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April 3, 2018

Michael Kardos's Playlist for His Novel "Bluff"


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

Michael Kardos's novel Bluff is an addictive and fast-paced thriller.

Booklist wrote of the book;

'Natalie is a sharp-witted survivor with a relatable self-sabotaging streak whose move into the dark world of card cheats climaxes with a spin worthy of the most adept con artists."

In his own words, here is Michael Kardos's Book Notes music playlist for his novel Bluff:

My new novel, Bluff, tells the story of an award-winning sleight-of-hand magician, Natalie Webb, who becomes obsessed with the underworld of the professional poker cheat. As you might expect, cards have a big role in the novel: card tricks, poker, gambling…a swiftly thrown card even serves as a weapon. The moment I started thinking about this playlist, an obvious question surfaced: What about "The Gambler"? Too on-point? Too obvious? Yes, I finally decided. You want "The Gambler," you know where to find it, just like you know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, etc.

And with that out of the way, here's the playlist for Bluff:

Magic Man, by Heart

'70s Heart more than makes up for '80s Heart. This song, from their 1975 album Dreamboat Annie, conveys the desire for escape and wonder that my main character, Natalie, is also desperate for. The singer's yearning is complicated by her retrospective knowledge of loss, of having been lured and hoodwinked by her "magic man." And damn—what a voice.

Magic, by Olivia Newton-John

Remember when this song was Number 1 on the Billboard charts? No? Regardless, this supposed love song sends up minor chords like warning flares. "I'll bring all your dreams alive for you," goes the seduction at the end of the chorus, and we suspect that whatever lies ahead could be magic, but it's maybe not the kind you want. Also: damn—what a voice.

Losing Hand, by Ray Charles

He gambled on his love, baby, and got a losing hand. Few extended metaphors in song are as durable as gambling and cards. Here is Ray Charles's wonderful blues take.

Fantasie Impromptu, by Frédéric Chopin

The protagonist of Bluff is a world-class prestidigitator, but she believes that no one has better-trained fingers than a classical pianist. In the novel's third chapter, she's listening to the Fantasie Impromptu, which is super hard to play correctly and with any musicality (it's an extremely fast four-against-three for you rhythm nerds).

Could It Be Magic, by Barry Manilow

You're still with me? Yes? Hear me out then as I mount my case:

Barry Manilow begins and ends this song with an excerpt from the Prelude in C Minor, Opus 28, Number 20 by none other than Frédéric Chopin.

Natalie, like Barry Manilow's oeuvre, is, at the core, earnest and not hip.

This playlist already seems to have somewhat of a '70s theme going.

The song has "magic" in the title.

Of course it loses points for the lyric, "high up where the stallion meets the sun." Of course. I'm aware of that.

But it's absolutely another seduction song. When he sings, "Let me feel the wonder of all of you," he doesn't mean "all of you various people."

Fight the Power, by Public Enemy

There's a teenage ne'er-do-well in Bluff who calls himself Cool Calvin and has about nine chips on his shoulder. He's a self-proclaimed authority on old-school hip hop. I don't think he knows quite yet what power he's fighting, but he definitely wants to fight it.

Bonus track: Fight the Power, by the Isley Brothers. Because, you know, source material. (Cool Calvin has never heard of this song.)

Michael Kardos and Bluff links:

the author's website

Oklahoman review
The Big Thrill interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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