Recommended Reads: Swierczynski, Lauden, Black.


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Canary by Duane Swierczynski

A teenage girl is arrested by the police and becomes an informant. Fast moving, smart, funny and touching, Canary is an action-packed joy.

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That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist by SW Lauden

Straight out of the slammer, a former musician sets out to steal a rare Beatles single. Pistol popping power pop pulp fiction.

Artefacts Of The Dead by Tony Black

DI Bob Valentine tracks down the killer of a big-shot banker in Ayr. Artefacts Of The Dead is a tight and atmospheric crime thriller with shades of the supernatural. A top start to the best-selling series.

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PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER S.W. Lauden

 

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TELEVISION 

I watched a lot of TV throughout my childhood and early teen years. As I got older, I started turning my back on TV for long periods to make time for other things (music, books, concerts, writing, etc.), so I’ve missed out on a lot of big cultural moments in the last couple of decades (Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones among them—I know, I know). That said, I still gleefully tumble down a “TV” (streaming) rabbit hole every once in a while. A few all-time favs include The Wild Wild WestThe SimpsonsThe OfficeJustified and Fawlty Towers. A few recent favs include Mr. RobotRussian DollThe End of the F***ing World and Bosch. 

 

BOOKS 

I didn’t start reading for pleasure until my late teens when the guitarist in my high school band handed me Deadeye Dick. From there I quickly read everything else by Kurt Vonnegut. I stuck with literary fiction for most of my 20s and 30s (Charles Bukowski, Umberto Eco, Annie Proulx, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail BulgakovKatherine Dunn, Martin Amis, etc.), occasionally veering into genre fiction by Phillip K. Dick, Neal Stephenson, Raymond Chandler and Kem Nunn. I really got into crime fiction about a decade ago, thanks to Don Winslow, Joe Nesbo and Arnaldur Indridason. These days, Blake Crouch is one of my favorite authors. Dark Matter blew my mind, but his new one, Recursion, is even better. I’m also an unabashed Harry Potter fan. 

I also read a lot of non-fiction books about music. I loved We’ve Got The Neutron Bomb and Under The Big Black Sun, both oral histories of the early LA punk scene (and I’m currently reading the follow up to UTBBS, called More Fun In The New World). I recently read an excellent book about the Chicago power pop band Shoes called Boys Don’t Lie, A Man Called Destruction about Alex Chilton, and Ray Davies’ bizarre autobiography, X-Ray. I loved Trouble Boys about The Replacements.

MUSIC 

I’ve spent most of my life listening to it, watching it live or playing and recording it myself. My older brothers got me into classic rock and heavy metal in elementary school (Cheap Trick, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, etc.), but I discovered punk in junior high (Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Gun Club, Descendents, Black Flag, etc.) followed closely by post punk and new wave (BuzzcocksNick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Go-Go’s, The Soft Boys). My musical tastes got pretty broad once I started seriously playing drums in bands myself (early Johnny Cash, The Velvet Underground, The Kinks, Linda Ronstadt, Big Star/Alex Chilton, John Coltrane and 70s David Bowie were huge retroactive discoveries), but punk/alternative/indie rock/pop have been constants for me (everything from Husker Du, Robyn Hitchcock and The Specials to Jawbreaker, Fountains Of Wayne and Supergrass). Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Turner, Jason Isbell, The New Pornographers (and A.C. Newman’s excellent solo records), Kurt Baker, Sloan and Ty Segall. 

Late last year I was asked to co-edit an essay collection about power pop with Paul Myers (it’s called “Go All The Way” and will be published by Rare Bird Books this October). That project helped me re/discover classic melodic guitar bands like The Records, Bram Tchaikovsky, The Nerves, The Shivvers, 20/20 and Shoes. Those bands, in turn, were the inspiration for my new crime fiction novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist. I just self-published that one this week. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on it from crime writers and music-lovers alike so far. 

 

I also recently played drums on a record by an LA-based garage rock/power pop band called The Brothers Steve. Music comes out on vinyl in late July. 

TRAVEL 

Yes, please. I was lucky enough to backpack in Europe after college and lived in Prague for a while in the early 90s. My daughter and I went back to visit last Spring and was happy to find it’s still a magical city. I also toured with bands in the 90s and early 2000s, so I spent some time driving around America, and a little in England and Japan (although that kind of travel is mostly about truck stops, chain restaurants, cheap motels and dingy nightclubs). Vietnam is still on the bucket list for my wife and I. And I’d love to get back to Japan. 

