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Published: 2013/06/17
by Brian Robbins

James D. McCallister
Fellow Traveler

Muddy Ford Press

Some books are murder mysteries; Fellow Traveler is a life mystery. Newly-divorced-and-somewhat-adrift Ashton Tobias “Z” Zemp is trying to make some sense of the life (and recent death) of his best friend – and discovers some questions and answers about his own life in the process.

James D. McCallister’s tale of a friendship’s autopsy is the main thread in a tapestry of tunes and tour life. The world of Fellow Traveler has some notable historical twists from the one we know (you can decide for yourself which you’d prefer to live in) but at the nucleus of it all lie Rose Partland and her band Jack O’Roses.

Many of McCallister’s characters feel familiar: Partland is a little bit of Janis mixed with a whole lot of Jerry; her relationship with her husband, Jack O’ Roses guitarist Jake Sobel, might remind you of Grace Slick and Paul Kantner’s Jefferson Airplane glory days; Jack O’Roses’ legendary benefactor/lyricist Frank Oglethorpe is an interesting blend of Hunter and Owsley; and the F-Kids that followed the band and found themselves adrift in the wake of Partland’s passing? Yeah – you know them, as well.

Z’s departed friend – Brian “Nibbs Niffy” Godbold – may have been the biggest F-Kid of all. As Zemp works his way through the mountain of journals and bootlegs that Nibbs Niffy left behind, it becomes obvious that guilt may have weighed as heavy as grief on Brian Godbold in the years between Rose Partland’s death and his own. McCallister tells his story using both Zemp’s words and passages from Nibbs Niffy’s writings – and he tells it well. Vets of the road will nod with appreciation at scenes from tour; those who have never experienced it can get a realistic taste; and Brian Godbold becomes an unnervingly real study of how the thin line between passion and obsession becomes blurred to the point of disappearing.

In the end, there are no heroes and no villains in Fellow Traveler – just people. James McCallister does a great job of both entertaining the reader and making us think … and maybe even pine a little bit for music that we never heard. (Or did we?)

*****

Brian Robbins invites you to go on tour over at www.brian-robbins.com

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