Here's what 53 Amazon reviewers have to say about
THIN BLUE SMOKE (Honest reviews. None of them paid!)
I am a serious and avid reader, and an addicted downloader of books to my Kindle. I have never, however, written an Amazon customer review. I feel compelled to do so with Doug Worgul's THIN BLUE SMOKE.
It is a lovely and remarkable novel. The theme and pace reminded me of Kent Haruf's classic PLAINSONG and of Marilynne Robinson's novels. The writing style put me in mind of both of them, with a dash of circa 1975-1982 Bruce Springsteen.
The characters are people you want to spend your time with. The sense of place - Kansas City, a city I know well - is palpable and true, but the themes are profound and universal. I wept when I finished this book; the last time I had that reaction to any book was Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD which shares some themes with THIN BLUE SMOKE - themes of perseverance, redemption and love. At the same time, the book is, for lack of a better word, fun - leavened with genuine humor, both in Worgul's exposition and in the dialogue of his characters.
This is the best novel I have read this year. I commend to those who love a good, thought-provoking read.
— Matthew, Bethesda, Maryland
Baseball, hope, and BBQ
Loved this book!
Powerfully told story of redemption and hope against a beautifully painted backdrop of baseball and mouth watering BBQ! I couldn't put this one down!
There have been very few books in the last 10 years that have held my interest as closely as Thin Blue Smoke! I envy those who are opening it up for the first time!
Feels like Wendell Berry but urban and modern
One of my favorites in 2012
In the same way Friday Night Lights was about much more than just high school football in Texas, so is Thin Blue Smoke about much more than just a BBQ joint in Kansas City.
This is a story of love, redemption, grace, joy, sadness, humor, and healing. But this is also a compelling character study into the lives of some diverse people who happen to share a common appreciation for quality smoked meat.
Normally, I don't give much thought to the people I encounter in a restaurant - staff or fellow patrons alike. But this wonderful book may change that as I remember they each have life stories that have made them into the people they are in front of me.
At times I laughed out loud reading this book. Other times, I wept openly. What more could you ask of a novel?
Grace - with a side of ribs and a bourbon, neat
It is also a book full of theology, and full of grace. But this is no formulaic "Christian novel". I imagine you'd never find this on the shelves of a Christian bookstore, due to the reality it portrays, and that is to the great shame of the Christian publishing industry. Because I would say that I have never come across a novel that so accurately portrays Jesus' Gospel as applied to real life.
Along the way, there are thought-provoking explorations of race relations, addictions, good food, good booze, and, as the jacket says, the language of rabbits. Humorous, sad at times, but altogether redeeming.
I gravitate primarily to nonfiction, but I recommend this novel wholeheartedly. Excellent work from Doug Worgul, leaving me hungry for his future literary offerings (and another Oklahoma Joe's Z-Man).
An Oak-Smoked Masterpiece
Finally, a believable and well crafted novel about moody, doubt stricken Christian characters on the backside of their glory days trying to make sense of their lot in life, while inadvertently transforming the hopeless causes around them with slow, oak-wood smoked love. A return to, and celebration of the craftsmanship of powerfully arranged words, Doug Worgul steps out of well-worn chronological narrative and masterfully takes the reader back and forth in time while weaving a rich tapestry of highly textured images, smells, and flavors of southern barbeque with earthy, real-life, foul-mouthed, impulsive, gritty characters who somehow, despite their mistakes and failures (or perhaps because of their mistakes and failures) are able to effect true community in a small, locally owned Kansas City restaurant.
—Charlie Cliffe, Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia
Simple and Brilliant
—'feelaham', Kansas City
Big Book, With A Big Heart
Thin Blue Smoke is first and foremost a big book with a big heart. I don't think I could have taken it in one gulp, that is, read it in one sitting. It would have been too much for me. I had to take it in bits and pieces; chapters here and there. Not because it wasn't well written, but because my heart would get too full. I needed a break.
It is a book about free will, the choices we make, second chances, redemption, forgiveness, love, the meaning of life, and oh so much more.
I have to say that my favorite chapter was and still is 'Side by Side,' but I won't say why, because I truly want you to decide for yourself, dear reader. Though it may sound a bit cliché, and is probably overused, I'll say it here, with meaning. Run, don't walk, to buy and read this book.
— Chris, Novi, Michigan
Life Journeys with a Side of Ribs
I am seriously moved, definitely warmed and inspired as I just finished a new novel by Doug Worgul, titled, Thin Blue Smoke.