 

Thanks for having me at Punk Noir Magazine! 

 

BIO: S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series including Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Seasonand Hang Time. His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossed Bones. A new novelette, That’ll Be The Day: A Power Pop Heist, was released on June 18, 2019. S.W. Lauden is the pen name of Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. More info at http://swlauden.com. 

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Short Story in a Song— The Kinks’ “Picture Book” by S W Lauden

After countless thousands of hours spent thinking about rock and roll, I’ve decided The Kinks are the common denominator for most of my favorite music. Something Else by The Kinks (1967) was a go-to for years, but in the past decade I’ve spent more time with their misunderstood 1968 masterpiece The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (read the 33 1/3 book about the album—it’s excellent). My favorite song on Village Green is “Picture Book.” It would make a great short story.

Our protagonist is old for his age. In the prime of his life, he’s overwhelmed by a sense of nostalgia that has him prematurely reflecting on his recent childhood and distant demise. He turns the pages of an old family photo album taking in the images with a heavy heart. There’s an innocent happiness there that he’s lost touch with in early adulthood, fueling his maudlin melancholia. It’s likely that he’s got another 50 or 60 years ahead of him, but it might feel twice as long if he doesn’t learn to find happiness in the moment. There’s a part of him that never will.

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song—Fountains Of Wayne’s “Little Red Light” by SW Lauden

There’s nothing quite like falling down a musical rabbit hole. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Fountains Of Wayne. I got hooked on the band’s slacker power pop after hearing their self-titled debut in 1996, sticking with them all the way through their 2003 hit, “Stacy’s Mom.” That single lands them on a lot of “One Hit Wonder” lists these days, which is too bad since it’s definitely not their best song. Hell, it’s not even the best song on the album Welcome Interstate Managers. That honor goes to “Little Red Light.” It would make a great short story.

Our protagonist is another lost soul among the hordes of New York. Reeling from a recent break up, he goes through the motions at work and suffers through his daily commute. The rain pours down and the car radio might be broken, but it’s the tiny in-between moments throughout his days that truly test him. Desperate to hear from his ex, he repeatedly checks his various inboxes for non-existent messages. They say time will heal a broken heart, but for now he relies on the bottle hidden in his desk to kill the pain. It helps him feel numb, but doesn’t bring her back. It’s starting to seem like nothing will.

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.
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Short Story in a Song— The Go-Go’s “Vacation” by S W Lauden

I usually write about songs that would make a great short story, but this time I actually did it. My take on “Vacation” is included in the new anthology, MURDER-A-GO-GO’S, out this week from Down & Out Books. Having lived through the band’s meteoric rise in the 80s, I always thought of this New Wave hit in terms of the kitschy water-skiing music video that got played ad nauseam on MTV. Listening to this track with a modern crime writer’s ear, however, changed my mind about the possible meaning of the lyrics.

The first verse opens with a love sick narrator who’s reeling from a recent break up. My perception of those lyrics hadn’t changed much over the years, but things shift in the second verse. This is where our protagonist admits that she should have run after first meeting her ex. It might simply be an over-dramatization of their failed relationship, but it could also hint at something much darker. If so, it would explain why she has to “get away.” I took that theme and ran with it for my short story based on “Vacation,” which is set in a psychiatric hospital.

I really challenged myself with the structure and voice of this short story, so I hope you’ll check it out. Click to find out more about MURDER-A-GO-GO’S and my short story, “Vacation.”

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 
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Short Story in a Song— Suprgrass’ “Caught by the Fuzz” by S W Lauden

 

Britpop. Bands that defined this ad hoc 90s musical genre took their inspiration from previous decades—60s pop, 70s glam and punk, 80s new wave—blending them together into a vibe-y cultural cocktail. The best songs from the era delivered melodies, hooks and plenty of snotty attitude from the likes of Oasis, Blur, Elastica, Pulp and many others. Two decades later, I Should Coco, the debut album from Supergrass, still stands out as a high point of the form. Their first single, “Caught by the Fuzz,” sounds like The Kinks force-filtered through Buzzcocks. It would make a great short story.

