Monday, September 15, 2014

The Newspapermen: Lady

Writer’s Bone’s ongoing fiction series The Newspapermen follows the tireless reporters of a major metropolitan newspaper in the late 1930s. If you need to catch up, order a stiff drink and start from the beginning.

By Daniel Ford

Chapter Four: Lady

Be a lady. Don’t cause a scene.

Shirley was standing at the local police precinct’s front desk. Her camera hung on her hip and wearing Henry’s fedora. It was a size too big, but it made her feel official and intrepid.

I hope he doesn’t want this back, she thought. I’ll have to make it up to him.

The press credential stuffed in the hat’s brim wasn’t doing her any favors. Not even the well-coiffed secretaries would give her a second glance. She calmly rang the bell on the desk and impatiently waited for nothing to happen.

Nellie Bly never had to put up with this shit, she thought.

“What can I do for you little lady?” A burly sergeant asked. “Is your kitty up a tree?”

“If that was the case, I’d be at the fire department, wouldn’t I?”

“You’re one of those uppity dames, ain’t cha?”

“I’m here on official City Scribe business.” She pointed to her hat. “I need to speak to Henry Jones immediately.”

The copper’s face turned to stone. He didn’t say anything else as he walked by her.

“You’re going to be a lot more talkative when I shove my heel up your ass!”

A few heads turned, but for the most part, her moment of rage passed unnoticed.

Be calm. Try to be a lady.

Her mother was a lady. Prim. Proper. Knew her place. All it had gotten her was repeated beatings from her genius husband. No one told him he had to shape up, put on a clean shirt, or comb his hair just so. The little money the family made financed the tavern down the block. Everyone cheered when he walked in the door. His stories might have been full of shit, but they kept the patrons in stitches until they all stumbled out into the night to beat the missuses. It was all fun and games until Shirley’s father told the wrong story to the wrong drunk. He went head first through the bar’s front window and then had his head bashed in by broken bar stools. Shirley’s mother handled it relatively well, considering. She dressed to the nines and put a bullet through her mouth. It was a closed casket, but the undertaker had given Shirley a glimpse right before he shut it. Her mother looked as prim and proper as ever, just without a face.

“Were you born useless, or does that lesson get beat into you at secretary’s school ?” Shirley said to one of the hairdos typing away a few feet from her.

The woman didn’t stop typing. Her eyes remained glued to her piece of paper. It fueled Shirley’s rage. She had been ignored at the orphanage. She had been ignored by her dreadfully boring and religious foster parents. She had been ignored by all the boys at school because she liked to read and voiced her own opinion. She was done being ignored. Her editor had given her an assignment and she was going to damn well do it. Besides, she may have inherited her red hair and good looks from her mother, but her temper was forged by her alcoholic father.

You asked for it, she thought. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Shirley discreetly pulled a small .22 pistol from her bag. She angled her back to the mindless secretarial drones. She aimed the gun at the stack of magazines on the table in the waiting area. She counted to three and pulled the trigger. The bullet burst through the stack of glossy paper and lodged itself in the floor boards. The pistol had produced a small puff of smoke and an almost inaudible “pop,” but it was enough for all of the secretaries to faint out of their chairs. A mix of coppers and flat feet flooded into the room with their guns in the air. More shouting and finger-pointing ensued after they noticed a pile of dames on the floor. In the commotion, Shirley was able to slide her pistol back into her bag. She sat down with her back of the desk, took Henry’s hat off, and rustled her red hair. She put on the most distressed face she could muster.

“Which way did he go, ma’am?” A police officer asked her.

Oh, it had to be a he, huh? Shirley thought. Couldn’t have been a disgruntled house wife? Or a poor street woman tired of never catching a break? Or a love-struck lady of the night?

Shirley dramatically put her hand to her forehead. She wearily pointed out the door.

“Did you take a photo of the guy?”

“It all happened so fast,” she said. “He was too fast. Go catch him! There are righteous women in here that need protection and justice!”

“Pft,” he said. “Dames.”

Be a lady. Keep calm.

