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October 14, 2009

Book Notes - Bill Willingham ("Peter & Max: A Fables Novel")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

For years, Bill Willingham's Fables comics series has mesmerized me with its real life tales of fairy tale characters, so I was more than a bit trepidacious when his stand-alone Peter & Max: A Fables Novel showed up. I didn't have to worry, Peter & Max shares the same sense of adventure, wit, and dark overtones that make the comics so addictive and wonderful. Willingham's story of the Pied Pier and Peter Piper (brothers, of course) is a fantastic fairy tale on its own terms, and should delight both fans of the Fables series and readers unfamiliar with the comics.

The Contra Costa Times wrote of the book:

"What makes "Peter & Max" a true delight is how it thrusts these storybook characters, including Bo Peep, into threatening adult situations. Readers with a taste for the macabre will lap it up, especially whenever the villain Max shows up to do more damage. He gives Hannibal Lecter a run for his money. "

In his own words, here is Bill Willingham's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Peter & Max: A Fables Novel:

If anyone's written the sound track to Peter and Max, or at least Fables in general, it's Peter Mayer. Songs of note on theme are: "I'll Be Coming Home"; "Magic Beans"; and "John's Garden."

Jethro Tull adds far too many piper based songs to my personal canon, most notably "The Pied Piper," from their Too Old to Rock and Roll album. "Brown Mouse" is a perennial too.

Peter and the Wolf of course, composed by Sergei Prokofiev.

"Old Black Magic." I like the version recorded by Louis Prima singing with Keely Smith.

"Con te PartirĂ³ (Time to Say Goodbye)." My currently preferred version: Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman, performing to the orchestra arrangement by Roberto Molinelli. This doesn't really speak about fairytales or folklore in general, or about any aspect of the novel in particular, but it's always somewhere on my play list, if writing needs to be done. It's playing now, in fact.

"The Minstrel Boy." It's a traditional song, most often done as an up tempo drum and pipes marching tune. But I prefer when it's performed as a lament.

I have a fondness for the Pied Piper song from Disney's 1933 animated short, called the Pied Piper, natch. Its lyrics are drawn heavily from the famous Robert Browning poem, which also did much to inform the writing of the rats scene in Peter and Max.

Brit pop star Crispen St Peter had two hits in his career, one of which is the "Pied Piper" in 1966. Try it. You'll like it.

The Black Forest Overture, composed by Michael Sweeny.

"Wise Up," by Aimee Mann.

"Old Devil Moon." Many have recorded wonderful versions of this old standard, but just now I prefer the Bossa Rio version.

Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor, Op. 66," is another that belongs on my play list any time I need to write. You'll find Alice Cooper chasing rainbows in it. No, seriously.

More on theme, Telemann wrote a number of wonderful pieces for the flute. Particular favorites are his "Flute Fantasie in B Minor," his "Flute Fantasie in A Minor," and the Concerto for Transverse Flute in D Major.

"Somebody Stole my Gal," 1918 (which is an important date in the story of Peter and Max), by Fats Waller

"The Teddy Bear's Picnic" by Henry Hall and his Orchestra

"Monsters", by Switchblade Symphony

"To One in Paradise," by The Alan Parsons Project

"Gabriel's Theme," by Ennio Morricone. Part of the soundtrack for Roland Joffe's 1986 film, The Mission. Actually the entire soundtrack got listened to throughout the writing of Peter and Max.

"Storybook Story," by Willie DeVille

"Woyaya," by Art Garfunkel

And finally, for those more wicked passages in with Max in the Black Forest, nothing else would do but Siouxsie and the Banshees' dark and disturbing cover of "Trust in Me," from Disney's The Jungle Book.

Bill Willingham and Peter & Max: A Fables Novel links:

the book's website
excerpt from the book (PDF link)
excerpt (chapter 1) (PDF link)
excerpt (chapter 2) (PDF link)

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Contra Costa Times review
Crave review
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Hebdomeros review
iFanboy review
IGN review
io9 review
King Bigby's Book reviews review
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist review
Scott William Foley review
Todd's Blog review

The Blog From Another World interview with the author
Broken Frontier interview with the author
Comic Book resources interview with the author
IGN interview with the author
Newsarama interview with the author
Speakeasy interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks


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