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July 20, 2018

Playlist for the Anthology "Santa Cruz Noir"

Santa Cruz Noir

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

Santa Cruz Noir is another stunning addition to Akashic Books' anthology series.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"Bright joins the ranks of Akashic editors to rip the lid off the California coastal town that’s never seemed less laid-back."

In their own words, here is Susie Bright and her authors' Book Notes music playlist for the anthology Santa Cruz Noir:


Echo and the Bunnymen, "People Are Strange"

Echo and the Bunnymen’s cover of "People Are Strange" made its impact in The Lost Boys. Spookier and sharper than the Doors’ original. We hear it over a montage of outsiders, hanging out, people posting flyers for lost loved ones. It’s the carnival vibe of The Boardwalk vs. the strangers with nothing to lose.

— Willow Pennell, Associate Editor (WP)

"Beauty and the Break," by Susie Bright

Michael Jackson, "Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough"

I fell in love so hard in Santa Cruz in the '70s. Being insatiable in this town— is like none other. We would fuck in our apartment, next to The Big Dipper, and the screams of the riders, that wooden coaster shaking? We felt it in my bed. It was the first time I made a woman come on my hand, and I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to get it back. At night, we’d dress all our boyfriends like hot girls, and dance dance dance coke dance smoke dance fuck dance until dawn. At 9 AM, I had to go to work and clean a giant telescope. I’d like to dedicate this to: Willie Grover.

—Susie Bright (SB)

"Buck Low" by Tommy Moore

Eddie Noack, "Love"

"If I could have it my way, I’d fuck her every afternoon, kill her at night, and she’d still be there, waking up next to me, smiling, in the morning."​

— "Buck Low"

"Whatever Happened to Skinny Jane?" by Ariel Gore

Joni Mitchell, "All I Want" & Vonda Shepard, "Chinatown"

"She begged me to squeeze harder. She was begging me with her sapphires, wasn’t she? I was trying to give her what she wanted. For all the ‘if’s,’ to become ‘is’?

—"Whatever Happened to Skinny Jane?"

"Monarchs and Maidens," by Margaret Elysia Garcia

Cocteau Twins, "​​When Mama Was a Moth"

"Thousands of monarchs beat their wings about the eucalyptus and pine…like a kelp forest in a tide zone…By the end of the path there seem to be nothing left but the beating of a million orange wings."

—"Monarchs and Maidens"

"54028 Love Creek Road," by Jessica Breheny

The Knitters, "Poor Little Critter on the Road"

"I imagine the grammar lesson I could give with Frank’s sentence: I stabbed him/You stabbed him/They stabbed him/Frank stabbed him."

— "54028 Love Creek Road"

"Possessed," by Naomi Hirahara

Shonen Knife, "Top of the World"

My go-to karaoke song. This version contains the duality of lyric's sweetness with the ominous rock-and-roll beat of young women on the countdown.

—Naomi Hirahara

"Wheels of Justice," by Jon Bailiff

The Mermen, "Curve"

This album shaped my early surf awareness- this cut, the deepest.

— Jon Bailiff

Mischa and the Seal, by Liza Monroy

"Song of the Sea"

I was watching this beautiful animated movie with my little one, at the time I was writing the story. It made the truth about my main character, click. The song is haunting, about an aimless woman who comes to remember what she really is.

—Liza Monroy

"First Peak," by Peggy Townsend

Square Roots, "Cruel Step," & Steel Pulse, "Roller Skates"

This is the Pleasure Point that our character Boone remembers. —Scrappy, dirty and soulful. Square Roots came out of The Point. Legendary filmmaker and local boy Tony Roberts (TR) directed this piece for his movie, Surf Skate. Hawaiian reggae is so much a part of Hawaiian/Santa Cruz connection; it makes me think of the time Boone spent there.

"Roller Skates" is all about appropriation and cultural thievery. Yes, I'm only thinking of Boone's experience in this two-sided story. I refuse to apologize.

— WP

"Safe Harbor," by Seana Graham

Mazzy Star, "California"

That melancholy voice, floating far above the earth. It makes me think of Jazz's rootless, mercenary impulse to head to California. She's untouchable, as much as Ray tries. This song just nails it.