A swarm of armed blue, black, and khaki rushed past her and left the precinct deserted. Shirley got up, smoothed out her skirt, adjusted her heels, and rang the bell on the desk as she made her way toward the holding cells.

“Nice hat,” Henry said.

His jacket and vest were neatly folded next to him on the bench. His shirt sleeves were rolled up. He looked a little bruised, but on the whole, no worse for wear.

“You ready to get out of here?” She asked.

“Now, I don’t want you getting in trouble on my account…”

“Save your lecture,” she said. “We’ve got work to do.”

Henry eagerly collected his things and waited by the cell’s door. Shirley paused a moment before turning the key. She grinned at him mischievously. He gave her a grin that suggested he’d be perfectly fine if she joined him in the clink for a little pitching woo.

No time for that, there was a story to track down, she thought.

Shirley opened the door, took off his hat, and gestured for him to lead the way.

“I’m not getting that back am I?” He asked.

“Not a chance.”

To be continued…

To catch up with all the adventures of The Newspapermen, check out:

Writing Fedora: 10 Questions With Historical Crime Writer Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley

By Daniel Ford

You’ve got to respect a writer who pursues her craft while wearing a smart fedora.

Kelli Stanley’s biography on her official website could double as Writer’s Bone’s mission statement:

“Kelli earned a Master’s Degree in Classics, loves jazz, old movies, battered fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies.”

It gets better. Stanley is best known for her Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award, and an RT Book Reviews Award. She also writes a “Roman Noir” series that takes place in ancient history.

Stanley took a break from the past, pushed back her fedora, and answered a few of my questions about her novels and writing process.

Daniel Ford: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Kelli Stanley: I’m not sure if I ever did, actually—writing was just something I did. Poetry, mainly, though I wrote my first play (a noir, of course) when I was 8 years old. I loved writing term papers, speeches, letters, anything.

At the same time, because writing was so much a part of me, I never considered pursing an actual career in it…so my academic history is checkered with experimentation. I was a drama major for a couple of years, flirted with film and English, and finally settled on art history and classics, with a Master’s Degree in the latter.

It was during my collegiate career as a classic major that I was first exposed to Steven Saylor’s mystery series set in Late Republic Rome, and I thought to myself “Gee…I wonder if I could do that?”

Translation was one of the aspects of classics that I enjoyed the most (and something for which I won awards), but I didn’t want to concentrate solely on translation. And the closer the “terminus” of Ph.D. approached, the more squeamish I became.

I eventually realized that the breadth of study in classics is one of the key elements that drove me to its pursuit, and that a doctorate would kill the very thing I love, i.e. force me to specialize. I’d already written Nox Dormienda in my senior year (while also working on my thesis), so I threw caution to the winds and decided to pursue publication—which is different than deciding to be a writer, and a whole lot more complicated.

Alea iacta est, and I crossed the Rubicon in 2007 when I got word that my book would be published the following year.

DF: What is your writing process like? Do you listen to music? Outline?

KS: I outline in order to interweave the usually-two-but-potentially-more subplots of the novel and to maintain a suspenseful pace punctuated by dramatic beats—a must with writing crime fiction, especially anything with thriller overtones. For me, an outline is like a road map from which you are free to deviate when you find a side road that begs for exploration.

I only listen to music that Miranda might hear or encounter, and I do that for research and inspiration—not while I’m actually crafting sentences. Writing is its own music, and writing a novel is like a composing a symphony—and music gets in the way of music.

DF: You’re best known for your Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco—which include City of Ghosts, City of Secrets, and City of Dragons. What drew you to noir and who were some of your early influences? What made you decide 1940s San Francisco as a setting?

KS: I’ve always been drawn to the period of American history from the 1920s through the end of the WWII. I’ve also always adored film noir. As a little girl, I could do a mean Jimmy Cagney impression! I must have been born with a noir gene. Not many people in my third grade class could figure out why I was writing a play about gangsters, spies, and an unfaithful, treacherous girlfriend.

My actual taste of literary noir didn’t come until I was an adult, however. I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie as a child (and Dame Agatha is far darker than many people think).

