Music and Crime Fiction

I wrote in my last blog about how important music is to my writing and I wanted to expand on it in my latest blog. So let me start with a confession, I wanted to be a rock star.

I taught myself how to play guitar around 30 years ago and the guitar has always been a trusted friend of mine. I’m no Jimi Hendrix (and I don’t pretend to be), but I can play at a decent standard. The guitar has been my main source of relaxing and de-stressing for these past decades, now only matched by my writing.

In my late teens and early twenties, I played in a number of bands with friends from school. Deep down I knew I didn’t have the talent to make it (similar to my footballing skills), but the sheer joy of creating music with my close friends and then stepping on stage to play in front of (sometimes) 20 people was an experience I will never forget.

I’ve said before that I only took up writing in my mid thirties, however, back in those days I loved writing lyrics, regardless of how good or bad they turned out (usually the latter). I had two rules for my lyric writing. Firstly, they had to rhyme like a poem and secondly, they had to tell a story. These rules were unconscious at the time, but I guess they set me up well for later life.

I wrote one song that I was proud of at the time which had one particular line that I was teased about relentlessly by my bandmates.

‘Lately I have found you, not your usual self. You seem to hide from me, like a book upon a shelf.’

OK, I admit it’s hardly Bob Dylan. I had this picture in my head of someone trying to find a particular book and being unable to find it amongst all the books in front of them. Subconsciously, I was mixing music with literature. Around a decade later, I was listening to a song by Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder is an outstanding lyricist and pens the majority of Pearl Jam’s lyrics. The song was called ‘Sometimes’ and I thought I heard a particular lyric. I had to listen to it a few times to make sure.

‘My small self…like a book amongst the many on a shelf…’

I punched the air in delight. Eddie Vedder had written lyrics that mirrored mine from years before. If I was brave enough to get a tattoo, it would possibly be that lyric (or the Stickman from the ‘Alive’ record sleeve). I’m not, so I won’t.

Of course, I’m not the only crime writer who puts music into their books. Ian Rankin is as famous for his love of music as he is for crime writing in some circles. Some Rolling Stones albums have been used for the titles of his books. He also consistently name checks his favourite artists when describing the music Rebus and Clarke are listening to.

Mark Billingham has a real love of country music and Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks has an eclectic taste in music. Inspector Morse, of course, has a deep passion for classical music.

Classic rock was always going to be part of my writing. Although I love many genres of music, this is the one I always return to. Having DS Mike Lyle as DI Christie’s trusted partner in crime, it was inevitable that he would like that music also. I made him slightly older than me to give him a wider range of music. I also took the obsession further and had him co-own a Classic Rock themed cafe, The Classic Crock (Crock as in Crockery – you see now!). With his other passion being driving, it gave me many opportunities to slip in a reference to a song or band that I love. Often it was the particular band I was listening to at the time.

I think music and crime fiction go well together and music will continue to play a part in novels to come. It gives the reader a soundtrack to the story and more and more writers are creating playlists on Spotify to go with their books. When I started writing ‘Christie’s Early Cases’ around 2014, I kept a note of all the songs mentioned so that I could do this.

Little did I know, I was not alone…

You can hear the playlist on Spotify – the link is now on the ‘Links’ page of this website.

Christie’s Early Cases is available on Amazon in eBook or Paperback. Click on the ‘Books’ tab on the menu bar for link.

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