Cover image for Mojo hand
Mojo hand
Kihn, Greg.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, 1999.
Physical Description:
255 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates Book."
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



It's 1977, 10 years after Big Rock Beat, and Beau Young is back. Now he's playin' the blues -- literally. As he tours smoky dives with blues legend Oakland Slim he uncovers an evil voodoo plot to assassinate the remaining blues masters. But disco rules, so who cares about a few dead blues greats?
Then legendary blues martyr Robert Johnson turns up alive 43 years after his reported death, a victim of a New Orleans witch's zombie poison, not a jealous husband as originally reported. Beau knows Johnson could be the key to the murders. But Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil decades before. With Beau's help he must return to the infamous crossroads and face his destiny. And both of them must face the awesome power of the Mojo Hand.

Author Notes

Greg Kihn was a pop star in the eighties. This is his fourth novel. He lives in San Francisco, California.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Musician Beau Young had a couple of hit tunes but got sucked into the "road" lifestyle of drugs, whiskey, women, and money to burn. He's struggling to pull his life together and now plays in Oakland Slim's blues band, but every gig brings the word that one of Slim's contemporaries has been butchered, torn apart by a claw of some sort. The deaths are moving ever closer to Slim, and Beau is scrambling to discover the killer before he loses his mentor. Along the way, he discovers that bluesman Robert Johnson, long thought dead, is still alive and well and willing to shed his decades-long anonymity. Kihn, himself a veteran rocker with a string of hits in the seventies and eighties, knows music and the ambience of the road. He also does a wondrous job of integrating the myths and legends that surround the blues into a fascinating mystery with a thought-provoking "what-if" twist. Pair this with Ace Atkins' Crossroad Blues [BKL Ag 98], which also draws on the life of Robert Johnson. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

