Plus Music edited
by Jim Fusilli is a collection of twenty darkly intense music
related noir stories. Best-selling authors such as Peter Robinson,
Craig Johnson, Alison Gaylin, and Reed Coleman along with
many others combine their mystery skills with their music
interests. Blackfive.net interviewed some of these authors.
Jim Fusilli, a crime author and the Wall St. Journal's rock/pop
critic, thought an anthology involving the themes that link
his professions would be interesting. The chronology of the
authors' chapters showed a sweep of emotions and avoided putting
similar stories together. He hoped readers would be exposed
to new authors and would get twenty different perspectives
involving the world of music; although his role was to provide
consistency among the stories.
It is not uncommon for crime fiction writers to weave music
into their stories with Peter Robinson coming to mind. Although
his novels have the main character, Detective Alan Banks listening
to some type of music, this short story, The Blackbird, does
not include him. In the short story, the main character Tony
Foster, a musician, is a loner until he met Connie, but unfortunately
drugs destroyed their relationship, a subject that comes up
a lot when speaking of rock music.
Robinson commented he did not have a Banks story in mind and
wanted a modern version of the Greek Music G-d. Because the
Blackbird had a gimpy wing "I had the main character
imitating this bird. Connie led a Bohemian life and I had
the crime involving a drug overdose. What I realized part
way through the story was how my thoughts went to the Paul
McCartney song 'Blackbird,' with the lyrics 'Blackbird singing
in the dead of night.' Using that and combining crime with
horror I created this story."
Regarding his own short story, Boy Wonder, Fusilli wanted
to explore the contemporary electronic dance music world.
His character's Hollywood-type mother wanted her son to become
a famous music star, something she always dreamed of. What
would win, his soul or the executive scumbags?
The plot has a boy, Bowie Thomas, from a small town in Michigan
coming to Los Angeles. His choice: to pursue art versus commerce.
Fusilli had "The mother name her child after the rock
star David Bowie. At the time of writing I did not know David
Bowie was going to die. I was quite fond of him so if it is
in some way a tribute to him that is kind of wonderful. I
wanted to write about the conflict between art and commerce.
I find the commercialism of popular music very disturbing."
Another story by Reed Coleman is about a one-hit wonder and
explores how organized crime is big part of the music industry.
Look At Me/Don't Look At Me has Terry James Lake as a folk/R
& B singer. His manager, Carla Saroyan, sold his rights
to some disdainful people and they required him to go on this
disco dance show, lip singing his hit or there would be dire
Based on an incident Reed remembers from his childhood, this
story was something he had on the back burner for quite awhile.
He spoke of an incident "in the 1970s on the show Dance
Fever, a disco dancing show. One Saturday night I was watching
an appearance by Johnny Rivers, a 60s recording song. I thought
it odd he would appear on this type of show. He looked so
uncomfortable and out of place lip singing his famous song,
Secret Agent Man. I included the real fact that music in the
60s and 70s were controlled by the mob, bringing into the
The story by Alison Gaylin is centered on the punk scene.
Using the band X's lead singer, Exene Cervenka as a model,
she wrote about a strong-willed singer. The song mentioned
in the short story, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene, is about a
man who begins attacking women after taking a drug that makes
him need to have sex every hour on the hour.
Gaylin thought about this song she heard, while in high school.
"It is such a bizarre song with a creepy meaning. It
is about a fictional drug that makes a man want to have sex
every hour. The story, All Ages, has Lara Ramsey, wanting
closure as she gets her revenge. It's a great basis for a
female revenge story."
Craig Johnson is one of the few writers who actually used
his main character Walt Longmire in this story, Unbalanced.
The Sherriff gives a young woman a ride as he heads to the
airport to pick up his daughter. This troubled young woman
tells him her story with the CD of Merle Haggard playing in
He noted, "Since Merle had just died I wanted this story
to be a shout out to him. I really felt the song was the connection
between the story and the characters. This was a story I really
wanted to write."
Crime Plus Music has most of the stories with unhappy
endings. Anyone who likes to read short stories will enjoy
reading how the music is blended into a