I like to tell people that the Rolly Waters mystery novels are my revenge on guitar players, but some of of my favorite people are guitar players. No, really. I’ve known a lot of guitar players, and some of them are pretty decent human beings.
So when I add a bit of guitar-related detail to one of my books, I usually base it on information I’ve gleaned over the years from my guitar-playing cohorts. If I’m not sure about something, I’ll contact one or two of them and get their take on what I’ve written. Or I just play dumb and ask them some questions. It’s good for their egos.
I didn’t consult any of my guitar friends when I wrote this description of Norwood’s Mostly, the used guitar shop featured in Border Field Blues:
“The shop was more a hobby than a business for Norwood, a place he could hang out with musical friends, reminisce on the past, discuss the relative merits of Kings – B.B., Albert and Freddy.”
So I was gratified to see that each of the Kings I listed nailed a spot in Guitar Player’s recent The 40 Most Important Guitar Solos in Rock. Their respectively important solos can be heard below (in chronological order).
Freddie King – Hideaway (1960)
Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign (1967)
B.B. King – The Thrill is Gone (1969)
I’d say that’s some pretty fine guitar playing, all around, wouldn’t you?
If you’ve read Border Field Blues, you’ll no doubt remember that Rolly’s case starts when his friend Max Gemeinhardt, an avid bird-watcher, calls Rolly down to Border Field Park to investigate the damage some cretin has done to the Least Tern Preserve. There really is a bird preserve at Border Field Park and there really is a bird named the Least Tern. It looks like this:
As Max informs Rolly, the Least Terns lay their eggs in the sand, as you’ll see below.
As you’ll note from the photo, the spotted coloring of the eggs blends in well with the sand. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but that sure looks like protective adaptation to me. Unfortunately, it’s not much of an evolutionary advantage once civilization invades and people start tromping through those nesting grounds on their way to the beach. The park keepers had to put up signs and fences to keep us away.
Anyway, when I started writing Border Field Blues, I knew I wanted to make the Least Terns part of the story. The precarious nature of their nesting seemed important. I worked through several drafts before I saw the connection. Many of the characters in my book suffer from hazardous parenting, the fragility of their childhood, abandonment issues of one sort or another. As children, there were in constant danger, just like the Terns egss. I don’t really go looking for themes or metaphors when I start writing. Sometimes it just happens.
Here’s the real question. Was I drawn to the Least Tern nests because of some subconscious idea for my story, or did my interest in the Least Terns lead me to conceive of the characters in the story?
There’s one other question, of course. Do Greatest Terns (if there are any) lay their eggs this way?
I write mystery novels that feature a private investigator named Rolly Waters. He’s also a guitar player – a very good guitar player, but not a particularly successful one. That’s why he has a day job as a detective. Here’s 10 ways working guitar players are a lot like your classic fictional detective.
- They have easy access to alcohol
- They have easy access to women who drink too much alcohol
- They enter buildings through the back entrance
- They employ a protective layer of cynicism
- They see bad behavior at both ends of the socio-economic scale
- They’re used to sketchy lighting (or moody lighting, depending on your take)
- They know how to talk their way out of a fight
- They feel nervous around cops, and vice versa
- They have a business partner who’s been mugged
- They put in more hours than they’ll ever get paid for
What do you think? Are there any other traits guitar players and private detectives have in common?
As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, one of the things I get to do when working on my Rolly Waters books is raid my songwriting closet for material that I can use as lyrics for Rolly to sing. In Border Field Blues, I made the song Jungle Love central to the plot.
In the first Rolly Waters Mystery, Black’s Beach Shuffle I lifted a couple of lyrics from a couple of my songs (one from a very long time ago). I’ve embedded these here so you can stream/download them.
Hercules is from the last recording session I did with my last band, Bad Dog. At the end of the Wake-Up Call chapter in Black’s Beach Shuffle, Rolly gets his guitar out and sings a few lines from this.
Of much earlier vintage (1980), is the following:
In Black’s Beach Shuffle,Rolly sits down and starts playing Maybe It’s Too Late as he ponders how he’ll confront King Gibson about Gibson’s real identity. The song is from the first “real studio” recording session I did with my pop/new wave band, The P-15s, in Los Angeles, circa 1980. That’s me singing, and I think all will agree, it was a good idea to get other people to sing my songs. The band sounds good though and there’s some interesting chord changes.
Just out today, a three-chapter sample of the Extras Edition of Border Field Blues for iPad. It’s like a book and an app all rolled into one! This is something I’ve been working on for awhile, starting with a one-quarter sabbatical I was able to take from my teaching duties a year ago. If you have an iPad, please check it out and let me know what you think. You can email me or make a public comment directly from the book/app. You’ll need a WiFi/Network connection for the extra features to work.
Here’s what’s included:
- First three chapters of Border Field Blues
- Chapter by Chapter Extras – Author’s Notes, Video and Maps
- Deleted or Alternate Chapters
- Author’s comments on plot characters, and locations
- Related videos from YouTube
- Readers can add/read/share comments
- Email the author directly from the book
- Facebook Sharing
The full version of the app should be released by the end of March, but I’m anxious to get some feedback, so I’m making this sample available now. The first 25 people who email or comment directly from the sample app will qualify for a free copy of the full version when it comes out. How’s that for an enticement!.