A decade past the late '60s setting of Big Rock Beat, former rock star and radio DJ Kihn continues the tale of Beau Young, ex-hippie rock guitarist. This time Beau explores the smoky world of blues music. The year is 1977 and now, as sideman to harmonica-playing legend Oakland Slim, white-boy Beau is learning the ropes when a down-on-his-luck old-time blues great, Art "Spiderman" Spivey, is slashed to death in his cheap Chicago hotel. Finding that other blues masters are being killedÄPiano Red in St. Louis, and B. Bobby Bostic in FriscoÄBeau discovers that an albino guitar player who bought a mummified hand from a voodoo priestess may somehow be connected. Annie Sweeny, the sexy young publisher of Bluesworthy magazine, takes a fancy to Beau and joins the two musicians as they bring their suspicions of a conspiracy to savvy ex-New York City cop George Jones, who is working his first homicide since moving to California. A sleazy record producer and another blues legend, a picker who's reportedly sold his soul to the devil, round out the quirky cast. While much of the prose is clumsy, it's often softened with a harmlessly goofy charm ("Their black mood filled the car like stinky air-conditioning") and the unabashed author has a gift for conjuring up offbeat characters and kooky plot lines. In his fourth novel, he exhibits obvious respect for the history of blues music, and shows signs of getting his literary act together. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Mojo Hand ONE The blues descended on Vincent Shives like the ashes of some distant fire. It drifted in the air until it fell on his shoulders, carrying the memory of magnificent flames. He walked ghostly through the swamp, albino skin glowing in the platinum radiance of a full moon. He'd been followed for a while by some teenagers who called after him until they realized where he was going. Then they dropped off fast. That had been over an hour ago. Though it was a muggy summer night he wore a black overcoat and gloves. Black, thick, tinted wraparound prescription glasses covered his sensitive eyes, giving him an odd, comic-book-spy appearance. In the moonlight his skin appeared nearly translucent. Blue veins squirmed beneath an unhealthy-looking hide the color of the dead. Long white hair swung like limp pasta on either side of his gaunt face, framing it like a cheap Italian dinner. Vince stayed on the path. He walked purposefully, sliding one storklike leg in front of the other, black boots clomping in the soft mud. His feet made subdued sucking sounds. From somewhere in the night mournful loon cries echoed across the black, still water. To Vince the music of the loons sounded like slide guitar. He even thought he recognized the song: "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya." The summer humidity played tricks with the sounds, reflecting certain frequencies, making them almost sound like human voices. Once he was reminded of the song, the lyrics danced around hishead as he walked. "Gris-gris gumbo ya-ya ... Hey now, gumbo yay-yay ..." Vince walked through a copse of trees into a clearing. Ida John's voodoo shack was not outwardly marked by any sign, and the windows were covered with yellowed newspaper. The glow of an oil lamp illuminated the paper from inside. It stood alone at the edge of the water, a sagging pier jutted out into the swamp. The music played in Vincent's head. "Gris-gris gumbo ya-ya ... Hey now, gumbo yay-yay." He strode past the rotting corpse of a chicken, humming with flies, hanging from a tree limb. Vincent Shives did not hesitate. He mounted the wooden step and knocked three times on the front door. Loose screen rattled. The sounds of the hot, muggy Louisiana night clung to his back, hanging there for a moment like a diseased monkey. The loons sang another chorus. Vince shook it off and turned the doorknob. The music in his head faded as he stepped into the low-ceilinged room. He coughed to announce his presence. Several hurricane lamps flickered. Dust particles hung in the air, visible in the shafts of moonlight leaking between the newspaper panels. The dust swirled in the eddies and currents when he moved. The cloying scent of incense covered a much worse smell, something putrid, discernible above the sandalwood. Vince pushed his glasses up and squinted. His pink eyes adjusted to the light. Shelves holding bizarre and wildly esoteric merchandise lined the walls. There were hundreds of hand-labeled bottles containing powders and potions. Two bleached skulls grinned. A dusty glass case featured a collection of bones arranged according to size. Dried toads stood at attention. The curtain behind the counter parted and an ancient black woman stepped through. She stared through the lifeless air at Vincent. "I came, Ida John. Just like you said." Ida John nodded. She brought a cardboard shoe box up from below the counter and placed it in front of him. Vince looked at it with keen interest. "Go ahead. Open it," she said with a cracked voice. Vince thought he recognized a slight accent. Daintily, he removed his gloves. They were the tight-fitting black leather automotive-type gloves that professional drivers wore. His naked hands were moist and incredibly pale after the opaque black of the gloves. He flexed his fingers self-consciously. The old woman watched him, her eyes challenging. Vince avoided looking at them. He carefully lifted the lid of the box and looked inside. There, resting like a piece of sculpture amid some tissue paper, was a severed human hand. It appeared mummified, brown skin dry and leathery, even cracked in some places. It gave off a strange, cadaverous odor which bloomed up into Vince's face when he removed the lid. But Vince did not wince. He thought the thing was beautiful. Suppressing a smile, he reached in carefully and picked it up. It seemed surprisingly light in his hand. He held it high in the light of a hanging lamp and examined it. "Looks like the real thing." The bone, yellowed with age, had been crudely cut just above the wrist and jutted out a grotesque one or two inches. Vince wondered whose hand it had been. It didn't matter, of course, but then, it did. What mattered most was the power. "How much?" he asked. The old woman cocked her head, birdlike, and eyed him suspiciously.   She didn't like this white man--he was bad juju. Albinos were bad luck, everybody knew that. And in her heart she didn't want to sell the thing to him. She didn't want him to own the power. The Hand of Glory could be the most powerful force in the universe, if you knew how to use it. How could this white devil know? She searched his face with her aged, discolored eyes and wondered what terrible twist of fate had brought this albino to her door. She'd been careful to cut some of the fingernails off the hand and save the clippings in a jar so that the magic of the mojo could not be used against her. Ida always kept a little of what she sold. She assured herself that whatever she passed into the unsuspecting world would not come back to haunt her. That was just common sense. She'd spent a lifetime unleashing all sorts of terrible forces on people, always strangers, and she knew the precautions.Magic fed on hatred and revenge. Ida understood that above all. And this white man vexed her.   "Real Mojo Hand cost money," she said hoarsely. "Maybe you want a fake one? Then you go see Madame Oomph. This one real. This one ... very strong." "How much?" "Five thousand." Vince stared at the hand. Where did the old crone get it? It looked pretty old. The muscle tissue had fused and dried up like beef jerky, and the fingers were slightly curled inward. Underneath the chipped nails he noticed some black dirt, as if the thing had crawled from the grave by itself. The skin was so discolored that he couldn't tell if the person had been black or white. "Negro?" he asked. Ida nodded so imperceptibly that Vince nearly missed it. "Good." Vince felt the itching, burning power of the Mojo Hand as he held it. It tingled. And suddenly Vince felt bold. He had to have it. The Hand of Glory was a powerful talisman, known among believers to be uncommonly effective. Its magic was the strongest money could buy. Vince knew that any crime could be committed with the Mojo Hand, and the owner would never be caught or punished. It had the power to make a person uncatchable . And there were other, darker powers, but Vince had no illusions about tapping those. Yet. The secret was knowing how to unlock the energy. Vince felt electrified with the possibilities and absolutely sure he could make the hand work for him. The old woman glared, but he didn't notice. Vince reverently placed the hand back in the box. Finally he looked at Ida John. "Five thousand? Is that what you said?" That seemed high, higher than he'd expected. Vince had already resigned himself to meet any reasonable price. The old woman put the lid back on the box and pulled it toward her. She motioned for Vince to stand back. "Maybe I won't sell it to you." "What?" "Maybe I sell it to somebody else. You bad juju. I can tell. Very bad juju." She continued to speak in clipped sentences, her accent sour and thick-lipped. "Too white. A white devil. That's what you are. Very bad juju. White man with the Mojo Hand. Very bad juju." She shook her head vigorously. Vincent Shives removed a large roll of hundred-dollar bills from his pocket and counted out fifty of them. He put the money on the counter in front of the old woman and waited. Vincent watched her attention flicker from the money to his face and back. A heartbeat later, her bony hand reached out and snatched up the cash like a lizard. The deal was consummated. She counted it quickly by touch, but she knew he would not cheat her. No one cheated Ida John.   Ida knew Vince feared her. He feared because he believed. And believers were the most dangerous people in the world. She'd gone against instinct this time, but the money had seduced her. What did she care what this pale spook did with the Mojo Hand? He was just another lost soul, one in an endless stream of meak and ignorant pilgrims who came to her. She hadn't liked anything about this transaction, but it was over now, the money warming in her hand. Now she wanted to get Vince out as soon as possible. She wanted him far away, with his dead man's skin and his evil pink eyes. She cursed herself for being greedy, and turned her back on him.   Vince wasted no time collecting the box under his arm and moving toward the door. The hand shifted inside its cardboard coffin. The dead fingers scratched the sides of the box, and the ghostly weight shifted again. Vincent stepped to the door, trying not to hurry, but hurrying anyway. He could feel Ida John's stare across his shoulder blades. Like the yoke of oppression. "Bad juju!" she called out behind him. "Don't come back here!" In a moment Vince was outside and gone. She watched him disappear into the swamp. "White devil," she muttered. She crossed herself and made a series of hand signals in the direction he had gone. Copyright (c) 1999 by Greg Kihn Excerpted from Mojo Hand by Greg Kihn All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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