Raymond Chandler was my first real writing teacher. I devoured everything he wrote, and realized style, as he once said (and I paraphrase) is all a writer really has to call her own, so you need to develop it, hone it, and protect it. Hammett followed—to him, I owe the importance of existential, tough-as-nails realism, the moral force of class warfare, and the beauty of bare-bones story-telling.

I think of Chandler and Hammett as (in a bizarre way) the Catullus and Horace of hardboiled literature. The latter two were contemporary Roman poets who were both brilliant in contradictory and complementary ways, as were Hammett and Chandler. Other influences include Cornell Woolrich, Vera Caspary, Daphne du Maurier, and (particularly in opposition to his misogyny) James M. Cain…along with a host of other writers, including those who wrote for Hollywood.

I’ve been at least as influenced outside the genre as inside—because, frankly, I don’t really believe in genres. Because I grew up reading constantly—mostly poetry and literature—I’ve been influenced by a range of authors and poets from Thomas Hardy to Steinbeck to Poe to James to Shakespeare to Dickens to Saroyan to Fitzgerald to Austen to Hemingway to Nathanel West to Shirley Jackson to Whitman to Sophocles to O’Neil to Ray Bradbury to Tennessee Williams to…you get the idea. I guess the linking component is great writing, particularly with a strong lyrical aspect or skeletal framework.

As for San Francisco…well, I live here. It’s a fabled city with a fabled past, and a distinct type of noir atmosphere that is older than Los Angeles’—stemming from her Gold Rush days of desperation, sweat, and broken dreams. It’s a city with a corrupt police force at the time (Los Angeles did not have the lock on that, sadly), and with Hammett as the inspirational literary pipeline. It also embodies the dichotomy of outrageous beauty coexisting on top of ugly social conditions and nostalgic, romantic views of the past vs. historical truths…a main theme I explore with the books.

DF: How long did it take you to complete your first novel? Has your writing process changed in anyway since that initial endeavor?

KS: I was working on my thesis at the time, so actually writing it took about a year and a half. My process has become more solidified, if no less terrifying. Ask virtually any published author and they’ll tell you the same thing: you wonder whether or not you can write with every book you face. It’s the horror of the vacuum, that blank page fear, and the sad fact that most of us are terribly insecure.

DF: Do you have an in-depth research process?

KS: I research constantly. I don’t have anything I’d dignify by calling it a process. There are a few things I do with every book, however: go to the main library and research newspapers from the dates I’ve selected for the narrative; research Life Magazine from the same dates; consult my many, many of-the-period reference books; study photos and videos and any pertinent documentary footage; search out and secure story-related ephemera to add to my ever-growing collection. That collection, by the way, includes all kinds of souvenirs from the World’s Fair on Treasure Island, train schedules, journals, railroad china, and all sorts of other inspirational and forgotten bits of daily life that I use to flesh out the books and make them seem three-dimensional.

I’m something of a fanatic about research, and was very honored that City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for best historical mystery.

DF: You also write a series set in first century Roman Britain—which include the novels The Curse-Maker and Nox Dormienda. How did the idea for this series come about and what are some of the defining attributes of “Roman Noir?” KS: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I was staring at “the end,” aka matriculation. So, in a sense, “Roman Noir” was, itself, born from a noirish desperation to find something to do with my degree and my life that wasn’t just the typical “get a doctorate, go teach” path.

KS: As for what it is…firstly, it’s a playful pun on the French literary term for noir or hardboiled. Secondly, it’s my idea of translating the sometimes strange but always human ancient world into a more modern and relatable feel and style. Noir and hardboiled conventions suit Rome and suit the culture…so, in this case, instead of Latin poetry, I’m translating history.

That said, as a classical scholar, my research is extremely accurate. When I speculate, I do so with the evidence and credentials to make an argument or write a journal article. That’s one reason I was so honored and delighted to win the Bruce Alexander Award for Nox Dormienda, my debut novel.

Some people get confused by the approach. They apparently believe that Romans should be written according to the upper class British or Transatlantic accents with which they are nearly always portrayed in film and television. I mean, c’mon—Romans weren’t all wordy, nerdy, rhetorically grandiose characters. Not that my language in the books is anachronistic—far from it. The metaphors and similes so associated with hardboiled are based on actual history and actual Roman culture.

