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August 6, 2010

Book Notes - Mark Haskell Smith ("Baked")

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

Kirkus Reviews called Baked, "“As cockeyed and riotous as Carl Hiaasen on really good dope,” and I have to admit that at first, the novel reminded me a bit of Hiassen's bestselling thrillers. The meticulously researched theme, humor, and grittiness were there, but Mark Haskell Smith cleverly forges his own literary path. This fast-paced, drug-fueled mystery is filled with dark humor and unexpected twists and turns, and is a clever new take on crime fiction.

In his own words, here is Mark Haskell Smith's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Baked:

Baked is the story of a young man named Miro, an underground botanist and gentleman farmer, who grows exotic strains of marijuana for a living. He's a part of the cannabis culture, which means he listens to a lot of reggae. I know that seems like a cliché, but there is something about the tempo of the music and the sound quality of a great Jamaican mix that somehow perfectly compliments the smoking of a high grade sativa. I can only assume that's because the people who mix the music are stoned when they do it and are trying to amuse their ears and tickle some deep pleasure spot in their brains. Because Miro is a connoisseur of fine cannabis, I also had to make him slightly snobby about his musical choices. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, all the popular reggae artists were just too, well, popular. So he became an aficionado with decidedly old school tastes, preferring singers like Dennis Brown, The Ethiopians, The Abyssinians, Johnny Clarke, and Linval Thompson.

But because, like me, he lives on the Eastside of Los Angeles in an extremely diverse neighborhood that's home to indie rock bands like Earlimart, Great Northern, and The Flying Tourbillion Orchestra he's exposed to more than just reggae. Eagle Rock is a music hipster's paradise, it is not uncommon to walk through the streets and hear snatches of Los Tigres del Norte, Alejandro Sanz, Cypress Hill, Snoop Dog, unidentifiable Filipino power pop, Taiwanese crooning, techno, classic rock and whatever else you can think of. There's a vibrancy and vitality to this part of LA that I love and I really wanted to try and bring it into the book.

Freddy McGregor - "Roots Man Skanking"

In the first section of the novel a stoned Miro walks through the rainy streets of Amsterdam listening to his song. I wanted music that would bring Caribbean sunshine to dreary Holland and it is impossible to listen to this song and not smile. Positive vibrations drip out of the speakers and float on a very simple reggae beat, carried by McGregor's beautiful voice.

Nouvelle Vague - "Too Drunk to F**k"

In my novels I always aspire to turn situations, emotions, actions and reactions upside down, just because I like the surprise. Here, the Dead Kennedy's classic is turned into a breathy, sexy romp by this French jazz trio. There's something so rebellious and disrespectful of the original version that it makes this rendition even more punk. Brilliant.

Harlem - "Beautiful and Very Smart"

Miro meets a Portuguese scientist when he's in Amsterdam attending the Cannabis Cup and they make an instant, if clunky connection. Love is beautiful when it's awkward and so is this song by a rockin' Austin trio. Awkward and beautiful and very smart.

Molotov - "Yofo"

Los Angeles contains the second largest Mexican population in the world and there is a distinct Mexican vibe on the Eastside. Taco trucks, tiendas, botanicas, supermercados, and a real sense of Mexican street life dominate. Although this band is from Mexico City, their aggressive energy, raunchy lyrics and chinagale attitude express the essence of this part of town. Yofo is one of their more accessible songs.

Sieneke - "Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie)"

The first third of Baked takes place in Amsterdam, so what better song than the current Dutch entry into the Eurovision song competition. This song was playing everywhere in Amsterdam, I even had people sing it to me in a restaurant one night. So I think it needs to go on the playlist: Two minutes and fifty nine seconds of utter Europop crap.

Giant Drag - "You F**k Like My Dad"

Miro's best friend Rupert has a band and is obsessed with music, especially music on vinyl and bands that nobody else knows about. This song is classic Silverlake grunge rock. Exactly the kind of song and band that Rupert would love, until, of course, they get a record deal and become another f**king sellout.

Wilson Simoninha - "Sossega"

I rarely listen to music when I'm writing, but occasionally I'll feel the urge, and when I do I reach for some Brazilian tropicalismo. The melodies are sexy, the rhythm propulsive, and the lyrics are in Portuguese so they don't interrupt my flow. For me, Wilson Simoninha is the king of tropicalismo.

Stew - "The Naked Dutch Painter

Easily the best song about being an expat in a foreign land, specifically Amsterdam. Stew also manages to capture the “do your own thing” attitude that makes Holland such a compelling (and fully functioning) society.

The Funky 4 + 1 - "That's The Joint"

I referenced this song in the novel because I wanted one of my characters to be a fan of classic old school hip hop; early rap when it was joyous and fun. Before gangsta rap ruined the genre.

Sugar Minott - "Good Thing Going"

Because I like happy endings.

Mark Haskell Smith and Baked links:

the author's website

The Big Thrill review
Kirkus Reviews review
Los Angeles Times review

Jacket Copy guest post by the author
Jacket Copy piece co-written by the author
Los Angeles Times article by the author
Speakeasy profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists

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