May 9, 2013
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, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Bill Loehfelm's The Devil in Her Way sees his heroine from The Devil She Knows move from Staten Island to post-Katrina New Orleans in this gritty thriller reminiscent of the works of Richard Price and Dennis Lehane.
Everything I write has a playlist, and that playlist gets built up from a foundational nugget of songs, usually related to the main character. The list for The Devil in Her Way started with favorites old and new.
"Running Up That Hill" – Kate Bush: This song was a high school favorite, and I'm not entirely sure how I found my way back to it. It's the song, though, that gave me my early insight into Maureen's developing character. We learn in the first book that she's a life long runner, with all the various connotations of that word, and in The Devil in Her Way, we see her still running: to New Orleans and away from what happened in New York, to stay in shape for her new career as a cop, and racing across neighborhoods after witnesses and suspects. I think it was the lines "If I only could/I'd make a deal with God/And get Him to swap our places" that got me thinking about Maureen, having been the victim in the first book, acting as a protector in this one. In addition to the Bush original, I found a great cover by Placebo and a live version by a French pop singer named Nolwenn Leroy.
"Last of the American Girls" – Green Day: An homage, I think, to women who don't fit the media-driven, media-approved stereotypes of femininity and womanhood. The "Girl" of the title is imperfect and contradictory, and embraces those qualities with confidence. It's a place Maureen struggles to get to as she sheds an old identity and embraces a new one. One of the most fun parts of the character's new direction is writing someone who's found exactly what she wants to be, and is fighting to make it stick, instead of the typical lost and searching character.
If "Last of the American Girls" is the complete package Maureen aspires to be, and wants the world to see, then the voice of Alison Mosshart from The Kills and the Dead Weather embodies what she fears she's really like on the inside: wild, jagged, too fragile and violently fierce. Searching for female voices brought me to the Dead Weather when I was writing The Devil She Knows, which lead me to The Kills for the new book. Their song "Satellite," with its hazy, distorted, reggae-zombie stagger especially worked for the new book, as did the Dead Weather tune, "Die By The Drop." Both songs feature Mosshart paired with a male vocalist, something that pops up in a number of the songs on the playlist.
Another song with a male/female vocal is "Bomb" by Band of Skulls: A raw and ragged song, "Bomb" helped me frame some of Maureen's darker urges, especially her attraction to violence. She certainly has a tendency to explode. The song starts with the ticking of a time bomb and "I can hear it" is an oft-repeated phrase in the song. Maureen can often hear the timer ticking on her own temper.
Forming a darker still flipside to Mosshart's voice is Greg Dulli, his work with the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, especially, the latter a band that sees Dulli paired on vocals with Mark Lanegan. The Gutter Twins' "Idle Hands," with its talk of cold-lipped devil's playthings and their "Bete Noir," with Lanegan and Dulli's laconic, opiated chant of "Run now, honey, run. Run your race to ruin," are core songs of the playlist. If Mosshart is the banshee shriek of Maureen's raging id, then the twining snakes of Dulli and Lanegan are the haunted, echoing voices of her devils – the whispery dark side of her new home.
"Gold, Girls, Guns" – Metric: Another song, like "Bomb," that speaks to me of dangerous feelings, especially, the inability to feel satisfied or content. More than the desires named in the title, I think Maureen is susceptible to the chant of the chorus: "Is it ever gonna be enough?" Maureen has a lot of anger inside her, and I think she worried it'll never go away, and that she might not want it to. A great vocal; I love strong female voices on darker subjects.
Finally, one of the core 'Maureen' songs from the beginning has been "Ain't No Cowgirl" by blues musician Otis Taylor: "She can't rope, she can't ride, but she sure can yippe-ki-yay." More of a humorous song about a wild woman with an outlaw's capacity for mayhem. Even fresh on the force, Maureen is tempted by the freedom her badge gives her to break the rules she's supposed to uphold. It first appears on Taylor's White African album as an acoustic number, and he re-recorded it later with a full band on the Clovis People, Vol. 3 album.
Bill Loehfelm and The Devil in Her Way links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
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