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Introduction

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

‘‘Stones in My Passway, Hellhound on My Trail,’’ one of the collected pieces in T. Coraghessan Boyle’s Greasy Lake and Other Stories (1985), has been singled out as one of his best stories. It centers on a blues musician named Robert, a fictionalized version of the famous blues artist Robert Johnson, during the final night of his life. The tale incorporates the myth that surrounded Johnson’s life: the story that has been passed down for generations is that Johnson sold his soul to the devil so that he could play the blues better than anyone else. Robert does, in fact, play better than anyone else does, but by the end of the story his talent cannot save him from his fate. Boyle weaves an intricate and lyrical portrait of the artist’s last hours with glimpses of his troubled past. This well-crafted story explores questions of determinism, free will, and choices and their consequences as it traces one man’s inability to clear the stones from his passway or shake the hellhound from his trail.

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