What: As part of the Washington, D.C. music scene in the early 1980s, Robert played bass in Artificial Peace and Government Issue. He’s toured the country, and his music was released on Dischord Records and other labels. In DESCENDING MEMPHIS, Robert tells a detective/coming-of-age-story set just after the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.
Congrats on the success of your debut novel, DESCENDING MEMPHIS. What was the inspiration for this story?
Thank you for asking. It began with a question. What if Johnny Cash never made it as a musician, but instead became a detective with all the character traits, quirks and flaws of the Man in Black? I considered writing such a story, and mentioned the idea to a friend who happens to be a lawyer. He saw it as a legal issue. Meaning, the Johnny Cash estate might not look favorably upon such an endeavor. So I created Tommy Rhodeen, a small-time private eye in Memphis whose dream is to make it big in rock ‘n’ roll. It was the right decision.
Even 27 years after I first heard it, Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” still fills me with a certain angsty anticipation from the moment the opening bass line kicks in. It’s three minutes of post-hardcore perfection that triggers some kind of Pavlovian response in me. And while I may not publicly drool as often as I used to, I do find myself almost hypnotized by the pulsating tension and mysterious lyrics.
Truth is, this is one of those brilliant songs that really sounds like it’s saying a lot without saying much at all. Instead of intricate detail, we get broad strokes and powerful imagery that evoke feelings of frustration and isolation. As if “the waiting place” from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go has been stripped down to its non-psychedelic core to reveal the mind-numbing horrors beneath. And three decades later that’s just what the doctor ordered.
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.