Jim Black (Adult Fiction)
I think my mom’s patience with Charles, Gary, and myself stemmed from years of working on the pediatric floor at Methodist Hospital in Lubbock. Maybe seeing so many sick and dying kids makes you look at your own in a different light. I don’t know. I do know she was not overly protective or strict back then. I really think she just wanted us to enjoy the privilege of being kids, and I’ve always loved her for that. It was easier back then, too, because times were different. In our small town, we really did sleep with doors unlocked and windows open. I know now those were the best of times.
Jim Black was thirteen in the summer of 1966. Growing up in Archer City, Texas with his two best friends, Gary Beesinger and Charles Luig, life was great. This summer, Jim had big plans: playing baseball, mowing lawns, and hanging out with his friends. What he didn’t plan on was meeting Samuel “Sam” Joseph Washington, an older black man from the other side of town. This man, who decided to take up residency at his favorite fishing spot, would not only grow to be a father figure to Jim, but would also become his friend and would show Jim the value of acceptance, generosity, and love.
In an interview with Brothers Judd (brothersjudd.com), Jim Black explained that There’s a River Down in Texas (which, after the addition of fifty pages, would later become River Season) is largely autobiographical with the remainder being pure fiction. River Season gives us a warm, sometimes bittersweet, and nostalgic look at growing up in small-town America during a time when the only things on a boy’s mind were baseball, pretty girls, hanging out with friends, and getting into just enough mischief to make life interesting but not enough to get you arrested. It was a simpler time when you knew who your friends were and, more importantly, who your enemies were. Bullies were never anonymous and disagreements were settled swiftly resulting in either an inflated ego or a black eye.
I picked up River Season at a secondhand book store and after visiting Black’s website (jimblackbooks.com), this may be the only way for interested readers to obtain copies of his books. Black explains that all contracts with his publisher have been cancelled and his books are no longer being produced. I hope lightning strikes twice and I am able to find his sequel Tracks so that I can follow a fifteen-year-old Jim as he tackles high school, bullies, and a broken heart.
Although River Season does touch upon the racial tensions that occurred in the 1960s South, Black is not overly preachy on the subject. He could have easily made this the focal point of his story, but he instead concentrates on the friendship between himself, Charles, and Gary, as well the touching bond he shared with Sam. American author and businessman, Arthur H. Glasow, once said, “A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” Most of us would be fortunate to have just one friend like this. Jim Black was blessed to have found three.
*Book cover image attributed to www.publishersweekly.com
**Want more? Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedustyjacket