For most of the drive back down the M1, Holland had his nose buried in a pamphlet he’d picked up on his way out of the prison. Thorne preferred his own form of research.
He eased Johnny Cash At San Quentin into the cassette player.
Holland looked up as “Wanted Man” kicked in. He listened for a few seconds, shook his head and went back to his facts and figures.
Thorne had tried, once, to tell him. To explain that real country music was fuck all to do with lost dogs and rhinestones. It had been a long night of pool and Guinness, and Phil Hendricks – with whichever boyfriend happened to be around at the time – heckling mercilessly. Thorne had tried to convey to Holland the beauty of George Jones’s voice, the wickedness in Merle Haggard’s and the awesome rumble of Cash, the dark, daddy of them all. A few pints in, he was telling anybody who would listen that Hank Williams was a tortured genius who was undoubtedly the Kurt Cobain of his day and he may even have begun to sing “Your Cheating Heart” around closing time.
Music plays an important part in Tom Thorne’s life, as it does in mine, and, in common with many modern crime writers it has come to be seen as an important aspect of the books. It is certainly one about which readers contact me regularly; asking me about some of the bands and musicians featured in the books, recommending others and even sending me CDs of music which they think myself (and consequently Thorne himself) might like.
It’s a nice perk of the job.
In the first Thorne novel, Sleepyhead I remember facing something of a dilemma when I came to that first scene in which Thorne sat down at the end of a particularly grizzly day and put on a CD. Many of the writers I admired featured music in their books and I knew that I had to avoid any of the same musical territory. It could not be jazz because Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch likes jazz as does John Harvey’s Charlie Resnick. Besides which I am not the world’s biggest jazz fan. It couldn’t be classical music as Morse has that covered and progressive rock was Ian Rankin’s area of expertise. I even considered going down a perverse route and having no music at all, but this seemed silly. Everyone listens to music, don’t they? Perhaps not as obsessively as me, but most people listen to stuff on iPods on the way to work or on car radios. It would be hard to avoid music even if you wanted to, though bearing in mind what features in the charts these days, it’s an understandable position to take. So. Thorne would listen to music same as everyone else, but I couldn’t give him the same musical tastes as myself, could I?
That would be too easy…
In the end, I decided to split the difference. Thorne would like country music, as I do, but just to make him a tad more interesting, I gave him a penchant for something a little hipper, namely trip-hop and speed-garage. This proved to be a terrible mistake. Being many decades too old, it’s not a musical genre I’m exactly on top of and I ended up doing as much, if not more research into the music, as I did into police procedure, or any of the medical stuff that was so important in that novel. I’d made a very noisy rod for my own back. But first books are where we make our mistakes, aren’t they? Aren’t they??
Having quickly ditched all that hip-hoppy stuff, Thorne settled down over succeeding books into a musical life dominated by Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and the other greats of country music.
Like me he is unashamed about his likings both for those at the darker end of the scale and some of the cheesier stuff.
Country has it all…