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Kentucky Blues

Kentucky Blues [Kindle Edition]

Derek Robinson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

Rock Springs, Kentucky. A backwater miles from civilisation, but so far upstream that the riverboats can go no further, and with plenty of farmland there for the taking.

Among the pioneers who choose to build their homes here are the Hudds and the Killicks, two families destined to spend the next century despising one another.

Kentucky Blues is a powerful, unsentimental depiction of life through several generations, widely considered to be Robinson's most ambitious work. Told with his trademark dark humour, it is an epic tale of one small community's journey from its foundation in the 1820s, through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, to the dawn of the modern age.

About the Author

Derek Robinson's acclaimed First World War trilogy and Piece of Cake have established him as the world's best aviation writer and one of the top authors of war fiction.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1370 KB
  • Print Length: 644 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (19 Jun 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00JIV9N2S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #179,966 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read. 6 May 2002
A well written novel about the idiosyncratic folk (white and black) living in and about a rural town in Kentucky during the 1800s.
This book runs on powerful black humour (in its widest sense) with some classic one liners of wit.
Some of the language may appear rather raw but it's in-keeping with the historical time.
Give it a go.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Echoes of Mark Twain 8 Feb 2013
Set immediately before and after the Civil War in the fictional Rock Springs. A colony of former slaves occupies the ridge high above a farming settlement and the white trash Killick brood. The stories - each enshrined in a short chapter - are about all aspects of life. The author does not not mask brutality but it is not gory either. The characters are all wonderful with fabulous names - Hoke Cleghorn, Flub Phillips, T. Speed and many others. It is very, very funny and in its dry way reminded me of Mark Twain. The set piece trial at the end could have come from Pudd'nhead Wilson.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking Romp 26 Sep 2007
Tragi-comic, ironic, witty romp which tells the story of a small hick town in Kentucky around the time of the emancipation. Never a dull moment and built on a solid foundation of research.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars said to be a great read ! 24 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thanks for the excellent service. I cannot tell what the book is about as it was a present for my friend who's a great Robinson fan.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent change of pace, and a great story 14 Jan 2003
By M Larson - Published on
If you're a fan of Robinson's war novels, this is a great opportunity to see his story-telling talents turned in another direction. His sharp, witty dialogue, realistic details and bittersweet story elements make this a great novel about 2 families (and their strange neighbors and friends) that feud in a small river town in Kentucky before, during and after the Civil War. His typically unsympathetic views of his own characters, their motivations and actions really enrich this story. I strongly recommend it if you love Derek Robinson's work, or even if you've never heard of him, and just want to read a great novel full of fascinating characters set in a pivotal time in America's history.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free to What? 26 Dec 2010
By R. Sundquist - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Robinson is known mostly for books like PIECE OF CAKE, about the Royal Air Force at the start of World War Two. He's also written a number of great books about spies, but they all land squarely and comfortably in the middle of the 20th century. KENTUCKY BLUES is a different beast altogether. Set between about 1830 and 1870, it takes place almost entirely in a small fictional backwater town and boasts a large cast of realistically ridiculous characters.

Kentucky was one of the in-between states during the Civil War, neither Union nor Confederate, and that helps fuel some of Robinson's plot. The farmers own slaves, but their farms are not the massive plantations of the Deep South that we know from "Gone With the Wind". Slave-owning is just a way of life, and one that everyone regrets seeing the end of. Everyone except the slaves, who are now free (according to one ex-slave-owner, they were stolen by President Lincoln). But free to do what? No one wants them around. No one will hire them or pay them to do anything. All they can do is build themselves some shacks up in the hills and try to make do. The townsfolk have enough problems of their own, with bushwhackers, carpet-baggers, anvil-launching competitions, and a murder trial so preposterous it would make Atticus Finch break down and cry. There's also a cattle drive which makes me wish that Mr. Robinson would just write a full-blown Western novel.