DF: True or false: You write while wearing your fedora.

KS: True. I wear my “writing fedora,” which is a beat-up vintage Champ felt. The reason is that it’s a visual cue for my partner to know I’m “in the zone,” i.e. don’t talk to me unless it’s really important.

I own many fedoras—from red to orange, from summer straw to winter felt, vintage and modern—but other than my old Champ, I don’t wear them around the house.

DF: What does the future hold for Kelli Stanley?

KS: Right now, I’m working on the next Miranda Corbie novel, City of Sharks, which is the last one on this particular contract. I hope to be able to write more Miranda and to hopefully pen not just another Roman book, but a few other things rattling around in my head: a stand alone thriller, a YA, and assorted other projects.

DF: What advice do you give to up-and-coming writers?

KS: Research the business, because it’s in a constant state of flux. Choose your agent carefully, and don’t settle for publication at all costs—sometimes it’s better to wait to be published really well.

Think before you self-publish. Publication, whether it’s traditional or done through Amazon, is a business. Ask yourself if you really want to put in the time and energy necessary to undertake that venture. Finish the book before you even think about contacting an agent, editor or other professional. And, most importantly, keep at it.

DF: Can you please name one random fact about yourself?

KS: My first record album as a kid was “Free to Be…You and Me”, based on the Marlo Thomas television show. It’s still a great album with a great message for children, and I highly recommend it!

To learn more about Kelli Stanley, check out her official website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter @kelli_stanley.

For more interviews with some of the best authors, singers, and editors out there today, check out The Writer's Bone Interviews section.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Maker’s Mark Will Be Staying Here With You

Official GIF of Bob, Bourbon, and Books

For those of you expecting Bruce Springsteen, he’ll be back next week. We decided to alternate this series between Bob Dylan and Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

By Daniel Ford and Dave Pezza


Photo by Dave Pezza

There isn’t a reliable YouTube clip of either of the following versions of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You," so go out and buy the albums we mention below. It’ll be worth the money, trust us.

Dave: (studio version) I’ve always liked Bob Dylan, but it was only recently that I really began to really appreciate his music. I’ve hit my folk phase in my mid-20s, and nobody can folk out like Dylan. I recently picked up a copy of his 1969 album “Nashville Skyline.” I bought it on vinyl at a local used record store in Cranston, R.I. called the Time Capsule (decent selection, really cheap prices, and every once and a while you find a gem). I hit up the smaller than usual Dylan section to feed my new addiction. First record of the bunch, “Nashville Skyline.” I flipped it over to check the tracks and found side A, track one, “Girl from the North Country Fair,” the version with Johnny Cash. Sold! I took it and my other purchase, The Edgar Winter Group’s “They Only Come Out at Night” (the one with “Frankenstein”) and seven bucks and 10 minutes later “Nashville Skyline” is playing on my turntable. Enthralled to hear Dylan and Cash right off the bat, I stayed for a really enjoyable Dylan record from start to finish, especially the finish. Lying in wait at the very end of the album is “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You.” This quite perfect mix of folk and blues undertones will have you dancing before you know it. Dylan beams about ditching his bus ride home to stay with a lady. In case you haven’t experienced the feeling of sheer jubilance and excitement about a night with a pretty girl in a while, Dylan will conjure it all back in three and a half minutes. This track croons with slide guitar and dangerously catchy lyrics. It’s Dylan at his most enjoyable. Perfect to pair with this week’s bourbon: smooth, warm, and full American flavor from start to finish.

Daniel: (Live 1975 version) The studio version of this song is a love sick high school boy’s wistful dream compared to the raucous, brassy live version from “The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue.” In fact, we’re going to call this the “wet dream version” from now on. This is what burning down your life to be with the woman you love should sound like. Guttural. Dylan screams this song more than he sings it. You can imagine him throwing middle fingers to the world. The bus? No one likes the bus. It’s a necessary evil. I once had to take the bus every weekend to see my girlfriend and every time I left Boston, I wanted to incinerate my suitcase, hop a cab back to the burbs, break down a door, and announce, “I should have left this town this morning/But it was more than I could do/Oh, your love comes on so strong/And I've waited all day long/For tonight when I'll be staying here with you.”