These characters got into my heart and let me know I still have a heart. They're real and flawed. Some of them have had some really bad breaks in life, but those bad breaks did not set their destiny; one human being caring about another did.
Having stumbled upon a review while surfing my Facebook updates, it was the context of Kansas City barbecue that intrigued me because I love barbecue and spent a good many years living just north and later, just south of KC. A downtown hole-the-wall barbecue joint is a connecting point for many of the characters in the story.
Food, friends, and faith are all meshed in a raw and real way to keep you eagerly reading. I was sucked in with a mention of my hometown in the first paragraph of chapter one and later references to obscure northwestern Missouri locales, all of which were familiar to me.
Worgul is a former features, book and magazine editor for The Kansas City Star, the author of two non-fiction works, and a bona fide barbecue expert. He writes so beautifully and warmly that you know this man knows something about people, God, relationships, redemption, and barbecue. It's not preachy in the least and is not a Christian book, in any conventional sense, but its message of love and redemption through relationships is, perhaps, the most beautiful I have ever read.
The characters are colorful, including the cranky old former professional baseball player and proprietor of the BBQ joint, the sort of adopted lost boy who runs the place, the scholarly, alcoholic, has been author Episcopal priest, the real estate developer with a secret, and the seventy-five year-old local legend blues singer, known as Mother. These are real people who have serious regrets, drink too much, have sex, and yes, some of them, are violent and corrupt. Not everyone is redeemed. It's like life.
There are scenes so tender that they got to a crusty old dude like me. The eccentricities of the people made me laugh out loud and the circumstances of their love and grief caused me to weep silently.
I loved reading this rich and rewarding story set in a place I know, but it is the people (I don't even think of them as characters) that encouraged me and inspired me to see if maybe, somehow in the twists and turns of life, I could be something of a redeeming influence for somebody.
— Glenn Hager, Winthrop Harbor, Illinois
Excellent word-of-mouth reviews will net this book big readership
What's behind the thin blue smoke
This is a funny and soulful novel about faith, race, bourbon, friendship, family, and the heart of barbecue in Kansas City. It is about life. And redemption. The characters are beautifully flawed and lovable; the setting is real; and the conversations are poignant. I had a difficult time putting this novel down, and so I read it twice, back-to-back.
— Theresa Santy, California
In truth, baseball and God are more behind the scenes players in the novel set at a Kansas City barbecue joint that also pulls in a series of other topics ranging from gentrification and civil rights to mental illness, alcoholism and problem gambling.
The barbecue joint, affectionately known as Smoke Meat, is a key player in the narrative that unfolds about its grumpy former Kansas City Athletics outfielder owner LaVerne Williams and the diverse cast of characters who frequent Kansas City's best kept culinary secret. Through the richly developed characters, Doug Worgul weaves the kind of story that brings the characters so vividly to life you'll find yourself wanting to Google them to see "where they are now" when you finish reading it.
I'm a recent convert to the world of barbecue enthusiasm, thanks in part to the aforementioned friend who most recently introduced me to Carolina barbecue. Before reading Thin Blue Smoke I would say everything I knew about appreciating barbecue I learned from him. Worgul, who in his bio is referenced as "a nationally-recognized authority on the history and cultural significance of American barbecue traditions," has now become my other source for appreciating not just the culture and tradition, but the spiritual significance as well.
Barbecue, as Williams explains toward the end of the book, is about making something special out of the not so glamorous, taking the pieces of meat that would be otherwise discarded or tough to eat and turning them into something memorable. This process occurs not just with the meat in this story, but with the people whose lives cross paths and change forever over a checkered tablecloth and a basket of smoked brisket.
A true testament to Worgul's gift as as a writer and food critic is his ability to bring you into this world without making you feel like an outsider who has only ever eaten at Famous Dave's. Like the fictional BBQ joint that welcomes all comers, Worgul's book manages to include all of the elements of a great novel English majors spend four years studying without ever coming across as one of those books that strokes literary critics egos while boring everyone else to tears (there's a reason I've read so little fiction since earning a degree in English). In the end, the book accomplishes what all good works of art should - it inspired me to consider taking up fiction writing again, imagining and re-visiting characters I've created and long since forgotten from my days as an aspiring fiction writer.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, the book has done for me at 34 what To Kill A Mockingbird did to me at 13. It's restored my love and appreciation of the novel and reminded me the value and importance of stories that come to life and characters who occupy our imaginations.
— Matthew Ralph, Media, Pennsylvania