Saturday, February 16, 2013

Rock-n-Roll by Deborah Crombie

Deborah Crombie writes the Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Inspector Gemma James British crime novels.Follow her on Twitter @deborahcrombie.

Born in Texas, Crombie has lived in both England and Scotland, and now divides her time between her historic home in McKinney, Texas, and the UK.
Awards include  - Macavity Best First Novel, A Share in Death. Macavity Best Novel, Dreaming of the Bones. Macavity Best Novel, Where Memories Lie. New York Times Notable Book, Dreaming of the Bones. IMBA Best 100 Crime Novels of the Century, Dreaming of the Bones.



What is it about guitars that makes them so sexy, especially electric guitars?

Is it the sinuous shape? Or the associations with all those really cool lead guitar players? Or maybe a bit of both?

Unless you’re a musician, most likely you don’t go gaga over pianos, or violins. But guitars—anyone can fall head over heels for guitars. My slide into guitar fan-girl was unanticipated.

A character named Andy Monahan walked onto the page three books ago, in Where Memories Lie. He was a witness, invented to give two of my detective, Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, some information about the death of a primary character.  Andy was a bit player.  He had two scenes, and in the first he was coming back to his London flat after playing a band gig. When he got out of the van, he was carrying a Fender Stratocaster. Why that particular guitar, I have no idea. It was just a given.

I also knew that Andy was in his late twenties, that he was a very good musician, that he was frustrated with his band mates, and that he was discouraged with his career. I knew he had a cat. And that I liked him.

The more I thought about him, the more I wanted to know about him. Where did he come from? When, and how, did he learn to play the guitar? There was something intriguingly solitary about Andy Monahan, and I suspected that he was driven by the circumstances of his past.

In the next book, Necessary as Blood, we learn that Andy has an unexpected personal connection with Duncan and Duncan’s wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James. The stage was set to tell Andy’s story, even though it had to simmer in the background for another book.

That story comes together with Duncan and Gemma’s stories in The Sound of Broken Glass. Gemma, newly assigned to a murder squad in South London, is assigned to investigate the bizarre murder of a respected London barrister in a seedy hotel in London’s Crystal Palace area. One of the last people known to have spoken to the barrister before his death was none other than Andy Monahan. What, if any, is the connection between the two men, and how far back does it go?

Having a character like Andy appear out of nowhere and insist you write about him is one of the most gratifying things about writing. But it’s also one of the most challenging—you want to do him justice. And it can take you into areas you wouldn’t otherwise explore. I know a lot more about guitars now than I did. I have a great book called Stars and Guitars: The Guitars That Made 200 Rock Gods Famous. (Who could resist a title like that?) I know some of the guitarists who’ve played Fender Stratocasters: Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Mark Knopfler—those are just a few among many. I know something about what makes guitarists tick. I understand a little of the mechanics of electric guitars. I know what an effects pedal is.

And I know who did what, how, and why.

I know the color of Andy Monahan’s Strat—it’s Fiesta Red.

But I still haven’t learned how to play.

(This photo of me was taken in the rehearsal space in Antenna Studios, Crystal Palace, where Andy rehearses and records with his new musical partner. {Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne}And the guitar, of course, is the iconic 1959 Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster.)

So has anyone else fallen for a guitar, or a guitarist, famous or otherwise?



Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Welcome, Debs!!!! Always my pleasure to have you here, and I love this piece. What "is" it about guitars and the bad boys who play them??? I have been known to have a crush or two, yes - Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen . . .

I can't wait to read THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS. Am I going to have a crush on Andy Monahan by the time I finish?

Deb said...

Hi Kaye! What fun to be here! And yes, Clapton, Springsteen, but can't say I ever had a thing for Keith Richards. I actually think I like him better now than I did back in the day.

Funny thing, one of my guitar heroes, Andy Summers (lead guitarist for the Police) played not a Strat, but a Fender Telecaster.

And maybe the guitar hero for all time? Jimmy Page. I have to recommended a documentary called It Might Get Loud for anyone who's interested in guitarists. It features Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White, which sounds like a really strange combination, but it's fabulous.

Will you have a crush on Andy by the time you finish Broken Glass?

That would be telling.

Maureen Harrington said...

Okay... I never thought I would admit this publicly but I would have to say that my guitar-boy crush would be on Les Paul who invented the first real solid-body electric guitar. He made his first amplified guitar when he was a boy with a piece from a record-player pickup arm and a speaker from the mouthpiece of his parents' telephone. He stuck them under the strings of his acoustic guitar and wired the two parts to his parents' radio. He would have been my kind of guy. His music, though... I would have had a lot of pretending to do. Just as well he was from a different generation.

Serious Jimi Hendricks and Eric Clapton love, though.

Maureen Harrington said...

I can't tell if my comment went through!

Coco Ihle said...

Oh goodie, can't wait to read THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS! Deborah, I love all your books. Thanks for telling us about this new one.

And Congrats to you, Kaye on your book. I'm also eager to read it!

Edith Maxwell said...

As I have mentioned, I'm immersed in reading your entire series. I just finished Now May You Weep, so it's exciting to read about the development of this new character who I will meet in just a few books. I also love it when a character pushes forward, says, "Hey, I'm part of this story. Pay attention to me!"

Last night I half watched (while reading your book) a 1982 show with the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters. There was some very fine guitar playing going on.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen for sure plus many others (although I've never figured out exactly who many others is). I get all wrapped up in the song writing myself more so than the guitars. Bob Dylan, Kris Krisofferson (wasn't a Rhodes Scholar for no reason you know) Willie Nelson is an amazing song writer and guitarist. So many talented artist out there. Can't even begin to name them.

Patricia said...

By the way, I just expressed my opinion on guitarists and song writers but I have another question. I find Willie Nelson as sexy as heck even at 80 or whatever he is. Now what's up with that do you suppose?

Deb said...

Patricia, Willie Nelson, like Jimmy Page, just gets sexier. Some guys have all the luck.