It's fitting that this song leads the album. You know right away what you’re in for. You’re not sipping bourbon to this song; you’re pounding fingers while shouting from your open window you’re staying put to have crazy, experimental, and neighborhood awakening sexual relations with the beautiful woman you just gave everything up for (put a little Maker’s Mark behind your ears so she can enjoy the experience along with you if having a full glass isn’t her thing). If this song doesn’t rev you up and make you plant a deep, passionate wet one on your lover’s lips, you aren’t alive and should report to the cemetery immediately.


Dave: This week’s bourbon is the very recognizable, but always reliable, Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is the standard “good bourbon” at most bars. Not too expensive, it is a sweeter, smoother bourbon. As a result, it is perfect for drinking neat, but also makes a damn good cocktail. My pallet catches a definitive vanilla and cherry flavor on top of that always amazing oak. It warms more than it burns after it’s all the way down. It pairs really well with this cruising, swaying Dylan song. Shockingly well. To top it all off, Maker’s Mark is packaged with an incredibly cool wax top. Maker’s Mark, named after the seal used to distinguish its product, dips the tip of every bottle in wax. Each bottle remains sealed until you crack it open with your own two hands. Nothing like a little bit of class with your buzz.

Daniel: I hadn’t tried Maker’s Mark until a recent visit to Sweet Cheeks Q near Fenway Park (I highly recommend this barbeque joint to those that live in the Boston area or those that plan to visit it in the near future). Dave incessantly tells me that this is his “go-to bourbon,” so I decided to order one to judge for myself (and to finally get him off my case). First of all, Maker’s Mark is an excellent bourbon to pair with copious amounts of barbeque. Taking hits of it from my mason jar after pile driving pulled pork into my gullet was heavenly. It provided the right amount of smoothness and fire to go along with my sides of potato salad and macaroni and cheese. The best part was that Stephanie Schaefer said my drink looked like a urine sample. I’ll admit that Sweet Cheeks was a little stingy with the amount of bourbon they poured into my jar, but come on, doesn’t this look gritty and man-tastic?

Okay, fine, the mason jar doesn’t do it any favors. Still, Maker’s Mark will now have a reserved spot in my whiskey drawer at Writer’s Bone HQ.


Daniel: What is it about westerns that make them the perfect complement to bourbon? Is it the questionable cowboy ethics and worldview? Or the lonely, dusty prairie bars that cry out for brown liquor salvation? Or is it the need to drown your sorrows after reading about the treatment of Native Americans during our country’s bloody history? Whatever the case, drinking bourbon is always better when reading a western, and there is no better western than Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. The novel features every western trope imaginable, but it feels fresh and feisty rather than quaint and dated. All of the characters are intriguing and you find yourself fully immersed in the plot’s last chance cattle drive. Plus, sex is referred to as “a poke” throughout the entire book. The novel was also made into an acclaimed mini-series in 1989 staring Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and Diane Lane. So that means if you imbibe too much Maker’s Mark and can’t decipher the English language on your own, you can just pop in a DVD and watch the story unfold while you drink the rest of the bottle. Lonesome Dove also features two names that belong on a Maker’s Mark commercial: Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call. I’d buy brown hooch from those two gentlemen. It’s their friendship that defines this book, and you’ll need all the whiskey you deal with how their story ends.

Also check out:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Once More With Feeling: The Best Soundtracks of All Time

Since so many of you enjoyed our recent discussion on our favorite musical moments in film, we decided to continue the series and focus on the best movie soundtracks of all time (Be sure to check out Lindsey Wojcik’s post “Soon Is Now: How ‘The Wedding Singer’ Soundtrack Made Me Fall in Love With the 1980s” before you dive into this one). Look for more music and movie magic in the near future. In the meantime, send us your own recommendations in the comments section, post them to our Facebook page, or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford

