by Brian Jabas Smith author of Spent Saints & Other Stories
Tucson Salvage: Tales and Recollections from La Frontera
Chronicles of the overlooked and unsung, and desert life on the fringes. prose and photography
Brian Jabas Smith is an award-winning journalist, first as a staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times and then as an editor at Detroit’s Metro Times. He currently pens the bi-weekly column Tucson Salvage for the Tucson Weekly, which is being compiled into this book, Tucson Salvage: Tales and Recollections from La Frontera, out October 2018. His debut collection of short stories, Spent Saints, (Ridgeway Press, 2017) was a runaway success, sparking a 12 episode web series with a feature film in the works and a year-long nationwide book tour. Before writing full time, Smith was a songwriter who fronted rock & roll bands Beat Angels and, before that, GAD. He has penned tunes with lots of folks, including Alice Cooper. At one point he overcame heady crystal meth and alcohol addictions. As a kid growing up in Tucson, Ariz., Smith was a national class bicycle racer.
An excerpt from the foreword by Green on Red’s Dan Stuart:
“The portraits in Tucson Salvage are wide and varied, from legless gangbanging artists to Mormon baseball mascots to crime scene clean-up cowboys. Swap meets and tourist traps figure prominently, as do junkyards, dive bars and greasy spoons. Smith has the time and patience to duck into the places we all rush by and wonder about; or to stop and chat with a street "crazy" who is anything but. He never patronizes anyone, or worse, romanticizes life's hard knocks and cruel turns. Foot in door, his genuine curiosity and natural charm encourages his subjects to open up and share sweet joys and triumphs they haven't thought about in years, or reveal poignancies that are too hard to unload on families or friends, only a kind stranger will do. Smith observes, listens, then transcribes... a post-punk priest or travelling sin-eater he captures the stories folks didn't even know they had, and stitches them back into the communal quilt that makes us all stronger, safer, more human. It's holy work, no doubt about it, but done by a fallen altar boy who truly knows what it's like to feel completely alone and abandoned, all bridges burned, no direction home. Smith is happy to listen because it quiets his own internal voices that taunt and harangue, carnies looking for an easy mark. We can all learn from this, the basic grace of an open heart and mind that can deliver us from our own worst impulses, from el mal that waits like a coyote eyeing a toddler, grinning from ear to ear.”