2016: Favorite Rock and Roll Reads

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If you like reading about rock and roll as much as I do, then 2016 was a really good year. Not only were the bookshelves stocked with amazing punk rock non-fiction from the likes of Keith Morris and John Doe, but The Replacements came back into my life in a BIG way. I also discovered a few other crime writers out there who, like me, are using rock and roll as the leaping off point for their violent tales of intrigue, lust and woe. And it was another great year for music-inspired short fiction as well.

Here are a few of my favs, in no particular order.

Nothing’s more rock and roll than a list!

TROUBLE BOYS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE REPLACEMENTS—Bob Mehr

There have long been theories about why this Minneapolis punk outfit-turned-critical darlings never achieved their long-predicted commercial success. Rumors of self-doubt and self-sabotage were the stuff of legend. This well-researched book sets the record straight in a way that even the most die-hard fans will appreciate.

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ALL YOUR LIES CAME TRUE—Mike Creeden

It’s hard to read this high-octane thriller without thinking of your favorite rock and roll duos—Axl Rose/Slash, Mick Jagger/Keith Richards, or David Johansen/Johnny Thunders. Creeden does a great job of wrapping this page-turner in a glittery cape of rock and roll imagery to keep the action pumping. Strong characters, a fast-moving plot, and a killer back story deliver some unexpected twists and turns. This is a dark, but fun read that you won’t be able to put down. Read my interview with Mike Creeden.

UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK—John Doe & Tom DeSavia

This collection of overlapping essays about the first-wave of LA punk is a fascinating look at how legendary scenes are born. It’s incredible to think that a hundred kids, one apartment building and a handful of clubs gave us decades of great music from bands like X, The Germs, The Go Gos, The Minutemen and The Blasters. It goes by fast, so read it twice.

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FLIGHT 505—Leslie Bohem

A private jet powered by broken dreams, regret and self-delusion. Fame might have eluded Mickey and Al, but that doesn’t stop them from getting back in the chase—long after their expiration date. A fun, fast read that brings the 80s LA New Wave scene to life in vivid color, and explores the meaning of success through the perspective of three very different, but hopelessly intertwined characters. A great read for anybody that ever chased the brass ring down Hollywood Blvd. Read my interview with Leslie Bohem.

MAMA TRIED—Edited by James Ray Tuck

I can’t think of a better marriage than the one between crime fiction and outlaw country—and this collection doesn’t disappoint. What started out as a random Facebook post according to editor, James Ray Tuck (“Someone should do a crime fiction anthology based on outlaw country songs called MAMA TRIED so I can write a story for it.”), turned into one of the best music themed anthologies of 2016. Stand out stories include Eryk Pruitt’s “I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised,” Christa Faust’s “Truth or Consequences (Waiting’ Round to Die)” and Eric Beetner’s “Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone To Kill).”

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PEEPLAND—Christa Faust & Gary Phillips

I don’t always read comic books or graphic novels, but when I do they’re about a peepbooth worker and her punk rock ex-partner. The brutal murder of a public access pornographer puts this unlikely duo under fire from criminals, cops, and the city elite, uncovering a web of corruption that leads right to city hall. Christa Faust and Gary Phillips are two of L.A.’s best pulp and noir writers, and Andrea Camerini’s artwork in PEEPLAND is fantastic. Read my interview with Christa Faust and Gary Phillips.

MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK SURVIVOR—Keith Morris & Jim Ruland

Keith Morris is a founding member of two groundbreaking SoCal bands, Black Flag and The Circle Jerks (among others). But this well-written book goes beyond those stories to show you his winding path to underground infamy. It’s been a strange trip for this soulful punk icon, and it just keeps getting more interesting.

CRIME + MUSIC—Edited by Jim Fusilli

Jim Fusilli, editor for this fantastic short story collection, starts his forward this way: “I don’t suppose it would be much of a surprise to discover that there’s a dark and deadly side to the world of popular music.” What is surprising about this anthology is the diverse talents of the contributors, including Zoe Sharp, Peter Robinson, Reed Farrel Coleman, Tyler Dilts, Bill Fitzhugh and Erica Wright—among many others. Every one of these stories hums, sings or (in the case of Gary Phillips’, “Shaderoc The Soul Shaker”) rips your head clean off.

