- Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
There is something very visceral about cars and music. Cruising down a lost highway, playing a rock n’ roll station or classic country tape, conjures up emotional possibilities that anything could happen – possibly something dangerous. Two recent anthologies, Crime + Music and The Highway Kind explore the power each have on the human psyche.
Crime + Music, edited by crime novelist and Wall Street Journal rock critic Jim Fusilli, contains twenty-one stories, a fee previously published, dealing with various ways tunes interacts with either the performer or fan. Many show how a song is a haunting bridge to a dark period, such as Alison Gaylin’s meditation of vengeance on The Sunset Strip, “All Ages.” A few probe the struggle between artist and the music biz. Reed Farrel Coleman uses that theme in “Look At Me/Don’t Look At Me” with an aging pop star making a stand reminiscent of Robert Ryan’s boxer in The Set Up. Former DJ, Bill Fitzhugh does a satiric take in “Played To Death” with a serial killer targeting music programmers. Each story in this collection delivers sharp emotion, much like a song.
The Highway Kind, edited by bookseller and gear head Patrick Milliken, features everything from Model Ts to muscle cars. Like music, cars transport us to a not-too-distant-past, as in George Pelecanos’ look at brotherly love and neighborhood history, “The Triple Black Cuda.” The road proves trans-formative, as in Wallace Stroby’s “Night Run,” in which a salesman’s cat and mouse game with a biker on the Florida interstate becomes a mini-Mad Max-style road fight. “Runs Good” by Kelly Braffet proves how just the act of purchasing a car changes you. Some like Joe R. Lansdale and Ace Atkins find humorous misadventure in car travel.
Both Crime Plus Music and The Highway Kind remind us how those things we create also create us, reflecting us. They have the power to transform as well as transport us. Read both of these books and you might not want to flip off that guy with punk rock blaring from the speakers of his Dodge as he’s cutting you off.