Welcome to the second instalment of me looking at the music referenced in my books, and how I use it to create a kind of soundtrack to the action. You can read the first instalment, on The Killing Season, here.
The Samaritan was the second Carter Blake book, and I set it in Los Angeles because I wanted to channel that long history of noir from Chandler to Ellroy to Connelly. It's also a city I've visited, and found fascinating. The book sees Blake on the trail of a killer who preys on victims who have broken down in remote locations.
Black Hole Sun | Soundgarden
The first chapter of the book is told from the point of view of one of the Samaritan's victims as she drives through a rainy LA night. Black Hole Sun is playing on the classic rock station she's tuned to, and she thinks about how weird it is that something from the 90s is already classic rock.
It is a classic though, and I love the way both the music and the video become progressively more sinister as they go. In the story, it helps to foreshadow the 90s flashbacks, and the memories of a key character.
Desolation Row | Bob Dylan
I was reminded of this when I was Googling for Samaritan references (what, that's research, not procrastination. I don't know what you're talking about.) If I had gone with an epigraph for this book, it would probably have been :
The Good Samaritan, he's dressing, he's getting ready for the show
He's going to the carnival tonight on Desolation Row
In the book, Desolation Row is downtown LA after midnight, when all the people have left and it's a ghost town. Blake turns the radio on in his car (a recurring theme, given the killer's MO) and this is playing...
Girl of My Dreams | Gene Austin
I was looking for an old-time crooner song to be playing when Blake infiltrated the Samaritan's hideout, because if there's one thing guaranteed to make a serial killer's lair more spooky, it's a crackly old recording of a 1920s pop song.
I remembered this song from the movie Angel Heart, and thought if it worked for Alan Parker it would work for me too. It also hints at the end of the book, where we meet the girl of the antagonist's dreams.
My My, Hey Hey | Neil Young
Kimberley, the woman Blake suspects is the Samaritan's final target, uses the most famous line from this song: better to burn out than fade away as a yearbook quote.
Again, although this song was released in 1979 on the Rust Never Sleeps album, it's also a 90s reference, because Kurt Cobain quoted it in his suicide note. Speaking of which...
Polly | Nirvana
A key character in the book is a Nirvana fan. They're also one of my all-time favourite bands, and this is one of their most deceptively creepy songs. Just an acoustic guitar, none of the usual feedback or screaming, but quietly disturbing in both lyrics and mood.
This one isn't specifically mentioned in the novel, but I was playing it a lot while I wrote the book. Got some rope, have been told / Promise you, have been true...
- Buy 'Black Hole Sun' by Soundgarden
- Buy 'Desolation Row' by Bob Dylan
- Buy 'Girl of My Dreams' by Gene Austin
- Buy 'My My, Hey Hey' by Neil Young
- Buy 'Polly' by Nirvana
Next time: Young again, Hawkins and Creedence in Winterlong / The Time to Kill