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June 7, 2017

Book Notes - Jordan Harper "She Rides Shotgun"

She Rides Shotgun

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.

Jordan Harper's novel She Rides Shotgun is a compelling, dark, and intriguing debut.

Booklist wrote of the book:

"From its bravura prologue to its immensely satisfying ending, this first novel comes out with guns blazing and shoots the chambers dry. It's both a dark, original take on the chase novel and a strangely touching portrait of a father-daughter relationship framed in barbed wire."

In his own words, here is Jordan Harper's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel She Rides Shotgun:

My first novel She Rides Shotgun is Paper Moon with a body count, a road novel in which shy eleven-year-old Polly and her recently sprung father Nate drive through Southern California while trying to escape a death sentence placed on them by a white power prison gang. Along with Polly’s teddy bear, who she manipulates like a puppet to express her hidden nature, the two of them take a journey that leads them from the cities to the high desert, and brings them together in ways both beautiful and twisted.

"Gone to Earth" by American Analog Set

When fresh-from-jail Nate comes to take Polly from in front of her school, she is shy, with her hair hanging in her face to hide from the world. She thinks of herself as a girl from Venus, her way of thinking about her inability to fit into the world around her. This low-key, lovely song about escaping on rocket ships is a perfect way to set the table, a quiet moment before the lid gets ripped off …

"Rumors of War" by High on Fire

Like most people, I have a Spotify playlist called "Music to Punch To." It’s mostly full of angry music that reveals my age: Rollins Band, Ministry, Godflesh. But the one band mostly heavily represented in my violent playlist is heavy metal band High on Fire. No band could be better for the scenes in which Nate teaches Polly to channel her anger into her fists. And of all of their songs, “Rumors of War” rocks the hardest. The way lead guitarist/vocalist/real-life-doof-warrior Matt Pike snarls “ooh, shotgun” midway through the song shoves more grit into two seconds than I’ve crammed into my whole career.

"Bad and Bougie" by Migos

The third member of the family is Polly’s nameless teddy bear, who expresses things that Polly herself cannot, as well as being the friendless girl’s only friend. Polly has learned to manipulate the bear like a puppet, and the bear loves to dance. As Nate and Polly grow closer during their journey, they learn that they both love big booming hip-hop, and they dance together. So why not dance along to the hit of the year, “Bad and Boujee” by trap superstars Migos?

"Living in Darkness" by Agent Orange

Southern California surf punk at it’s finest, “Living in Darkness” fits the soundtrack of the section of the novel when Nate and Polly prowl the sands of Huntington Beach searching for Nazi skinheads, looking for a way in to attack the gang. There’s a lot more to be written about surf-punks, that great confluence of mohawks and sex wax, and some day I intend to do so.

"You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by The Gap Band

The only song mentioned by name in the book is “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by The Gap Band, which strung-out meth tester Scubby sings after snorting a particularly strong line of Nazi dope. Scubby, as good-natured a gak-fiend as you will ever meet who finds himself in the middle of a dope heist, is probably my favorite minor character in the book, and the fact that when jolted with crank his brain burps out Gap Band lyrics is one of the reasons why.

"The Satanic Rites of Drugla" by Electric Wizard

I mentioned Electric Wizard in my last playlist, but I’m mentioning them again for two reasons: one, they fucking rule, and two, when the skinheads come for a character named Charlotte, she’s happily getting high while wearing an Electric Wizard t-shirt. I figure Charlotte, with her taste for danger, would dig a song like “The Satanic Rites of Drugula,” which is about a vampire who ties up women, plies them with drugs and then battens to them so Druglua can get high off their dope-laced blood. I told you the band rules.

"Open the Light" by Boards of Canada

The gorgeous, psychedelic electronica of Boards of Canada is the best writing music in the world, which is why of my 25 top most-played songs on iTunes, nine of them are from the Scottish duo. Open the Light is my all-time most-played song, a beautiful and haunting song with richly textured keyboards, somehow calling forth memories from childhood, which is why I listened to it more than usual while writing a novel from Polly’s POV. I thank Boards of Canada at the end of the novel. I highly recommend you check them out.

Jordan Harper and She Rides Shotgun links:

Kirkus Reviews review
LitReactor review
New York Journal of Books review
Publishers Weekly review

Booklist Reader post by the author
Criminal Element interview with the author
Writers' Bone interview with the author

Largehearted Boy playlist by the author for Love and Other Wounds

also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

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