By Joseph H. Werner, Jr.
A fictional account of the lives of a group of bums, tinners and high-steppers set on Skid Row in Depression Era Memphis, Tennessee.
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The bum who put the touch on JoJo was just like any other bum on Skid Row—red-faced, in clothes that didn’t fit, and with the shakes, a condition that only a drink could still. The line was the same with all of them and they always targeted JoJo for his big heart. “I ain’t et in two days,” they’d beg to JoJo but he knew if he parted with the quarter—that is, if he even had one to part with—the bum would head straight for the nearest liquor store or beer joint.
Set in Memphis, Tennessee during the Great Depression, Skid Row follows the lives of a group of laborers known as tinners. There was Jew Bill, Shorty, Fingers, Grinder, Swede and Junior, among others, some said to be, “as ugly as homemade sin.” Also known as down-and-outers, these men never missed a chance to gawk at the high-steppers prancing in and out of the flophouse across the street from the tin shops. Yet they treated the lovely, shapely Reba, the Widow Hanna, and the innocent Betty Jo with more respect. All the while, these were men trying desperately to make it to the next payday, fighting within themselves whether to put food on the table for the family, or use the last bit of pocket change for a much-needed drink.
Teeming with vivid narrative about a lively yet lonely street from a time and place long forgotten, Skid Row is told through the eyes of a young lad growing from teenager to manhood while working in his father’s tin shop. Joe Werner has filled his first novel with humor and yearning in his own, unique, bare-knuckled voice. With no subtlety or pretense, Werner makes you root for a group of people struggling to simply exist in this gritty, entertaining novel of bygone days.
Joe Werner was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee and worked until retirement as a tinsmith and contractor. When taking a break from writing, Joe and his wife, Amelia, travel the world and play golf. These days, he’s busy working on his next novel.
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