June 21, 2012
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, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
The Last Trade is one of my most anticipated books of the year. I have always admired the work of literary fiction writer James Othmer, with this book he attacks the mystery genre under a pseudonym, James Conway.
The Last Trade is a fast-paced, international financial thriller that features an unforgettable female protagonist whom Publishers Weekly called "the financial world equivalent of Lisbeth Salander."
Bookreporter wrote of the book:
"The Last Trade is a relentlessly entertaining, adrenaline-fueled thriller about the forces that shape our culture --- and a lone man desperate to achieve redemption --- while averting a global economic catastrophe."
At one point, since I was writing in an entirely new genre under a new name, I began to fantasize about taking my pseudonymous existence to an extreme, creating a fascinating, fictitious alpha alter-ego: James Conway the world traveling, swash-buckling man of mystery not unlike Dos Equis' "Most Interesting Man in the World". I envisioned an author photo atop a camel in a remote desert encampment. Aviator glasses. Twin Irish Wolfhounds at my feet. In the background a man in a robe with a Kalishnakov standing alongside single-prop plane idling in the background while a beautiful and mysterious woman waits in the pilot seat, gazing in my direction. Photo credit not to Jerry Bauer or the author's wife but to some one-named artist. Donatella. Or Vittorio. Or redacted by censors.
Similarly, this Conway's musical tastes surely wouldn't (shouldn't!) at all resemble the suede elbow patch-wearing Othmer's trying-too-hard to sound younger than 51 alt-rock standbys. No Spoon or Wilco or some obscure yet ultimately expected track from Springsteen's "Nebraska" for Conway. The Conway I envisioned would be so far from the mainstream that he's never heard of Adele; the only Jack White he knows is a Black Ops guy from that thing in the Sudan in '07. At first I did try to listen to thriller-fuel music but constantly listening to the soundtrack from Run Lola Run did not make me a better thriller writer; just extremely over-caffeinated and jumpy, and German.
Fortunately it turns out that while James Conway does have similar taste in music as James Othmer (who, incidentally, was writing a novel of his own at the same time), these tunes were much more successful at inducing an edge of the seat, nourish state of mind:
The Felice Brothers "Frankie's Gun!"
Last saw these Catskill, NY natives at a raucous Halloween Show at The Chance in Poughkeepsie. The lead singer was in drag and the accordion player was dressed as the Gloucester Fisherman yet this song played like a mini-thriller replete with dark characters, pathos and violence.
Elle King "Good to Be a Man"
Saw Elle King in Austin before SXSW. She's as tough and as soulful as they come and this song, a harsh, fiercely ironic appraisal of modern men, is something that Cara Sobieski the complex female protagonist of The Last Trade, could have written. If she was musically inclined and not hunting financial terrorists.
Death Cab for Cutie "Grapevine Fires"
A deadpan take on a couple's behavior at the end of the world, a sort of mini-opera sprinkled with smart, killer details. Perfect for contemplating the potential doomsday scenario in this novel, while never getting me down.
Jim Carroll "People Who Died"
Early one morning in 1981 I called WBCN in Boston and made the first and only song request of my life. I had just read The Basketball Diaries. I liked punk. Social Distortion. The Misfits. I thought I was deep. Danny Weiss, a conscience figure in The Last Trade and a total outlier in the hedge fund world, has the same taste.
Warren Zevon "Accidentally Like a Martyr"
I always thought there was a touch of Graham Greene in Zevon. Sketchy deals gone awry in far-off lands. I thought of this song when my lead character reconnects, awkwardly and painfully, with his ex.
The Raconteurs "Rich Kid Blues"
This book, which was written pre-Occupy, is about money. The aftermath of one crash and the greed, guilt, integrity and sociopathy doing battle with each other to trigger or prevent the next. Does 1 percent of the 1 percent have a conscience? Does the 99% have a chance? This song prompted me and my characters to wonder.
James Conway and The Last Trade links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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