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November 6, 2014

Book Notes - Jonathan Ashley "The Cost of Doing Business"

The Cost of Doing Business

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.

Jonathan Ashley's debut novel The Cost of Doing Business is a dark and entertaining romp through the dark side of Louisville.

Frank Bill wrote about the book:

"Poetic, down trodden and nihilistic, Jonathan Ashley treads through parts of the human psyche that others fear for one black tar mind-fuck-ride of a novel."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Jonathan Ashley's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Cost of Doing Business:


1. “Chinese Rock” by Johnny Thunder. I prefer the Ramones’ rendition of the punk classic penned by New York Dolls’ opiate-addled lead guitarist for the opening scenes of the novel. These scenes describe Louisville’s lower class and their neighborhoods and see the town through Jon and Paul’s first taste of murder during a petty speed deal gone bad. Also, the song fittingly refers to heroin trade and lifestyle.

2. “I’m the Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised” by Johnny Paycheck. Catherine Livingston, the fictional singer playing a set in the bookstore, while, in the upstairs office, Jon and Paul scurry to clandestinely transport a dead lady from inside the shop to the back alley. Catherine is based loosely on real-life Louisville singer Cathy Irwin, who plays in the alt-country pioneers act—Freakwater. In tribute to Cathy, her talent, and her influence on my work, and because she often covers the Johnny Paycheck classic, this number is essential to the Cost soundtrack.

3. “Moody River.” Any version, but Pat Boone’s will do. I prefer Doc Watson’s minor-key version, with his haunting lead acoustic work and fills. Can’t you hear Doc keen away as Jon and Paul dispose of their first corpse in the dark, muddy Ohio River?

4. “Used to be a Cop” by Drive-By Truckers. What better song to introduce the sleazy, corrupt Louisville Metro Police Department extortionist, Officer Parrant? It’s as if Patterson Hood read the back story of my novel’s most deplorable policeman and wrote the bass-heavy rocker just for Parrant’s entrance.

5. “Here Comes the Night” by Van Morrison and Them. The Cuban-flavor pop hit so paradoxically and bittersweet captures the anticipation and excitement of our anti-heroes first major drug deal in downtown Cincinnati. It delves into the juvenile-delinquent joy certain men get from even temporary defiance. The song’s upbeat tempo contrasts with its apoplectic nocturnal lyrics foreshadow the sorrows soon to befall the bookstore owners.

6. “Sugar Man” by Sixto Rodriguez. The recently re-discovered Dylan of Detroit penned this downbeat ditty about the breathless anticipation an addict feels when awaiting the dope man. The scene in which Jimmy, fresh out of prison, tests Jim’s and Paul’s first shipment of heroin was written with “Sugar Man” in mind.

7. “Runaway” by Del Shannon. Ever since I heard this ‘50s pop masterpiece play over the opening credits of the TV series, Crime Story, (produced by Michael Mann), the noir ballad has been a great source of inspiration in building scenes. For the purposes of my first novel, I think “Runaway” would best fit Mad Dog’s introduction and the violence that soon follows, and, of course, Jon and company’s exodus across the Kennedy Bridge.

8. “Black Rose” by Waylon Jennings. Essentially a classic tale of a femme fatale ruining a good man, the Billy Joe Shaver penned outlaw country favorite should kick in about the time Jon first shakes hands with hillbilly drug kingpin Luther Longmire. The volume should increase exponentially when Jon first lays eyes on Amara.

9. “Down on the Street” by The Stooges. Perfect song for scenes heavy on violence and gunplay. I’m especially thinking of Luther’s big violent takeover on the ghetto streets of Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati.

10. “Sadly Beautiful” by the Replacements. To this day I have had a hard time getting through this song dry-eyed. Jon Catlett’s beast won’t give up hope of someday reconciling with the mercurial Irind, over whose honor he first entered a life of crime.

11. “Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke. Despite its sociopathic anti-heroes, nihilistic themes and ultra violence, “Cost” is part love story, albeit, one involving the most unhinged of paramours. The hip-shaking, bedraggled soul single captures breathtakingly the first lusty moments between Cattlett and Luther’s femme fatale cousin in the empty bookstore after Jon reads Yeats aloud to Amara.

12. “Till it Shines” by Bob Seger. A classic Americana ballad that would easily accompany Jon and Paul’s fateful trip to Chicago, their introduction to the dissatisfied Russian mafia lieutenant, and the birth of the plan to corner the Midwest heroin market.

13. “Rambling Fever” by Merle Haggard. Ideal song to accompany Jon’s description of his clandestine side of business’s multi-state expansion. Great montage track.

14. “Cracklin’ Rose” by Neil Diamond. As the final shootout draws near, as major figures in the plot begin dropping like flies, a bit of levity seems in order. As Mad Dog displays his arsenal and armory, a Neil Diamond serenade would downplay the anal retentiveness attendant in the climax of most crime thrillers.

15. “She Use To Say That To Me” by George Strait. As Jon heads South, on the run from the novel’s consequences, saying goodbye to the woman in his life, I can hear fiddles and pedal steel that dominate this George Strait sleeper accompanying our troubled protagonists’ narrow escape.


Jonathan Ashley and The Cost of Doing Business links:

January Magazine review

One Bite at a Time interview with the author
PRX 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

List of Online "Best of 2014" Book Lists

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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