DESERT CITY DIVA—Corey Lynn Fayman

I came into the Rolly Waters series in this third installment, but had no problem getting acquainted with the character and his San Diego. This book is a romp across a SoCal desert full of paranoid outsiders and lost souls. Love the musical references threaded throughout, and Rolly’s ability to solve the action-packed case without constantly waving a gun around or punching through walls. A fast, fun read that will keep you coming back. Read my interview with Corey Lynn Fayman.

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WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: SONGS OF CRIME AND HEARTBREAK INSPIRED BY THE REPLACEMENTS—Edited by Jay Stringer

Putting aside my own contribution to this anthology, Jay Stringer has assembled a truly impressive collection of crime and mystery writers including Johnny Shaw, Kristi Belcamino, Josh Stallings, Angel Colon, Jen Conley, Tom Leins, Alex Segura and Mike McCrary—among many others. Not to mention, talented contributors like Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady) and Gorman Bechard (Director of “Color Me Impressed: A Film About The Replacements,” and “Every Everything: The Music, Life & Times of Grant Hart”). Read my interview with Jay Stringer.


BCC Cover FinalS.W. Lauden’s debut novel—about a punk rock musician turned disgraced cop—is called BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION. It was released in October 2015 from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, was published on October  2016. His standalone Tommy Ruzzo novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.

Your “Election Day” Playlist

Here’s a playlist featuring 25 amazing songs from legendary Minneapolis rawk band, The Replacements. Among them you will find “Election Day” (of course), along with fan favorites like “On The Bus,” “Gary’s Got A Boner,” “Androgynous,” “Unsatisfied,” “Alex Chilton” among many others.

Taken on its own, this is one hell of a mix tape to rock away your election day anxieties. But wait—there’s more!

img_0231Each of these songs also inspired a short story in the new collection WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: STORIES OF CRIME AND HEARTBREAK INSPIRED BY THE REPLACEMENTS. The songs in the playlist are actually in the same order as the short stories in this anthology. Authors featured include: Hailey Ardell, Ed Kurtz, Rick Ollerman, Alex Segura, Gorman Bechard, David Accampo, William Boyle, Johnny Shaw, Jen Conley, Angel Luis Colon, Josh Flanagan, Eric Beetner, Mike McCrary, Rory Costello, Franz Nicolay, Tom Leins, Josh Stallings, Erik Arneson, Kristi Belcamino, Manuel Royal, Eyre Price, Jerry Bloomfield, Liam Sweeny and…me. All curated by Jay Stringer!

Say it with me—Vote. Read. Rock!

Interrogation—Jay Stringer Talks Replacements

Who: Jay Stringer

What: Jay Stringer was born in 1980, and he’s not dead yet. He’s English by birth and Scottish by rumour; born in the Black Country, and claiming Glasgow as his hometown. Jay is dyslexic, and came to the written word as a second language, via comic books, music, and comedy. He writes hard-boiled crime stories, dark comedies, and social fiction. Jay won a gold medal in the Antwerp Olympics of 1920. He did not compete in the Helsinki Olympics of 1952, that was some other guy.

Jay is the author of WAYS TO DIE IN GLASGOW, HOW TO KILL FRIENDS AND IMPLICATE PEOPLE and the Eoin Miller series. He is also the editor for WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: STORIES OF CRIME AND HEARTBREAK, INSPIRED BY THE REPLACEMENTS, available Oct. 15 from Gutter Books.

Authors included in WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN: Hailey Ardell, Ed Kurtz, Rick Ollerman, Alex Segura, Gorman Bechard, David Accampo, William Boyle, Johnny Shaw, Jen Conley, Angel Luis Colon, Josh Flanagan, Eric Beetner, Mike McCrary, Rory Costello, Franz Nicolay, Tom Leins, Josh Stallings, Erik Arneson, Kristi Belcamino, Manuel Royal, Eyre Price, Jerry Bloomfield, Liam Sweeney, S.W. Lauden and Jay Stringer.

Where: Glasgow

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

Your Replacements-inspired anthology, WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN, will be released by Gutter Books on October 15. How did this project come together?

I’d been toying with a couple of music-related ideas for years. One had been to put out a collection of short stories inspired by Lou Reed’s New York album. Another had been The Replacements. They’ve always been in the DNA of my work. Not long after Gutter Books released Joe Clifford’s Bruce Springsteen anthology, I mentioned on Facebook that I’d love to see a ‘Mats collection someday. Tom Pitts got in touch to say, well, why not right now?

