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August 11, 2014

Book Notes - Bruce Holbert "The Hour of Lead"

The Hour of Lead

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.

Bruce Holbert's novel The Hour of Lead has drawn comparisons to both Cormac McCarthy and John Steinbeck with its lyrical portrayal of the American West.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"Holbert's powerful work echoes the romance of America’s Western experience. A masterpiece."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Bruce Holbert's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, The Hour of Lead:


The Hour of Lead is my second novel, but I worked on it off and on for several years. The book takes place in eastern Washington state from 1918 to 1978. To a large extent it is a story of the isolation inherent in the miles between people in a still unsettled place and the stories we tell ourselves, even now, that keep us miles apart even if we are in the same room. It's a distance that turns people strange and sometimes mean, and sometimes people in such a place can love each other despite such spaces between them. Perfect fodder, it turns out, for the music I woke up to every morning playing on the hi-fi while my dad got ready for work and a few others I collected along the way.

Marty Robbins--"Utah Carol"
This song comes from an album called Gunfighter Ballads that came out in 1959, the year of my birth. Most of the songs are old public domain tunes. There are several different Utah Carol songs my father learned from itinerant cowboys growing up on his mother's ranch. This version is heroic and melancholy much like the mythology I grew up with and that inhabits my writing.

Hank Williams – "The Lost Highway"
"Just a deck of cards and a jug of wine and a woman's lies make a life like mine." When I write, my focus turns mostly to sound and tones, and in my best sentences, I hope to hear something like Hank Williams.

George Jones – "The Cold, Hard Truth"
From late in Jones' life, this is one I discovered and brought home to the old man. It's about a life squandered on stories rather than invested in people you love. When Jones died recently, my father and I spoke of it as the passing of a friend.

Hillary Susz – "The Tempo of This Town"
A brilliant student in my high school advanced placement English class, Hillary once invited me to listen to her play at a club in downtown Spokane. The other acts had been several kinds of youthful earnest mediocre with a lot of techno distraction, then Hillary with an acoustic guitar sat on a stool and belted out a song as if she were one of the old troubadours. It was the first time I felt moved with the awe of encountering something brilliant and new in many years. It reminded me why I was in the art business.

Steve Earle – "Pilgrim"
From a bluegrass album he did with the Del McCoury Family. Bluegrass is so far back in the woods that it can't be anything but honest and a bullshit sifter is tremendous help when you spend the amount of time in your own head required to write a book.

Iris Dement – "Easy's Getting Harder Everyday"
Sweet, mournful, plaintiff without being any kind of weak. Her work is all about enduring and informs my female characters in this book a great deal.

Lefty Frizzell – "Long Black Veil"
Another public domain song often recorded by artists as varied as the Carter Family, Mick Jagger and the Chieftains and The Band. Lefty Frizzell is my favorite because he sounds like a ghost and in a way that's my role in the writing process.

Neil Young – "Pocahontas"
Sometimes one gets caught up in the seriousness of his or her own intentions. A line like: "Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me" is a pretty good remedy for such moments.

Lucinda Williams – "Essence"
As gritty as Iris Dement is sweet, Lucinda Williams tears into life and her hungers in ways I have never heard. I'm not going to say I understand women after listening to her; what I will say is I understood how much I didn't know.

Gram Parsons - "Return of The Grievous Angel"
Home. It's a complicated relationship but not all melancholy.

The Ramones – "Blitzkrieg Bop"
The Ramones don't permit me to think anything at all, which can be quite a service when the well is dry.


Bruce Holbert and The Hour of Lead links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review
Seattle Times review
The Spokesman-Review review

Author2Author interview with the author
The Nervous Breakdown self-interview with the author
The Western Online interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists


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