The story is a long and rambling one, full of action and comedy and overflowing with Robinson's usual sharp dialogue. It's not his usual setting, but doesn't suffer for it, and the subject matter benefits greatly from the outsider's perspective. I suppose everyone is entitled to take their own history seriously, which is why Derek Robinson is such an important writer: without sacrificing the historical truth, he strips away the layers of solemnity and shows us the past for what it really was, with all the irony and slapstick intact.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Everytime something dies, something else licks its chops." 1 Sep 2012
By M. G Watson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Derek Robinson made his name writing aerial war stories like PIECE OF CAKE and DAMNED GOOD SHOW, so when I discovered he'd written a historical novel set in mid-19th century Kentucky, I was immediately curious. Robinson is a gifted novelist with a very distinctive style -- glib, cynical, and merciless, but I couldn't imagine him writing witout the roar of Spitfire engines in the background. I was hesitant to buy the book, but I'm glad I did. It's well worth a read.

KENTUCKY BLUES is about two families, the Hudds and the Killicks, who try to settle the same area of the Kentucky badlands ("Rock Springs") on the same day in the 1840s, and essentially never stop feuding for the next 40 years. The Hudds are pompous social climbers with Northern sympathies; the Killicks mostly mean-spirited white trash who pledge allegiance to the South. Both families own slaves, and the slaves, who are freed after the Civil War, become the third "family" in the story, trying to forge a community on the only piece of land the whites will let them have (a mountain wilderness known as The Ridge, which separates Hudd and Killick land). As the years go by all three parties attempt to come to terms with the changes empanicipation has wrought on their fortunes, with varying success, while the feud sputters on, sometimes with tragic consequences.

BLUES has all the trademarks of a Robinson novel, both good and bad. Like most of his works it is full of sub-plots and great incidents but it lacks anything resembling a plot proper-- it is really about the characters and what they go through as they try to scratch a living (or a dying) out of the Kentucky soil.
It has many got many outbursts of brilliant prose and dialogue ("Hard livin's easy. All you got to do is do without."), numerous incidents both hilarious and tragic which will stick forever in the reader's mind, and it's also the frankest and most graphic reconstruction of slavery and the misery that emancipation brought slaves and white folks alike, that I've ever read. Robinson is the antithesis of a politically correct writer. He presents slavery as the disgusting spectacle that it is, but he refuses the idealize the slaves and presents them as they were -- human beings so degraded by whippings and forced ignorance that they were scarcely human beings at all, and had to learn painfully how to find their own humanity. It took genuine guts to write so frankly about the legacy of bondage, and Robinson has guts in plenty.

On the other hand, the book is much longer than it need to be, and it suffers badly from a lack of likeable characters. Robinson's view of human nature is pretty grim, he's a firm believer in existential outcomes and the rule of Murphy's Law, and he's forever making trivial incidents the axis upon which human lives turn for the worse. In his stories, vice is rarely punished and virtue almost never rewarded, except by ironic outcomes, few people learn lessons, and age brings not wisdom but bitterness. Few writers, except maybe Orwell, have ever taken such a dark, unromantic view of what drives human actions and lives. I'm not saying he's wrong, merely that such an unvarnished view of people tends to be depressing.

Having said that, I was really impressed by this book's ability to hold my interest and to recreate the lawless, savage atmosphere of the 1800s. Everything Robinson describes -- cattle drives in Texas, first-fights, con men selling snake oil, jury trials held in barns, an ex-stud slave named T. Speed recounting how he had to produce 200 slave babies a year or get "sold South", a raft-ride down the Mississippi -- is so authentic and powerful you truly believe that it is real. If the book rambles to an abrupt and arbitrary conclusion that settles nothing, then this is more or less Robinson's view of human life...and in any case, life is a journey and not a destination. And KENTUCKY BLUES, rambling as it is, is also a helluva journey.
2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Failed to grab me 19 May 2005
By J. Marshall - Published on
This book just seems to ramble along like a wagon with one square wheel. The character development is incongruous and unconvincing and the book is full of inconsistencies. A waste of time.
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