MysteryPeople Q&A with Mike Blakely

Mike Blakely is an accomplished traditional western singer/songwriter as well as an award winning novelist. His latest, A Song To Die For, uses the Austin music scene of the Seventies as its backdrop. Vietnam vet guitar picker Creed Mason is in the midst of building a band for the comeback of  country legend Luster Burnett when he gets in between a Texas Ranger and a mob hitman as they prepare for a showdown. It’s a fun, rollicking tale that oozes with the twang, humidity, and barbecue of its place and time.


MysteryPeople: This is your second book dealing with the Texas outlaw music scene of the Seventies. What drew you to that era?

Mike Blakely: I began performing professionally in a garage band in 1976 at the age of 18, so I experienced the real deal firsthand.   I was able to use quite a few of my own experiences in A Song To Die For.

MP: Are Creed and Luster based on any particular performers of that period?

MB: Both are composite characters based on some famous legends and some lesser-known artists I have worked with over the years.

MP:This is also the fourth book you’ve written with a musician as the central character. What do you want to get across to readers about those folks?

MB: The musically-inclined characters I create are all “lifers.”  They know they can never completely give up making music.  I hope my readers understand through these characters that it’s a tough life and a hard way to make a living but also an endeavor full of occasional rewards and moments of deep satisfaction.

MP: What do most writers get wrong about the music life?

MB: I’m not sure there’s a way to get it wrong in a business where anything can happen.  There are so many paths a musician can take. Some get lucky breaks early on and ride the wave of success for decades.  Others who are just as talented may work for years without much notice.  The music scene can be just as wholesome or as seedy as an individual wants to make it.  It can be a wild romp or a methodical climb to success.  It can be all about the money or all about the music or anywhere in between.

MP: How do you prepare to write a story set in the past?

MB: It starts with historical research, of course.  I read about the era. I read things written during that era.  I seek out objects from the time period so I know how they look and feel.  Every time I sit down to write, I time travel in my mind to the era I’ve chosen.  When writing, I try to assume nothing.  I strive to verify that every detail I insert into the story is authentic.

MP: Do you think the musician influences the novelist side of you and vice versa?

MB: The two disciplines are very different, but they do influence each other.  I’ve written songs about some of my characters in my novels. I have also had characters from my songs find their way into my books. There’s no reason to keep the two creative endeavors completely separated though they are very different in many ways.  When I finish a novel, it may take a couple of years to start getting feedback from the public.  But I can write a song in the morning and play it for an audience that night.


Mike will be joining author Robert Knott on January 14th to talk about writing western fiction and their latest novels (Mike will also be performing a couple of his songs), but we got a head discussing the book and the music life.

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MysteryPeople Review: THE BRIDGE, by Robert Knott

the bridge


Robert Knott and Mike Blakely join us Tuesday, January 14, at 7 pm, for an evening of Country-Western flavored crime fiction. Robert Knott will be presenting his novel The Bridgeand Mike Blakely will present his latest novel, A Song To Die For.


Robert B. Parker helped bring the western into the twenty-first century with  his Southwestern gunfighters Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole.  The books fit in the classic tradition of the genre while subtlety subverting it enough for a fresh take. The Bridge, Robert Knott’s third continuation in the series, proves the lawmen still have a lot of territory to ride.

The plot carries strong elements of a thriller, opening with a group of mysterious night riders creating murder and mayhem at a camp building a bridge along the Rio Blanco river. Since Appaloosa is the nearest town, Hitch and Cole are drawn into uncovering what is going on and putting their guns up against one of their most formidable opponents. They also have to deal with a group of traveling performers that come to town that include a beautiful fortune teller that Hitch gets involved with.

Knott knows just the right amount of emotion to bring to the story. Being an actor and script writer, he knows what’s not on the page is just as important as what is. He uses humor and the laconic nature of their friendship to express how his characters feel. He also gives them a group of villains that put them more on edge.

The Bridge gives us everything we love about the Hitch & Cole series, including the wonderful dry dialogue and the bond of two men who have had each others’ back in years of violent situations. Knott delivers on these and goes deeper in the authenticity of period and the characterization of the two. The two gunmen are in good hands.


Copies of the above listed books are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Top Five Texas Authors of 2014

One thing about us Texans, we have a lot of state pride. Luckily we got the talent to back it up. Here’s a list of favorite crime novels this year written by our fellow Lone Stars.


reavis wortham vengeance is mine1. Vengeance Is Mine by Reavis Wortham

Wortham’s Central Springs lawmen and their families deal with violent actions and their consequences when a mob hitman moves into their town. Works as an engaging shoot up as well as a meditation on retribution.

 


nine days2. Nine Days by Minerva Koenig

This highly entertaining debut introduces us to Julia Kalas, whose marriage to her murdered gun-dealing husband has lead her to a small Texas town under Witness Protection. When the new man she’s seeing becomes the main suspect in a murder, she cuts across the state, using her criminal contacts to clear him in this fresh, hard-boiled gem.


a song to die for3. A Song To Die For by Michael Blakely

The Seventies Austin music scene serves as a fun back drop for a guitar pickin’ country legend looking for a comeback (as well as a way to beat the IRS). When a Mafia princess turns up dead, a Texas Ranger goes looking for her murderer and crosses paths with Blakely’s musician protagonist. Blakely, a musician himself, gives us a great look at building a band.


tim bryant spirit trap4.Spirit Trap by Tim Bryant

Fifties Fort Worth PI Alvin “Dutch” Curridge investigates the pilfering of a dance hall and the disappearance of a musician accused of the murder of his family. An involving who-dunnit that gives us a great flavor of the Texas music scene back then.


ransom island5. Ransom Island by Miles Arceneux

A Gulf Coast honky-tonk gets caught between the and the Klan when they get Duke Ellington to play for New Year’s Eve. A fun trip to a lost era and place.

 


All of the books listed above are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Look out for more top lists later in December!

 

Three Picks for December

December is here; a time of family, friendship, perhaps some frost, and most certainly murder most foul. Here are some of our favorite novels to usher in the New Year. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.


trouble in the heartlandTrouble In The Heartland edited by Joe Clifford

Over forty of the best crime writers out there, including Eric Beetner, Hilary Davidson, and Dennis Lehane, each tackling the title of a Bruce Springsteen song and turning it into a story. Full of losers, longing, cars, desired women, and working class drive, these stories do the Boss proud.


 

bite harderBite Harder by Anonynmous-9

Paraplegic vigilante Dean Drayhart and his helper monkey Sid are back. When a hit is put on the both of them and and Cinda, Dean’s sex worker girlfriend, Dean has to break out of prison, get Sid and fight back. This fun follow-up to Hard Bite ups the ante in blood and laughs.


 

a song to die forA Song to Die For by Mike Blakely
A rollicking novel of crime and music in 1975 Austin that brings together a singer-songwriter, a Texas Ranger, and a murdered Mafia princess. Blakely gives us an Austin where the attitude and the music was truly outlaw. Meet Mike with Robert Knott on January 14th during our western night.