March 12, 2008
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.
Laura Lippman is the rare writer who can hold my interest over a series. I have been reading her Tess Monaghan novels (as well as everything else she writes) for years, and the books continue to evolve into a canon of their own. Another Thing to Fall, the latest book in the series, was released this week, and the previous book, What the Dead Know, was published last month in paperback.
Lippman is also an accomplished editor, her Baltimore volume in Akashic's excellent City Noir series of collected short crime fiction.
She is also the first author to tackle Book Notes contributions for three of her works at the same time.
Almost every novel I have written has had a key song or two and I usually put those songs -- first on a mix tape, later on an iPod -- on my work-out tape/playlist so I can pound them into my brain while I am pounding a treadmile or an elliptical machine. The songs are, I'm sorry to say, often far from breathtakingly hip or edgy. My musical tastes are broad, inredibly broad, but the songs that affect my writing are often corny. I tend to have no more than two or three songs per book, so it's hard for me to imagine an entire playlist. To do that, I have to cheat and include the last three titles.
Marshall Crenshaw's "Whenever You're on My Mind"
Those who have been following my work really closely (hi, mom!) might remember that the character of Crow started out as the lead singer of a band called Poe White Trash. Over time, he has performed Rodgers and Hart ("It Never Entered My Mind) and a Cojunto-infused medley of Stephen Sondheim songs. (The latter was for "In Big Trouble," probably the most musical book I've ever written.) I always imagined this Crenshaw song swelling up as this particular book ended. I especially love the bridge: "I never thought I'd be in this situation/It seems wherever I go I'm with you/And though I never seem to find my place/At every turn, I see your face."
"Cherish," the Association
I know, I know, I'm now banned from the cool club for life, but the thing is -- I wanted to listen to the kind of dreamy, sentimental songs that the Bethany girls, the sisters in the book, would have listened to on AM radio in the 1970s. In my imagination, I saw the band teacher, the one who moonlighted at the music store, crooning this at the mall, while Heather Bethany jumped up and down on a bed. That image catapulted me through the writing of the book.
Initially, I was like, "There's no music, no music at all in Another Thing to Fall!" It's about making a television show and if you've ever been on a tv (or film) set, you know they're kind of deadly silent. No ambient sound, just the main dialogue. Everything is added later. But, as it turns out there is music in ATTF, on the page and in my head.
"Para Donde Vas," the Iguanas
It's Tess's ringtone, which is funny if you know the Spanish (Where are you going?). I pimp the Iguanas every chance I get.
"Call Me," Blondie
This was one of those epiphany bands for me, when I was a nascent punk/New Waver in college, although it was Parallel Lines that really changed my life. I probably should have used "Hangin' On the Telephone," which would have been funnier. (Again, it's a ring tone, although it's a cover version.)
"Hernando's Hideaway," Brave Combo
Actually, it's never specified which Brave Combo songs are played, but I can't resist a good musical comedy number. A long, long time ago, I used to go to West Fest (held in the town of West, which is actually in Central Texas) just to eat kolaches and dance to Brave Combo.
"Marie Provost," Nick Lowe
He spelled her name wrong, but he got her fate right: "She was a winner/That became the doggie's dinner." The song is a two-fer for me, a reference to one of my favorite singer-songwriters, but also a nod to Hollywood Babylon, a beloved book.
Oh, and the uber-theme song for the Tess Monaghan novels is "Imitation of Wife" by Kevin Johnson and the Linemen, from Sunday Driver and I get cool points for this because George Pelecanos wrote the liner notes for the CD and everyone knows that Pelecanos is the arbiter of all things cool in music. "She doesn't walk with her head held down/She doesn't live on the other side of town/We both know her very well/ . . . She has a fight with her ex-boyfriend/We say we're not say so sure about him/We both know her very well."
Laura Lippman and Another Thing to Fall links:
Crime Always Pays interview with the author
Critical Mick interview with the author
Fort Worth Star-Telegram interview with the author
Library of Congress webcast featuring the author
New York Times profile of the author
NPR Morning Edition profile of the author
The Page 69 Test of Another Thing to Fall
Slate profile of the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)
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