level of noise in the room increased sharply again, for no apparent reason, like a cat mewling in his sleep. The Artist found a friend, then another, then another. The bass walked a crooked trail and Hank saw himself driving a car down a curving mountain road at night. Marilyn snuggled up to him.

A bear came out of the woods and blocked the road. Hank hit it with the car. Had to back up and take a run at it three times before the beast finally lay down.

Marilyn and Hank, cuddling down together on a bear skin rug.

What’s that all about? I’ve really no idea.

All in all a surreal story that confused the hell out of me.


Swearing and graphic images of violence.

Format/Typo Issues:

A few spelling and grammar mistakes.

Rating: ** Two Stars

1 comment:

Jesse S said...

Hey there! Thanks for reviewing my book, Grave Digger Blues. As you pointed out, the book is as committed to surrealism as it is to the hardboiled genre, so not everyone is going to like it or "get it." The section you cited to illustrate your confusion, however, took me by surprise. One of the main themes of the book, in fact, one of the main problems of the protagonist, Hank Zzybnx, is his inability to dream. This troubles him greatly. He is haunted, however, by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, beginning in the first chapter, which pretty clearly lays all this out. He sees recurring visions of her because of the brain damage he incurred during his deprogramming by the CIA and corporate sponsors. In this scene, he's in a bar called the Morgue, and if you've read much crime fiction or watched many films noir, you know that a bar is a great place to have a hallucinatory experience. I don't claim that the book is a classic and I certainly didn't write it for everyone. Thanks again for the review. I mean it, man.