*Author Walker Smith (pictured) has been described as a brilliant storyteller and black historian, whose characters will live with readers long after they have finished reading her novels. She has also been described as a writer, whose prose play like music to the readers’ eyes, and an author who writes like Picasso painted.
Such descriptions may sound like pure hyperbole, but to Walker Smith’s many fans, it’s all a part of “The Walker Smith Experience,” which features a signature brand of writing, based on black history, unforgettable characters, gripping suspense, stunning plots and sub-plots, and unguessable endings.
While Smith is primarily a writer of fictional novels, all under the auspices of “Walker Smith Books,” she recently penned “Mello Yello: The Incredible Life Story of Jack the Rapper.” The biographical book chronicles the life and times of Jack “The Rapper” Gibson, a pioneering force in the radio and music industries. He is credited with launching, guiding and/or influencing the music careers of a multiplicity of African American recording artists across such genres as R&B, pop, jazz, and even hip-hop. Jack The Rapper passed in 2000, but through Smith’s new book on the legend, his eight decades come to full life, much to the delight of his many fans.
“Over the course of my two-year collaboration with Jack, I listened to hundreds of stories – some personal, some historical,” said Smith. “I listened to Jack laugh and talk trash as only he could. He was a man who lived history and then reported it.”
Just before the release of “Mello Yello,” Smith wrote a novel entitled, “Bluestone Rondo.” The story begins in Mississippi in the 1920s and follows the life of unusual twins: one’s complexion is dark; the other is light enough to pass as white. The story ultimately becomes a jazz masterpiece of love and hate, as it transitions to New York and its vibrant jazz scene in the late-1940. The story of the two brothers, who are more like the bible’s Cain and Abel, is infused with volatile twists and turns along the way.
Smith’s first novel, written in the mid-2000s, was “The Color Line,” which was set during the era of the Harlem Renaissance and uncovers a lost story of The Harlem Hellfighters, an African American military unit that served brilliantly in World War I. Yet, when the war was over, one black hero returns home to see racial segregation in a new light and embarks on a new war for equal and human rights. Other novels by Smith are “Letters from Rome” and “In My Father’s House.”
It was in her father and mother’s house that Smith discovered her creative side. Her father was a jazz musician; her mother, as Smith described, was a “beatnik type who loved listening to jazz and classical music.” Young Smith was bitten by the music bug, as she would witness epic jam sessions at her home by some of the most gifted jazz musicians around.
As Smith was beginning to hone her writing skills, she was also preparing to become a singer and recording artist. Under her birth name, Bobbi Walker, she went on to record three solo albums for Casablanca Records in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, one of which yielded the disco-funky single, “Something About You.”
While the singer experienced success in music, she chose to return to writing, which she was doing part-time in the City of Angels. She subsequently moved to New York in the mid-1990s, and changed her name to Walker Smith in honor of the legendary boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, whose real name was Walker Smith.
“I grew up in a family that not only loved music, but loved boxing as well,” said the author. “So boxing fascinated me. Even as a little girl, I would buy and read ‘Ring Magazine’ that had stories about the great boxers, including Sugar Ray Robinson.”
Smith continued by adding this …
“Reading ‘Ring Magazine’ is really what got me interested in writing,” recalled Smith. “And when I was 12, I also read Sugar Ray’s book and found out that his real name at birth was Walker Smith. Many years later, since my last name was Walker and I was a writer, which is called a ‘wordsmith,’ I decided to change my name to Walker Smith.”
Over her writing career, Walker Smith has lived in several cities, inclusive of New York and New Orleans. She was in New York during the tragic 911 attacks and in New Orleans during the deadly Hurricane Katrina. It was in the Crescent City where she wrote “The Color Line” just before the disaster. Smith currently lives in Houston with her husband.
For Walker Smith, the beat goes on…and so does her writing. She is already working on a new novel. This time, the setting will be in Chicago and the storyline will be about a relatively unknown Black Power figure who gave rise to the Black Power Movement in the mid-to-late ‘60s. Fans should expect the unusual plots, unforgettable characters, historical lessons, and an unfathomable ending, all of which will define the ever-moving literary rollercoaster ride called, “The Walker Smith Experience.”
On the web: www.walkersmithbooks.com/
EUR BONUS COVERAGE
Watch as Walker Smith discusses her book “Mello Yello: The Incredible Life Story of Jack the Rapper” with “Arise 360”: