“The Midnight Special is a novel that reads like a biography…has relevance and immediacy for readers now.” –– Publisher’s Weekly.

“The actions, the motives, the reactions and the moods the two authors have attributed to their subject seem honest and convincing. [The authors] deserve our admiration for the complexity of the mission they assigned themselves, and our applause for the manner in which they carried it out…a memorable picture of a whole social stratum.” –– The Marin Independent-Journal.

“The Midnight Special…is easy reading, and continues the legend of an important figure in American music. It makes the reader believe that at least part of what Leadbelly told audiences about himself was true.” –– The New York Times Book Review.

“The authors are able to suggest [Leadbelly’s] strength and extraordinary native talent with sensitivity and verve in a work that is brisk and workmanlike…an interesting piece of Americana…” — The San Francisco Chronicle.

“In novel-like fashion, the authors have chronicled the sad and moving tale with striking realism.” — The Cleveland Press

“The authors have woven a fine bit of bucolic lyricism around Leadbelly’s life, filling in the gaps with a novel-like approach…has immediacy and relevancy today…” — The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


5.0 out of 5 stars

Read and Remember, September 30, 2009

By James W. Schock “Writing Prof” (Mill Valley, CA) –

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Paperback)

In today’s disposable world of ink and paper, authors who truly believe in what they write don’t bother to keep their works alive, prefering to to move on to something they believe is better and more “with it.”

Thankfully, at lease someone who has written an important book has changed that, and we all should be thankful for the courage that has brought us this new version of “The Midnight Special,” a cut-glass narrative that clings to the presence of a black man confronting his destiny amidst the chaos of The Great Depression, and a man who fights not only himself, but the massive unenlightened Southern justice of the day.

As someone who chanced to meet Huddie Ledbetter, better known as “Leadbelly, King of the 12-string Guitar,” I was astonished to learn of his story revealed by two white men who. through 3 years of research, walked in his shoes and captured the light and dark of his days in hold-your-breath prose.

They vividly reveal how Huddie’s temper migrates from anger through knife and gun fights, and ultimately to murder, from which he sang himself out of prison, to his quiet, happy encounters of playing for hours and singing “Skip To My Lou” for children in tree-shaded parks.

The authors’ riff is hard, twangy and rings with the struck-authenticity of 12-string truth. Lordy, I loved this book.

Jim Schock

5.0 out of 5 stars

Leadbelly lives again in moving novel, September 11, 2009

By Riggio (Bay Area) –

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Hardcover)

“The Midnight Special” is a brutally frank, always entertaining and accessible take on the tempestuous life of Huddie Ledbetter, aka Leadbelly (1887-1949), the African-American blues/folk troubadour whose outsize talent got him pardoned repeatedly by powerful Southern white men for crimes of bloody mayhem.

The authors give a chilling, merciless view of Southern (in)justice, in everyday life and, much worse, in its barbaric penal systems. One is outraged by the appallingly racist country that was America less than a century ago.

Leadbelly wrote classic, enduring songs. “The Midnight Special,” an ode to an enchanted train that frees any convict caught in its lights, has been in the repertoire of every guitar-strumming folkie of the past half-century at least. His “Goodnight Irene” became a top tune on the pop-music hit parade in the 1940s.

The book starts in the Deep South, but moves across the country to the New York City of the 1930s, where folk-music scholar John Lomax presented Leadbelly to universities and high society.

Lomax comes off as an exploitative, insensitive crypto-bigot. Leadbelly is a force of nature, a sympathetic character despite his boozing, brawling and womanizing, practices that result in horrific consequences throughout his life.

The meticulous research and vivid prose style of the authors make this a must-read for devotees of American blues and folk traditions, but anyone who cares about American history will be fascinated.

5.0 out of 5 stars

A top pick for fiction collections with a focus on music, March 9, 2010

By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) – See all my reviews

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Paperback)

Music is a major part of someone’s life, and music is everything about someone’s life. “The Midnight Special” is a novel delves into the life of Leadbelly, a man who took the blues and became a legend through his love of music and his performances. Designed a dramatized autobiography, the story of Leadbelly is told, from his early roots to how his adeptness at music freed him from prison. “The Midnight Special” is a top pick for fiction collections with a focus on music.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Huddie, justice at last, February 23, 2010

By robert e. burger “boburger” (arcata, ca United States) – See all my reviews

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Paperback)

Incredible that this book has languished for years because the original publisher went bankrupt. They don’t do books better than this these days, time shows. The authors took the time to dig deep into a man’s life by going there, doing that. Mr. Addeo’s courage in bringing this book back, after the untimely death of his coauthor, is more than a tribute to that friendship. It’s a belief in the story that drove them from the beginning. If you care at all about the roots of America’s unique contribution to music, you must have this book.