The Big Chill

Daniel Ford: I wrote about “The Big Chill” soundtrack in our favorite musical moments in film post last week, but it is well worth writing more words about it. There’s not a bad song on this album and each tune is used expertly in the movie. From the gorgeously filmed opening sequence set to Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine” to the car ride scene featuring New York City’s own The Rascal’s “Good Lovin’,” the soundtrack anchors the hope found beneath the movie’s darker overtones. You also can’t go wrong with including Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” on any “best of “ list. I didn’t see this movie until recently, but I’ve been aware of the soundtrack for at least a decade. It’s one of the rare instances that the soundtrack may outshine the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Dave Pezza: If you haven’t seen "Guardians of the Guardians" yet, you should check it out. It's a pretty good for a Marvel movie. In the movie, Chris Pratt’s character is abducted from Earth with nothing but the clothes on his back and his backpack. Within that backpack is a mix tape his mother, who dies at the beginning of the movie, made for him, featuring some tasty soft rock hits from the 1970s. The studio released an official soundtrack and then an alternate soundtrack with all of the songs on mix tape. This mix tape is mind-numbingly good and full of classics and hits that you forgot all about. It features classics like “I Want you Back” by The Jackson Five, “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, and “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. Some surprising tracks, like “Come and Get You Love” by Redbone and “Fooled Around and Fell in love” by Elvin Bishop, are true old school soft jams, forgotten by all of us who grew up to oldies radio stations in the back seat of their grandfather’s car. This soundtrack is so good it reached the number one on Billboard 200, the first soundtrack entirely composed of previously released music to ever reach that peak. Pick this soundtrack up, you’ll be singing it for months…trust me.

Dirty Dancing

Stephanie Schaefer: Nobody puts baby in a corner. Period.

Apollo 13

Matt DiVenere: The thrilling drum beat. The familiar power of the brass. The crash of the cymbals. The smooth violin telling a story filled with fear, the unknown and, eventually, relief. The chorus adding an almost angel-like tone in times of desperation and near-tragedy. It’s a story unto itself without any need of words nor images. It speaks to a struggle, a near abandonment of hope and life itself. But just as you float into oblivion, hope returns with a faint trumpet and, ultimately, a crescendo that transcends all others. It is compelling, breathtaking, anxious, and beautiful all at once.

American Hustle

Sara Silvestri:  Conversation I had with Daniel:

Daniel: What do you like about "American Hustle?"

Sara: The soundtrack. And everything else.

Daniel: Well okay then.

Purple Rain

Lisa Carroll: Despite the fact that the acting was crap (even to my high school freshman self), the music was dazzling and exciting, and Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Highlights are "Jungle Love" by Morris Day and the Time, and Prince and the Revolution's "Baby I'm a Star," "I Would Die For You," "When Doves Cry" (which also made it's way onto Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo and Juliet" soundtrack, which is also fantastic by the way and "I'm Kissing You" is just about the sexiest song ever), and of course "Purple Rain."

The Sandlot

Daniel: Men who say they aren't thinking about Wendy Peppercorn when they hear The Drifter's "This Magic Moment" are full of shit. While that tune is the real gem of this soundtrack, the album also includes three of the greatest dance/complete nonsense songs of all time: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," "Tequila" (I mean seriously, why does this song exist other than to be in this movie and why did parents think it was okay for their kids to listen to it?), and "Wipe Out." On their own, these songs are awful. Paired together with a nostalgic movie, they're gold.

There also isn't a more beautiful version of "America the Beautiful" than the one Ray Charles croons in this flick. "The Sandlot" features the perfect fusion of America, baseball, tobacco, dumb kids, and music.

Never Back Down

Rachel Tyner: Every single time I watch this movie, I want to go to the gym immediately.

The Bodyguard

Stephanie: Magical.


Lisa: The tracks on this album are so good they made a musical out of it. I actually won a copy of this LP in middle school in 1984 as a prize for a school "Dress Up Day." The album itself had an image of Kevin Bacon's butt on it so that made it worth it right there. My personal faves are "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler. and of course. the title song by Kenny Loggins. The remake by Blake Shelton pales in comparison.

Saturday Night Fever

Lisa: The movie that defined the disco era. And made the three-piece white suit a Halloween staple.