 

Our protagonist is fifteen-year-old kid who has just been arrested for drug possession. Still high, he’s in the police van trying to keep it together. Desperate to free himself, he dreams of his brother coming to rescue him while the police put him through the ringer. But his legal troubles are nothing compared to his mother’s disappointment when she finally comes to spring him. Is this the beginning of a life in crime, or an embarrassing story that he’ll share with friends over pints in his forties? The beautiful thing about teenage hi jinx is that the possibilities are truly infinite. Until they aren’t.

 

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song—Jawbreaker’s “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault” by S W Lauden

 

I recently read the 33 1/3 book about Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. That album was definitely my gateway drug to Bivouac and Unfun. These days my favorite Jawbreaker album is probably the least popular with hardcore fans—Dear You. It was their major label debut (demise?) and features slicker production than its three predecessors, but it also has some of my favorite Jawbreaker songs including “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault.” That one would make a great short story.

 

If you partied your way through high school and college the way my friends and I did, you probably have a few memories like the one so perfectly described here. Our narrator is at a house party commiserating with a heartbroken friend over beers. Led Zeppelin’s blasting on the stereo when they spot the friend’s ex happily making out with another guy. The narrator watches as the friend and his ex get into an argument that only lasts until the cops show up, bringing the whole pathetic scene to a screeching halt.

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S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song— The Nerves’ “Hanging On The Telephone” by S W Lauden

A lot of classic power pop songs revolve around telephones. This was the late 70s and early 80s, back when a hushed conversation on the family landline was the only way for lovesick teens to stay connected during long, lonely nights. Or maybe they snuck off to a phone booth, like the persistent protagonist in “Hanging on the Telephone” by West Coast power pop pioneers, The Nerves. Blondie polished the song into pop gold, but the original version is the raw material in all its jagged glory. This song would make a great short story.

Our protagonist is desperate to revive a romance gone sour. Posted up at the phone booth across from his ex-girlfriend’s house, he watches from the shadows as her family comes and goes. His intentions might be innocent, but his aggressive methods suggest some darker impulses. It’s possible to imagine a lost verse where the police are called or the girl’s father physically intervenes. Lucky for our protagonist, the object of his affection finally answers instead. Overwhelmed, he implores her to come outside to find him. It looks like everything might be okay again…at least for now.

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S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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Short Story in a Song— The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” by S W Lauden

 

There has long been a powerful political undercurrent to punk rock. Starting with The Sex Pistols and The Clash, it spiraled outward across decades with bands like Dead Kennedys, Propagandhi, Pussy Riot and Anti-Flag. When it comes to politically charged punk, “I Wanna Destroy You” by The Soft Boys is an undeniable anti-Fascist anthem (underscored by singer/songwriter Robyn Hitchcock’s 2017 video). Whatever your political views, this song would make a great short story.

Our narrator is a man at odds with himself. Disgusted by the violent culture surrounding him, he comes unglued. Righteous indignation fuels his fury, pushing his murderous imagination to new extremes. The thinking here is nothing new (“desperate times call for desperate measures,” “fight fire with fire,” etc.), but thoughts are different than actions. Does that make him a hero or villain? That’s for the reader to decide.

Previous Short Stories in a Song:

“Price Tag” by Sleater-Kinney

“The Obituaries” by The Menzingers

“Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks

 

s w laudenS.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA. 

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Short Story in a Song— Sleater-Kinney’s “Price Tag” by S.W. Lauden

I’ve always enjoyed a dose of anti-consumerism with my pop culture, whether it’s Fight Club, George Carlin’s “Stuff” routine or Mr. Robot. The darkest and most demented lines from Idiocracy still bring a smile to my face (even as I type this on my MacBook at the local Starbucks). The same goes for songs like “Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash, “Royals” by Lorde, “Pay To Cum” by Bad Brains and “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve. When it comes to grappling with consumer culture, “Price Tags” by Sleater-Kinney is a favorite of mine. It would make a great short story.

Our protagonist is a 9-to-5’er with mouths to feed and bills to pay. Miserably stocking shelves for minimum wage, she wonders if people like her will ever pull themselves out of this discount spiral. Everyday is Black Friday now, with working class families battling for basement “bargains” that they can’t afford and probably don’t need. She questions the hidden costs of all those cheap choices and knows it’s time for a reckoning. Maybe she’ll be the one to finally trade in her rewards card for a pitchfork and a torch.

Previous Short Stories in a Song:

The Obituaries” by The Menzingers

“Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

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