Interrogation—Mike Creeden

Creeden Pic1Who: Mike Creeden

What: His work has appeared in Tigertail, Miami Living, The Florida Book Review, EVERYTHING IS BROKEN, and TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND: CRIME FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SONGS OF BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. A native of Massachusetts, Mike now lives in South Florida and teaches writing at Florida International University.

Where: Florida

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just finished ALL YOUR LIES CAME TRUE and I kept getting the strange sensation that the book was written specifically for me. Who did you think the reader of this story would be when you wrote it?

It was written specifically for you, Steve—you and anyone else who’s ever played in a band, or been obsessed with a band or walked around all day, every day with song lyrics and guitar riffs and concert footage running through their heads. I was thinking about the kind of reader who measures the quality of a movie by what songs are on the soundtrack, someone who gets excited when a writer mentions a rock song or a band in a novel.

All your liesIt’s obvious from the way that you write about musicians and music that you have been in bands yourself. Tell me a little about your journeys in rock and roll. Do you ever miss it?

I grew up in Massachusetts, and I played in bands around Boston and Providence RI on and off from senior year of high school until I left for grad school at age 38. (I played a little in grad school, but we’ll get to that later.)

I played rhythm guitar sometimes, mostly bass. When everyone in the club was good and drunk enough and the amps got turned up, they’d let me sing a few songs. Most of my bands were bar bands; we did a wide variety of covers—garage rock, British invasion, first generation punk, alternative/indie, some hard rock—basically, whatever we wanted to play. We had a handful of originals we’d mix in. We liked to think of ourselves as a cover band that played with the energy of an originals band—meaning we tried to put on a show, as opposed to seeing how closely we could ape the record.

Do I miss it? Oh man. Every day. A few years ago, Adrienne—my then girlfriend and now wife—and I were at home watching TV. I was like…42 maybe?

Anyway, we were watching “The Gits,” the documentary about the band and the senseless murder of lead singer Mia Zapata. They were doing one of those “early in the life of the band” scenes where they show the whole band living together in a house: drums in the middle of the living room, amps against the wall, guitars lying on the couch. You wake up whenever you wake up and you have your coffee and you plug and you play—any damn time you want.

I said, “god, that would be so awesome.”

Adrienne looked at me. “You mean, if you had lived in a house like that when you were in a band? Yeah, I could see how that could be fun,” she said, pretending to see how that could be fun.

I didn’t reply. I was afraid.

Then she looked at me. “What? You mean now? You would do that now?”

And because I am sometimes stupidly honest, I said. “No. I could never find three other guys who would do it.”

I may not have watched the rest of the movie alone, but it sure felt like it.

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Are your protagonists, Declan and Stevie, more Axl Rose/Slash, Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, or David Johansen/Johnny Thunders?

That’s a really good question. Musically, I definitely see them as Johansen and Thunders, but interpersonally, with Deck as the screwed-up singer and Stevie the more disciplined guitarist who keeps the band together, I think they’re more Axl and Slash.

You do a great job of mixing real bands and songs in with the fictional artists you’ve created for ALL YOUR LIES CAME TRUE. What bands did you model the band Power Trash on?  

I thought about, listened to, and modeled Power Trash on: Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Clash, The New York Dolls, the Stooges, and a Providence, Rhode Island band called The L.U.V.s. The Tyler and Randall story is inspired by a real band, an early 90s Everything Is Brokengroup that was kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. I’m not going to say who it is, but there’s enough clues in the story that someone could figure it out if they wanted to.

Will we get to see Declan and Stevie solve more mysteries in the future?

I hadn’t thought about doing a series, but as I was rewriting the book for publication, adding characters and storylines and trying to make the plot more interesting, I thought: I kinda like these guys; I wouldn’t mind hanging out with them some more. Hopefully, some readers will feel that way.

What’s the connection between rock and roll and crime fiction? Is there one?

I definitely think there’s a connection. For one, rock and roll has been keeping misfit young men and women from turning to a life of crime since the 50s. Sometimes lesser crimes result, but outside of the big glaring exceptions like Sid Vicious and Phil Spector, the lives rock and rollers take are usually their own. Crime fiction—and maybe I’m thinking mostly of noir, but let’s say crime fiction—like rock and roll, is about powerless and slightly evil people fighting the big evil.

trouble in the heartlandWhat are some of your other favorite novels/anthologies that blend rock and roll and crime fiction? 

Well, I wish there were more, but few come to mind. John Rebus, the detective in Ian Rankin’s novels, is obsessed with rock and roll, and it’s nicely woven through the novels, which get an extra noir flavor from the gloomy Scotland weather. Dennis Lehane always drops in references to bands and songs in his Kenzie and Gennaro series, and it seems our tastes are pretty well-aligned: I love the bands Kenzie loves, and I hate the ones he bashes. Rob Hart’s NEW YORKED has a definite punk rock feel to it, and there’s a scene where Ash McKenna listens to “Search and Destroy” by the Stooges, which my opinion is the most ass-kicking rock and roll song of all time. And, not to embarrass you with praise, but BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION hits two of my sweet spots, punk rock and the Southern California beach and surfing scene. Elmore Leonard’s BE COOL has a band right in the middle of it. There’s probably more, but those are the main ones that come to mind.

And if you’re a Springsteen fan like I am, TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND is a whole anthology of stories named after and inspired by Springsteen songs.

How did you get mixed up with Joe Clifford and Gutter Books?

Joe and I crossed paths in Miami when we were in grad school. I was finishing up my MFA at Florida International and Joe was starting his. I saw this tall, tattooed guy skulking through the halls and smoking cigarettes on the balcony and I thought, “Now there’s a guy I can probably relate to.”

We talked and discovered we had similar tastes in rock and roll and literature—we even got together and played music a few times. We tried to get band going but the drummer flaked. {Shakes head.} Drummers, man.

ALL YOUR LIES CAME TRUE existed, if you will, in demo tape form, as my thesis. Joe read it and encouraged me to stick with it. (Which I usually interpret as: this mostly sucks, but there’s a trace of something good in there.)

Ten years later, Joe’s working at Gutter and they’re trying to establish a little rock and roll noir niche. He emailed me and said, “you still have that rock and roll novel?”

I did. And here we are.

Got any publishing plans for the rest of 2016 and beyond?

I’m working on two novels, both crime/noir’ish. One’s set in South Beach and involves a Buddhist monk, a female bodybuilder, and an assortment of oddball characters. The other one’s a darker (but hopefully no less weird) mystery set in my hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts, the city that gave us the 19th century axe murderess Lizzie Borden. I hope to shop around at least one of them by the end of the year.

It was great chatting with you.

Find Mike Creeden: Facebook

BCC Cover FinalS.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in Sept. 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.

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