Forrest Gump

Lisa: The two-album soundtrack to this epic story is brilliant. A musical journey from the 1950s ("Hound Dog") through the turbulent 1960s ("Fortunate Son," "Volunteers") and the peace movement ("Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine") with the added beauty of the "Forrest Gump Suite."

Dazed and Confused

Lindsey: Like "The Wedding Singer," this soundtrack is filled with tracks from an era I never experienced. My parents are classic rock fanatics, and this soundtrack reminds me of the heat waves I'd spend floating in my parents' pool, while my dad fixed cars in the garage with the classic rock radio station blaring. It screams summer. Alright, alright, alright. Take it easy.

Pitch Perfect

Lisa: The vocals and the songs they cover are acca-awesome. And Skylar Astin is my college-aged self's boyfriend.

Reservoir Dogs

Dave: Another amazing soundtrack! Quentin Tarantino, the master of cinematic cool, set the soundtrack bar horribly high for himself with his freshman film “Reservoir Dogs.” The soundtrack is modeled after a radio program heard various times throughout the movie, “K. Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s.” Tarantino got comedian Steven Wright, known for his straight face and deadpan comedic styling, to provide the voice of DJ K. Billy. This killer group of songs provides some major hits in “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Stealers Wheel (which accompanies cinematic history in the film) and “Hooked on a Feeling.” Tarantino also dug up some gems like “Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection and, a personal favorite, “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson. Hilarious sound bits from the movie are stuck in there too for you extended enjoyment. All in all, you get a well-polished soundtrack.

Also check out: 

Soon Is Now: How ‘The Wedding Singer’ Soundtrack Made Me Fall in Love With the 1980s

This post kicks off Soundtrack Day on Writer’s Bone. Tune in later this afternoon for our compilation of the best soundtracks of all time.

By Lindsey Wojcik

I was a tween obsessed with 1990s pop music, and some of the grunge-y alternative of the time, when the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy set in 1985 was released in 1998. I could quote “Billy Madison” word-for-word, but “The Wedding Singer” didn't seem to have that sort of silliness; it seemed softer. I most likely saw it in the theater (I really can't recall), but I do know a VHS copy of “The Wedding Singer” was on my birthday gift wish list that year. I wore out that tape—so much so that my parents moaned when I put it in—and as such, I became familiar with the soundtrack. The film hooked me the moment I heard "You Spin Me Round – Like a Record" by Dead Or Alive in the opening sequence.

It was my first real exposure to a mix of 1980s music. Sure, I had heard Madonna and the B-52s before, but as an 11-year-old, I certainly didn't understand Robbie Hart's (Sandler) reference to The Cure. In one scene, a heartbroken Hart tells love interest Julia Guglia (Barrymore), "When I wrote this song, I was listening to The Cure a lot." The Cure didn't even make the soundtrack, though “Boys Don’t Cry” can be heard faintly in the background of another scene.

Once I really listened to the 26-song two-CD compilation, which was among the first few CDs I ever received, (that would be the year my family first owned a CD player—even in fictional 1985 a confused Julia Guglia had one before my family), my love for everything 1980s flourished. It was more than pop; it featured post-punk, new wave bands like The Psychedelic Furs and The Thompson Twins—a sound I had never heard before. Then, I heard the guitar riff on "How Soon is Now?" by The Smiths. From then on, it was exclusively on repeat.

It would be years later during my angsty teen years, after more 1990s and early Aughts pop music distracted me, that I'd rediscover “The Wedding Singer” soundtrack. “How Soon Is Now?” would inevitably lead me to The Smiths’ entire catalogue and elevate their status as one of my favorite bands ever. Sadly, I'd never get the chance to see them live. Though, seeing the group’s lead singer, Morrissey, perform some of the band's songs at Radio City Hall on my 25th birthday is the closest I'll get.

After relistening to the soundtrack in high school, and consequently around the time VH1’s “I Love the 80s” premiered, my 1980s fixation went beyond the music. Researching 1980s pop culture became a hobby. I wanted to learn about and consume the movies, television, fashion, news, and, of course, other music that defined the decade, and I wanted to have a better understanding of references in the movie like “Franky Say Relax” and “New Coke.” I also needed to know how each song on the soundtrack I loved made an impact on the culture.