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Guest DJ—Tom Pitts

Tom Pitts has had a busy year. He is half of the editorial team that runs The Flash Fiction Offensive for Out of the Gutter. His new monthly podcast for Authors on the Air, “Skid Row Chatter,” has had great interviews with crime fiction luminaries like Todd Robinson, Benjamin Whitmer, Jack Getze and Les Edgerton. And somehow he still found time to promote his debut novel from 2014, HUSTLE, while releasing a killer novella, KNUCKLEBALL, as a follow-up.

Knuckleball_frontcover_dress_finHere’s what Mr. Pitts had to say about KNUCKLEBALL in our interview earlier this year: “The impetus for the story came to me while I was in Golden Gate Park walking the dogs. The whole Bryan Stow thing was happening at the time. Bryan Stow was the poor bastard who was beat down at a Giants game at Dodger Stadium and to this day has never recovered. The search was on for the assailants and that afternoon a police artist’s sketch came out with an accompanying description: 5’10” Latino male. That was it. The sketch, the description, it could have been anybody. They were describing half of L.A. So I wondered … man, if you knew someone who looked even remotely like that, you could really fuck them up if you fingered them. All it would take is some hatred and a phone call.”

Tom Pitts at BoucherSo what’s next? Well, rumor has to that Mr. Pitts is sitting on two new novels that fans like myself hope will see the light of day in 2016. In the meantime, he’s on the turntables this week spinning everything from John Prine and April Wine to Johnny Thunders, Black Flag and The Replacements.

If you need more Tom Pitts in your life, you can find him on his website, Amazon and Facebook.

Previous Playlists:

Guest DJ—Craig T. McNeely

Guest DJ—Angel Colon

Guest DJ—Josh Stallings

29 SoCal Punk Songs

S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#22)

 

There was a time, in the early 80s, when Minneapolis was a hotbed of post-punk activity. One of a handful of American cities that was starting to shape the alternative rock revolution that gave us grunge and pop punk. These days, most conversations about this golden era in the Twin Cities revolves around The Replacements and Husker Du. But what about Soul Asylum?

All three bands went on to sign with major labels, but only Soul Asylum was able to turn that opportunity into mainstream success. So, they are mostly remembered for “Runaway Train.” The band won one Grammy Award and suddenly the three genre-bending albums they made for Twin Tone Records were forgotten. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re missing out.

By far my favorite song from that era is “Closer To The Stars.” The drumming is muscly, the guitars and backing vocals soar and the lyrics are great. The song seems to be a coming of age story at first glance, but it’s also a cautionary tale about trying to be something you are not. The narrator starts out cheering for the protagonist, but ultimately judges her. Prophetic, perhaps, given the career that Soul Asylum has had, at least according to the revisionist punk historians.

Read the lyrics for “Closer To The Stars” here.

Check out the “Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song” YouTube playlist:

 

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been published by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

New YouTube Channel For Your Ear/Eye Holes

 

I have been doing a weekly music feature on this blog for the last four months called “Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song.” And now I’ve created a YouTube playlist to go along with it. I’ll be updating the playlist every week as I add a new song.

The series is an exploration of the lyrical narrative in some of my favorite music. Last week I posted my 21st installment about the classic Whiskeytown track “16 Days.” For those of you new to the concept, here’s a complete list of all the songs featured to date starting with the most recent:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been published by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

Sometimes The Best Short Story Is A Song (#11)

It might be hard to imagine in this era of all-you-eat streaming services, but college rock radio used to be the best place to discover new music. Curated by students themselves, or local record store shepherds who finally found their flock, college stations were the epitome of “play whatever you want” radio. It was hit-and-miss sometimes—but when it hit, it hit really hard. The stations often lived in the 80s and 90s on the FM dial, where the signal strength was weak and reception was spotty.

Enter legendary college radio denizens The Replacements. The album “Tim” was their major label debut and the last album to feature the original line up. The album is littered with songs that fans of the band would consider classics including “Waitress In The Sky,” “Bastards Of Young” and “Here Comes A Regular”. But none of them capture lead singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg’s melancholy struggles with success like “Left Of The Dial”. This is the ultimate ode to life on the road and college rock radio, and a great short story to boot.

(P.S.—Some amazing college radio stations still exist, like KXLU in LA and KEXP in Seattle, among many others. Stream it up!)

Read the lyrics for “Left Of The Dial” HERE.

Previous installments in this series:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.