I’ve known Jim Winter for many years. I recently finished his short story collection, THE COMPLEAT WINTER, and enjoyed it greatly. If there’s anything Jim and I have in common, it’s a love of good crime fiction and music. Therefore, it’s my pleasure to have him as a guest blogger on those subjects.
Does a book have a soundtrack? Or a short story?
We all know movies have soundtracks, whether music is sourced inside the scene itself or overdubbed. Pulp Fiction and Star Wars and even The Matrix are nothing without the music. In fact, all the Star Wars movies would be pretty dull to watch without John Williams’ classical score.
But what about books? It’s text on a page. The only soundtrack would be the reader playing iTunes while reading. Right?
Many, though not all, writers play music while writing. Sometimes, they pick music to set the mood for what they’re going to write. Sometimes, like me, they plunk on a copy of Revolver or the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light, and use it to drown out the rest of the world. (By the way, I recommend against writing to Side 4 of The White Album. It’s impossible to get anything done with that cacophony at the end overdubbed with “Number 9… Number 9…”)
My first novel, though, had a soundtrack. For some reason, the song “Breakdown” by Tantric set the mood for that book, especially the line “You think that you’re insane/Won’t you spare me!” It summed up Kepler’s impatience with the little traps some of his clients, rivals, and targets build for themselves.
A lot of that trilogy, though, was written to Metallica. For me, Metallica was my go-to band to get the dark energy out. I listened to them constantly in the two weeks following 9/11. If james Hetfield was voicing it, it made it easier for me to let it go. It also made scenes where Kepler is righteously angry easier to write. When his childhood friend is killed in Second Hand Goods, he even cranks up the Mighty Met as he goes off to collect a sledgehammer for the honest work of smashing the hell out of a car thief’s prize muscle car.
That’s all well and good for the writer, but what about the reader?
The absolute master at putting a soundtrack to a novel is George Pelecanos. Sometimes, I have to wonder if Pelecanos is writing a particular novel as an excuse to talk about his vast collection of vinyl and CD’s. He uses the songs to set the mood, the time frame, even the ethnicity in a scene. Without it, much of the flavor of his work disappears.
So do novels have a soundtrack? They do if the writer says so. And if the reader gives it one.
Born near Cleveland in 1966, Jim Winter had a vivid imagination – maybe too vivid for his own good – that he spun into a career as a writer. He is the author of Northcoast Shakedown, a tale of sex, lies, and insurance fraud – and Road Rules, an absurd heist story involving a stolen holy relic. Jim now lives in Cincinnati with his wife Nita and stepson AJ. To keep the lights on, he is a web developer and network administrator by day. Visit him at http://www.jamesrwinter.net , like Jim Winter Fiction on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter @authorjimwinter.
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