— WP

"Miscalculation," by Vinnie Hansen

Fuchs von Zimmer, "Slow Boat to China"

My story features three nefarious ukulele players: "Rudy nodded to a hula dancer named Linda. She was possibly the Linda he’d had a fling with, although hard to tell—every other woman in the group was named Linda."

—Vinnie Hansen

"To Live and Die in Santa Cruz," by Calvin McMillan

The Lumineers, "White Lie"

"She was super nice. Polite. Always kept the common areas clean. I never had any problems with her."

"Nice? Polite? Clean? Obviously, they barely knew Elizabeth."

— "To Live and Die in Santa Cruz"

Treasure Island, by Micah Perks

Luisa Maria Guell, "Murio Nuestro Amor de Verano"

This sad but airy Spanish love song about the end of summer love is counterpoint to the cranky, racist, paranoid old man in my story, "Treasure Island." It's part of the soundtrack of his favorite movie, Falling Down— also about white paranoia and panic.

-Micah Perks

"Flaming Arrows," by Wallace Baine

The Eels, "It's a Motherfucker"

"I choose to think of myself as a "mourning husband" rather than a chump. And prefer it if you thought that way too. It’s easier for everybody."

—"Flaming Arrows"

"The Big Creep," by Elizabeth McKenzie

REM, "Losing My Religion"

The song, like the story, is about longing and alienation and I can imagine "The Big Creep"’s 15 year old narrator sitting in her garage-turned-apartment drinking her vodka and orange juice thinking "That’s me in the corner."

—Elizabeth McKenzie

"Death and Taxes," by Jill Wolfson

Huey Lewis, "If This Is It." Video shot on location at Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

"It’s Cody’s first day as a sign dancer. He pops a tab of Adderall and stands at the corner of Mission and Swift in a Statue of Liberty costume."

—"Death and Taxes"

"The Strawberry Tattoo" by Maceo Montoya

Selena, "Como la Flor"

The ache in Selena's voice, for our Romeo and Juliette who break our hearts.

"What about your strawberry tattoo? Don’t tell me that’s just Watsonville pride."

"Naw, that’s my favorite fruit."


"Crab Dinners," by Lou Mathews

"Endless Sleep" by Jody Reynolds

One of those weird, death-haunted songs from the '50s. Guy is looking down at the ocean, where he thinks his girlfriend has drowned and the ocean tells him, "Come join me baby in my endless sleep." You feel the pull. My story ends on the cement ship pier at Seacliff Beach. That pull is there.

—Lou Mathews

"Pinballs," by Beth Lisick

Yaz, "Goodbye Seventies"

I picture my narrator blasting this song out of the boombox she has sitting on the front seat of her VW Squareback as she barrels out of her bad relationship in a small town near Mt. Shasta and heads toward Santa Cruz. With tears in her eyes, unable to hit Moyet's devastating low notes, she scream-sings along anyway. A deeply-felt fuck-you.

—Beth Lisick

"The Shooter," by Lee Quarnstrom

Lalo Guerrero, "Marihuana Boogie,"

Written and recorded in 1949, with mostly Spanish lyrics but with one English phrase: "Marihuana, that's my baby's name!"

Lalo Guerrero was known as "The Father of Chicano Music" and brought Chicano culture a few steps into the American musical mainstream— yet maintained Mexican-Americans' sense of having their own special world by popularizing tunes with Latin overtones and lyrics en español. It sure sounds like Korean War-vintage American music to me.

—Lee Quarnstrom

"It Follows Until It Leads," by Dillon Kaiser

Neil Young, "Old Man"

"This life. Our life. You cannot leave it behind. It leads you where you’ve been going all along, kicking and screaming con espuma en la boca!

"Se sigue."

—"It Follows Until It Leads"

Susie Bright and Santa Cruz Noir links:

the editor's website
the editor's Wikipedia entry

Kirkus review

Book Riot interview with the author
Good Times Santa Cruz profile of the editor
KAZU interview with the editor

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

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
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musician/author interviews
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