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January 24, 2017

Book Notes - Steph Post "Lightwood"


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, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Steph Post's second novel Lightwood is suspenseful and compelling literary noir.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"With spot-on characterizations and dialogue, Post explores the strength of family, religion, and vengeance in an absorbing literary mystery."

In her own words, here is Steph Post's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Lightwood:

When I write, I see everything on the page playing out before me as if it were on the screen, so it seems only natural to create a playlist for my novel Lightwood as if it were a film. Lightwood is a story of family, of love, of hard choices and violent repercussions, all playing out against a sweltering Florida backdrop. In addition to the roar of motorcycle engines, the shrieks of followers filled with the Holy Ghost, the clink of bottles, the rising of flames and the falling of bullets, these are the sounds of Lightwood's saga.

"Four Walls of Raiford" by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Admittedly, I was a little hesitant about opening the playlist with this song. It's almost too predictable. But if there was ever a band to embody the Southern rock style of north Florida, it would be Lynyrd Skynyrd. Hell, they're from my hometown. In Lightwood as a film, "Four Walls" is the song playing during the very opening scene of the novel, when Judah Cannon, just released from prison, is walking down the highway towards home.

"He inhaled, the cherry flared and the paper began to smoke. He let the letter smolder in his hand and when it began to blacken his fingers, he dropped it onto the pavement beside him. Judah kept walking. He didn't look back."

"Misguided Angel" by Cowboy Junkies

This is Judah and Ramey's love song. In the film, this is the song playing as Judah and Ramey, just recently reunited after years apart, are sitting out in a field at night, drinking beer and trying to come terms with what they really mean to one another. It's the moment in their lives when they both finally realize that they have been meant for each other since they were kids. The song itself is an ache, one that speaks of a love tinged with anger and sorrow, bad choices and dead-ends, but it's a love with enough spark to be worth it all. From this moment onward, Judah and Ramey will be leading dangerous lives. But they will have each other.

"There was so much he knew, but didn't know, had heard about, but hadn't been there for, had wanted to be a part of, but hadn't dared. Ramey reached over and slid her hand underneath his. ‘Well, all right then.'"

"Satan is Real" by The Louvin Brothers

Enter Sister Tulah. If you've never been to a true revival, then this song will give you a taste of what Sister Tulah and the congregation of Last Steps to Deliverance Church of God are all about. Sister Tulah delivers a few different sermons throughout the course of Lightwood, and "Satan is Real" could serve as the backdrop to any one of them.

"Sister Tulah seized the plastic bottle of olive oil from the pulpit. She squeezed it onto a white square of cloth and then stepped down from the platform, ready to anoint her following."

"Live Wire" by Motley Crue

This is the anthem of being wasted, out of control and wanting to fight anyone and everyone around you as a way of giving voice to inexpressible emotions. At the beginning of chapter twelve of Lightwood, Judah has succeeded in his goal of getting as drunk as possible once he finds out his younger brother is in the hospital and he's partially responsible. In the film, "Live Wire" starts playing just as Judah looks around and realizes just how far gone he is. And while Judah won't exactly be taking the swings, the night definitely ends in blood and bruises.

"The blazing colors were a blur and made his head hurt. Judah gave up trying to orient himself and returned to staring at the full whiskey glass in front of him."

"Motherless Children" by Bob Dylan

Ah, the Scorpions. Far from just another Sons of Anarchy group, the Scorpions motorcycle club is just barely hanging on. They're not flashy, they're not sexy. They're not even that cool. They're a down-on-their-luck outlaw outfit with nothing to lose, everything to gain, and not much to go on. When their cocaine scheme goes south, putting them in the sights of both Sister Tulah and the Cannon clan, the danger they face will make them even more dangerous themselves. "Motherless Children" is the song playing once things heat up and Jack O' Lantern Austin, the Scorpions president, beings to realize just what the hell he's up against.

"Jack O' Lantern raised his hands to his face and stared wide-eyed through his fingers. It was Wednesday night. He had expected a phone call, maybe another snake in a box. He had not expected this."

"Down in the Valley to Pray" by Doc Watson

Brother Felton, Sister Tulah's awkward nephew who identifies more with turtles and snakes than he does people, is a true believer. Therefore, the blind musician Doc Watson's strong and pure rendition of this classic hymn is a perfect song to represent Felton, especially as he begins to come into his own as the story progresses. "Down in the Valley to Pray" is playing as Felton, standing in the back of the church, listens to one of his aunt's final sermons.

"Sister Tulah was his flesh and blood. She was his only family. If she possessed such uncontested power, before the eyes of man and before the eyes of God, why couldn't he have just the tiniest glimmer of that power inside him, too?"

"Float Like a Feather" by Dawn Mitschele

This is the second song for Judah and Ramey and comes at a time when both have been through so much, and yet still have so far to go. As the novel nears its end, both characters are having to make tough choices about the lines they are willing to cross and how much they are really willing to sacrifice. In the film version of Lightwood, this is Ramey and Judah's song to each other as they sit in the kitchen, on the eve of a day they might not walk away from, and come to terms with what it might cost them.

"Now you listen to me, Judah Cannon… If we're sitting here right now, at this moment, then we've made it so far. At the end of the day, I'm hoping there's more. But I wouldn't be surprised if there's less. And I've gotten right with that in my mind."

"Do Not Go Quietly Unto Your Grave" by Morphine

A lot happens in the final pages of Lightwood, as all the parties come together in reckoning, but it begins with Judah and Ramey walking up to Sister Tulah's church, intent on confronting Sherwood Cannon, Judah's father. This is the song playing as he takes those steps across the road, preparing to meet his fate on the other side of the door.

"Judah eyed the front door. The time for being sure had passed. He couldn't afford what-ifs, second guesses and wavering conviction."

"You are My Sunshine" by Morgane Stapelton

For me personally, "You are My Sunshine" is one of the most beautiful, and yet most sad, songs I've ever heard. Morgane Stapelton's rendition of it is both haunting and striking and is the perfect backdrop to Lightwood's final scene with Judah and Ramey. They have made their choices and are now becoming aware of the consequences of their actions, as the world before them is literally burning down to the ground.

"She was watching him, not the church, and he suddenly remembered how he had told her that everything was going to change."

Steph Post and Lightwood links:

the author's website

Booklist review
Tampa Bay Times review

Fiction Southeast interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for A Tree Born Crooked

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