I finally understood that George’s character embodied Boy George, and I realized why “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by Culture Club was the only song he knew how to sing on his own. And while a granny performing “Rapper’s Delight” was hysterical on screen, I knew it really did not do the historic song justice.

“The ‘80s weren’t that great,” my parents would tell me as my obsession grew. However, “The Wedding Singer” soundtrack made me nostalgic for a time I never experienced but so desperately wish I could have enjoyed. If only I had been born 10 years earlier! The music wasn’t “new,” but it was new to me. I was exposed to a different music genre, and it made me a fan of many of the featured artists. That's what a powerful soundtrack does. It connects a viewer to what’s happening in a film, while creating and evoking emotion that will last long after the credits have rolled. “The Wedding Singer” spun me right round.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Walk Among The Tombstones With Author Lawrence Block

By Sean Tuohy

Later this month, former New York City detective Matt Scudder will slam his way into theaters across the nation in the new thriller “A Walk Among the Tombstones.” The film is based on the novel of the same name by legendary crime writer Lawrence Block, and was adapted to the big screen by award-winning writer/director Scott Frank (“Get Shorty,” “Minority Report,” “Out of Sight,” “The Lookout”). In the film, our drunken hero finds himself in the middle of a blood-soaked case when a drug kingpin's wife is kidnapped. Tough guy Liam Neeson plays Scudder and brings an edgy feel to the character.

I recently talked with Scudder’s creator Lawrence Block about the upcoming film.

Sean Tuohy: This is the second time Matthew Scudder has made it to the big screen. Are you excited to see him in the movies again?

Lawrence Block: Yes, very much so. “8 Million Ways to Die” didn't really work—artistically or commercially—although both Jeff Bridges and Andy Garcia did some very fine work in the film. “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is a much better film in every way, and very much reflects the book I wrote.

ST: What was process of turning your novel in to a movie?

LB: It took a long time. The film was just weeks away from commencement of principal photography when Harrison Ford changed his mind and pulled out. Then the project was dead in the water for over 10 years, and I never thought anything would come of it. But Scott never lost faith. He knew he wanted to make the film, and now he's done so...brilliantly.

ST Scott Frank has adapted novels before to wide acclaim. Were you excited to have him writing/directing the project?

LB: I was indeed. His adaptations of two Elmore Leonard novels, “Get Shorty” and “Out of Sight,” managed not merely to tell Leonard's stories but to capture his tone and attitude. I was particularly pleased when he elected to direct the film himself; I'd seen “The Lookout” (which he wrote and directed) and knew how good he was at this.

ST: “A Walk Among the Tombstones” is a pretty dark story. Why do you think this story was chosen to be turned in to a movie?

LB: Scott originally got Jersey Films to option the book just a couple of years after its 1992 publication. I don't know that darkness had anything to do with it; he read the book, liked it, and wanted to make it into a film.

ST: Liam Neeson plays Scudder this time around. How do you feel about that casting decision?

LB: I couldn't be happier. For years, Liam Neeson was up at the top of my own mental shortlist to play Scudder, ever since I saw him in “Michael Collins” (In my novel Everybody Dies, Michael Collins comes up in a long conversation between Scudder and Mick Ballou).

ST: How does it feel to see your work on the big screen?

LB: It's very gratifying. I've written well over a hundred books, and this is only the fourth to be filmed—and the first to be filmed at all well. So I'm obviously capable of being happy with a book whether or not it makes it to the screen. But that this book has been filmed, and filmed so brilliantly, feels better than I can describe.

ST: Final question. How do you take your popcorn?

LB: Intravenously.

“A Walk Among the Tombstones” comes out September 19, 2014.

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Episode 40: Author David Eddie

David Eddie

Sean Tuohy talks to author David Eddie about his novel Chump Change, how he first went about publishing his work, what it’s like writing for a newspaper, and why writers should tune out the world while exploring their craft.

To learn more about David Eddie, check out his official website.