November 2, 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Clever and inventive, J. Bradley's The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective is one of the year's most enjoyable debuts.
Amber Sparks wrote of the book:
"It may sound odd to compare a book about Jesus trapped in a boy detective's body to work by Haruki Murukami, but that's immediately where I went after reading this weird, wild, wonderful thing that J. Bradley has made. Funny, formally innovative, and full of misdirection and literary sleight of hand, this is a once in a blue moon book that every writer should read, if only to remember that originality lives on despite recent reports to the contrary."
To get started, here's a synopsis of The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective: Trapped in the body of boy detective extraordinaire Timmy Hightower, the Son of God is forced by his Father to solve mysteries no mortal should ever solve. With the help of Timmy's uncle, Leopold Franz, a fourth-generation circus knife thrower/acquitted serial killer, they search for answers and for a way back home.
Some of the chapters in The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective were written while listening to music and some weren't. There wasn't any method to this, it was all dependent on what my mood was as I sat down to write. That's not to say music isn't in my writing "DNA." I learned how to write poetry by reading the lyrics of songs by The Cure and Smashing Pumpkins. There are certain songs I think of when I'm writing longer-form fiction and that longer-form fiction usually has a fight scene in it. I don't remember what songs I listened to while writing parts of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective but I can tell you the novel's musical influences.
Queen - "Who Wants To Live Forever"
I don't think I've ever heard a Queen song that isn't cinematic or epic. They all have this big, sweeping feel to them, where you don't really listen to a Queen song, you experience it. I did a good deal of worldbuilding for Jesus Christ, Boy Detective in a previous novella called Bodies Made of Smoke. When I was challenged to write a 10,000-word novella in six weeks, I stumbled onto an idea I couldn't quite get out of my head: a woman with a fetish for the Highlander franchise. From that idea came the story of the last two Greek gods, Hephaestus and Atropos facing each other in a final dual. I used the events in Bodies Made of Smoke as background when I stumbled onto the idea of trapping Jesus Christ in the body of a boy detective and forcing him to solve mysteries. When you think of gods, you initially think they're immortal but they aren't at all. They die out and become myths.
Das Racist - "Rainbow in the Dark"
Das Racist brilliantly infused pop culture references in their lyrics. In "Rainbow," some of the references include Ernest Hemingway, Saved By The Bell, Encyclopedia Brown (which they've updated to "Wikipedia Brown"), Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum, Goodfellas, Donkey Kong Country, Ronnie James Dio (this song shares its title with a Dio song); and they make these references seamlessly. As in much of my writing, there are many pop culture references in Jesus Christ, Boy Detective, some very obvious, and some not. This song inspired me to up my game.
Rage Against the Machine - "Take the Power Back"
There are a lot of fight scenes in Jesus Christ, Boy Detective, and this is the song that came to mind when I started writing them. My love for this song grew after it was used as the soundtrack behind the jailbreak scene in Natural Born Killers, where Mickey guns down an entire room of prison guards. There's this great tension throughout the song with peaks and valleys, much like a good action sequence.
The Afghan Whigs - "Honky's Ladder"
The Afghan Whigs's Black Love was heavily influenced by Greg Dulli trying to make a movie in the film noir genre. Dulli put the ideas he had for the soundtrack into making Black Love. Words don't adequately describe the amazingness of the guitar work in "Honky's Ladder." Jesus Christ, Boy Detective is a detective novel and this song is great for reveals that come from solving these mysteries.
The Walker Brothers - "The Electrician"
Two of my favorite Nicolas Winding Refn films are Bronson and Drive. In both of these movies, music's effectively used to set the mood of a scene. "The Electrician" perfectly sets the necessary ominous mood for Timmy and Leopold arriving to a particularly gruesome crime scene.
Queens of the Stone Age - "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire"
A detective novel isn't complete without some kind of car chase scene. "Millionaire" is the perfect song when you need to give yourself a sense of urgency. I can think of nothing more dangerous than a sense of urgency while behind the wheel of a car, or while writing, for that matter.
The Cure - "Pornography"
I am an avid fan of The Cure. I've seen them six times in concert. They're the only band I'll ever travel to see (the last time they played in Orlando was in 1996). Pornography is the darkest album that The Cure has ever made. When it came out in 1982, critics hated it. I love the album because of its darkness and how the lyrics read more like poems than they do lyrics.
There's an underlying darkness in Jesus Christ, Boy Detective and it gradually deepens. There's always the possibility a mystery will break Jesus to the point where he feels like this: "I must fight this sickness/Find a cure."
Death Cab for Cutie - "Expo '86"
I know this song's about a dysfunctional romantic relationship but I think it can really be about any dysfunctional relationship. There's this really great part that gives the song a noir feel:
"I am waiting for something to wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve
I am waiting for another repeat
Another diet fed by crippling defeat
And I am waiting for that sense of relief
I am waiting for you to flee the scene
As if you held in your hand the smoking gun
And on the floor lay the one you said you loved"
Jesus Christ, Boy Detective also deals with the cyclical nature of relationships, how there's always that possibility of things going wrong.
The Weakerthans - "This Is a Fire Door Never Leave Open"
In Jesus Christ, Boy Detective, Jesus's humanity's constantly tested in the face of growing horror at all the mysteries he's forced to solve. Jesus does this because he wants to go home. The last line in "Fire Door" mirrors the ambivalence about going home Jesus feels after each mystery he solves: "And I love this place; the enormous sky, and the faces, hands that I'm haunted by, so why can't I forgive these buildings, these frameworks labeled ‘Home'?"
J. Bradley and The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (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)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
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