New Finds

It’s Never Too Late

Seventy-year-old career musician Andre Williams makes his literary debut.

Book Cover Alabama-born Andre Williams migrated to Chicago with his parents only to be returned to the South when his mother died in 1943. Finding that comeback infelicitous, he made his way back to his steel-mill-worker father in the Windy City, which is where his troubles began—a brief stint of juvenile delinquency and an enlistment in the Navy, from which he was discharged when it was learned he was underage. Williams landed in Detroit where joined The 5 Dollars and Fortune records, penning his immortal hit,“Jailbait.”

Williams went on to work at Motown records, experiencing all the highs and the lows of success in the music business. His career was resurrected in 1995 by George Paulus, who produced Williams’s comeback album Greasy. Unfortunately, his resurrection also facilitated his return to substance abuse, requiring frequent rehabilitations. The 2007 film Agile, Mobile, Hostile tells William’s riveting story.

During these rehab bouts he began to write fiction—ultimately the product of that rehabilitation is Sweets and Other Stories (Kicks Books). The inestimable Nick Toshes (Never Trust A Living God), who wrote the book’s foreword, offers:
And sure as the God in that Baptist church in which he sang as a boy was made of plaster, those juices surely did flow; and from them grew this book, which is to be taken more seriously than most other books that are published in these gone-dead days. Andre Williams is a real, natural-born, blown-in-the-glass writer, the kind they hardly ever make anymore. When I first peered into this book and saw the words “Sweets got in the cab and asked the driver to take her to a good fortune teller,” I was mesmerized, drawn in by what I knew to be a rare new voice in American fiction. Andre Williams has proven himself to be a survivor. The stories he has here written deserve to survive as well. They most certainly deserve to be read, as the rewards they offer are many and fine.

Heed what I say. Otherwise you got nobody but your own self to blame.
By the way, for you inhabitants of the Universe’s Center of Ambition, Tosches and Williams do a reading on February 5th presented by The Poetry Project at St Mark’s Church.
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