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March 6, 2012

Book Notes - James Renner - "The Man from Primrose Lane"

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

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, and many others.

James Renner's debut novel defies genre categorization, masterfully blending elements of true crime, horror, and science fiction into one of the year's most intriguing and fascinating books.

Jonathan Carroll wrote of the book:

"The Man from Primrose Lane is a haunting, wickedly clever book. Part Dennis Lehane and part Murakami, the twist of H. P. Lovecraft mixed in gives it a taste like no other. James Renner starts off his fiction career with a bang."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.

In his own words, here is James Renner's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, The Man from Primrose Lane:

The Man from Primrose Lane is my first novel and I wrote every word of it while sitting at a booth in an Akron-area coffee shop called The Nervous Dog, earbuds in, hiding from life, trying to write something interesting. I ended up with a non-linear story about a down-on-his-luck writer who gets his coffee at The Nervous Dog when he's not busy solving a series of murders, avenging his wife's death, avoiding a monster called the Loveland Frog, and contemplating the nature of the space-time continuum. These are the songs that inspired the story.

"Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," Gordon Lightfoot

A beautiful ballad about the true story of a ship that sank on its way home to Cleveland. This song represents the tone of whimsy and longing my main character, David Neff, possesses in spades. I structured my novel in three parts and between each section is an Interlude called, "The Ballad of the Loveland Frog," which tells another story-within-a-story about lost loved ones and our longing to rewrite the past.

Concerto No. 3, Sergei Rachmaninoff

A very important piece of composition for the novel. There is a scene where this concerto is played by an Austrian in a cruise ship piano bar, and the performance inspires a character's transformative moment. It's an amazing piece, full of frenzy, and it can only be played by accomplished pianists. It is inspiring in its complexity but at the same time, a little frightening to see performed. No human should be able to play it well and yet some do.

"Ramble On," Led Zeppelin

A must have for anyone working on a long project. A good reminder to keep on keeping on in the midst of everything. Also, there are some cool lyrics about Gollum and the Lord of the Rings hidden in there for God knows what reason. Hey, they're Led Zeppelin. Leave ‘em alone.

"Discombobulate," Hans Zimmer

The theme to the Sherlock Holmes reboot. Makes you want to put on your thinking cap and come up with a twisty crime for someone to solve.

"The Gravel Road," James Newton Howard

Also known as the theme song to M. Night's The Village. Haunting. Good background music for any dark scene where the good guys are beginning a journey in dangerous territory.

"Dead Reckoning," Clint Mansell

This is a great instrumental piece to listen to when shit is about to go down. It was used for the big reveal at the end of the sleeper shoot-em-up classic, Smokin' Aces. I like to play this when I'm approaching the end of chapters and then click "repeat."

"Aqualung," Jethro Tull

If you're writing about creepy serial killers hunting young girls, you must download this oldie. See, Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson's wife took a picture of this homeless dude and it creeped Anderson out so much he wrote this ode to what he assumed was a pederast with tuberculosis. "Sitting on a park bench. Eeeeeying little girls, with bad intent." Ew. But some great guitar!

"Shooting Star," Andy Brown

EVERYONE is lifting this track from that forgettable movie, Stardust. It was used in the previews for the final episode of Lost. I have it on my iPod but I like to watch the old Lost preview on YouTube before I start writing. Gets me in the mood for writing every time.

"Hurt," Johnny Cash

Hells to the yes. Johnny Cash is going to make you hurt, courtesy of Trent Reznor. This song is about vengeance. The good kind. The unavoidable kind. This is what your antihero listens to when he's getting to the climax in Chapter 23. Maybe he won't live, but he's gonna make someone hurt before he dies.

"Tom's Diner," Suzanne Vega

An eerie ballad that lodges in your mind like a Ceti eel. I like to listen to this when I'm painting a scene that is mundane but slightly off-kilter—a newsroom where a box of paperwork left behind by a deranged psychopath rests above the copier, perhaps.

"Prelude and Rooftop," Bernard Herrmann

Hitchcock perfected slow-burn suspense in Vertigo. Herrmann somehow comes up with a score that perfectly complements the director's vision. Listening to this while writing will make your book 10% smarter. Promise.

James Renner and The Man from Primrose Lane links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry
excerpt from the book (at io9)
excerpt from the book (at

BookFetish review
Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Criminal Element review
Dayton Daily News review
Gumshoe review
Publishers Weekly review
SF Signal review review

The Big Thrill interview with the author
Cleveland Magazine profile of the author
Mediabistro interview with the author
Whatever guest post by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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

List of Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
List of 2011 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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