5.0 out of 5 stars

Man, if you think you seen troubles, you should try being a ramblin’ blues player in the 1930’s deep south. Truly fascinating., January 3, 2010

By S. Croce “S.L. Croce” (Lambertville, NJ USA) –

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Paperback)

I liked this book so much that I wrote this letter to the author. I’ll transcribe it here:

Mr. Addeo,

I received your book “The Midnight Special” as a Christmas gift last week from my father-in-law and I wanted to say that I absolutely enjoyed it. Leadbelly was only a name I had vaguely heard of previously, but after reading your book, I have been finding out more about him in my spare minutes – Like everyone else I’m sure who encounters Leadbelly, I found his character sketch and story compelling. The story kind of made me feel like I was visiting a place and time I had actually experienced. If I were a movie maker, I would definitely try and make a movie out of it. I can’t believe someone hasn’t already done it well, as you say in the prologue. It’s got plenty of sex, music, and violence in it – everyone’s favorite stuff, right??? – yet underneath all of the mayhem and poor behavior, you somehow end up caring about Huddie an awful lot It would seemingly be a smash hit – considering the relatively recent revival of interest in that era and its music brought on by movies like “O brother where art thou”

Anyway, this book is one of the best presents I’ve gotten. So thank you for writing it and my father-in-law for giving it to me.

5.0 out of 5 stars

An Unexpected Reader, December 28, 2009

By Wendy Bertrand (San Francisco, CA)

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Hardcover)

Edmond G. Addeo stood during the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association’s (BAIPA) December meeting sharing time. In two minutes, I got the message that he and a now deceased buddy wrote the book about an icon guitar player. The two words guitar and icon made me think it would be a good read for a guitar-playing friend of mind. At the break, I asked to buy a copy. Ed’s eyes widened.

His squint of surprise ended with, “You can have this one.” With a friendly discount, the blackjacked hardcover was mine. The drawing of a guitar on the jacket’s front included a bloody knife tucked under the twelve strings. Hummm. I hadn’t heard of Leadbelly before, because, as much as I love guitar music, I don’t read much about guitarists. He told me he learned the 12 string guitar when he was doing the research for this novel.

Immediately I turned to the introduction, where Ed explains why he decided to republish the story 38 years after the first successful publishing in 1971. His clear sincere style hooked my curiosity and I knew then that I wanted to read the book before sending it to David. The BAIPA meeting went on to a short lecture on marketing. Bay Tree Publisher David Cole’s main message for me was to think who you want to read your book –not everybody. The unexpected readers are gravy.

The first chapters were slow, but proved necessary in the long. By chapter 6, I was sailing along with unreserved empathy for Leadbelly (a black man). While horrified and disgusted at the cultural context he painfully navigated. Each bedtime reading became more engrossing and some times tearful. This is all so timely, sad, and kindly written. What a disgrace, what a shame, and Good Night Irene is still sung and loved, yet Martha, his faithful wife got nothing of the lucrative recording’s success, for reasons I won’t say here, so as not to give away the ending.

This biographical novel pinched my awareness, even though the rough net of discrimination was not new to me. We have to read about racism through the eyes of individual’s often, just like practicing the guitar, to get better at fighting injustice and being clear about what true humanness demands.

Ed I sure hope this second edition gets the kind of attention it deserves, especially in the prison culture: those inside, outside, and in charge. Do you know who read the first edition, 38 years ago? I wonder whom you want to read it now. Books like this help engrave into our cultural reality the sad truth of talent lost due to racism.

5.0 out of 5 stars

They Don’t Makes Tales As Well Told As This, November 17, 2009

By Saul Isler (San Rafael, CA United States) –

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Paperback)

Huddie Ledbetter wasn’t the most lovable guy but you gotta love the way he lived his life. Every time he gets his train on the tracks, he derails himself. His story would be a good one even in he’d told it in his own illiterate way but, as told by Addeo and Garvin, every episode explodes off the page. I read this book in two or three sessions because I couldn’t put it down. They don’t make guys like Leadbelly anymore. They don’t make tales like this either, not ones that are as well told as this. Like me, once you board The Midnight Special, you won’t want to get off.

Saul Isler

San Rafael, California

5.0 out of 5 stars

I’ll See You in My Dreams., November 5, 2009

By J. Bires “DemBones” (Carbondale, IL United States)

This review is from: The Midnight Special: A Novel about Leadbelly (Paperback)

This absorbing book had me literally screaming “No, Huddie, don’t do it.” Or, to be more precise, “No, Huddie, don’t do it again!” The larger-than-life character of LeadBelly was beset by self-induced great falls as well as miscarriages of justice. The book gives its readers a stark look at spirit-crushing circumstances that would have driven ordinary men to suicide, or at least to the self-mutilation many prisoners used to escape work in various prisons.

Authors Addeo and Garvin are dead-on in crafting the expressive language their characters surely used, which adds great realism to the work. One feels deeply for LeadBelly’s parents, who endured the results of their son’s rambling ways. The book contrasts the way of life, and the people, in the south, where LeadBelly was most comfortable, and the much harsher, more cut throat, life and people in New York. In both environments we are treated to the singular force of nature, which was LeadBelly, drinking, brawling and singing his way into trouble and, twice, in the case of singing, out of prison.

In his later years, as during his first trip to Paris, we’re presented with the sorrowful scene of LeadBelly performing before an audience of 30, in a hall built to hold 4,000. Finally, before Huddie has the chance to see Goodnight Irene make Hit Parade history, this oak of a man is felled by the same disease that felled the “Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig. “It’s the strong ones who get it, Mrs. Ledbetter.”