Journey Through a Rock and Roll Past

I started my new novel this week. It’s to be called Just Below Sunset, and it introduces a new series character, Nick “The Nightmare” Kilborn. He’s an ex-con, an amateur boxer who teaches boxing at a youth community center, and an off-the-grid private investigator, taking cases from people who, for one reason or another, can’t seek help through normal and official channels. His cases involve the search for missing or abducted teens. The series is set in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s.

I’ve had to do research on the era. Those familiar with my Jason Chance novels know music is something very close to my heart, especially rock music. But I’m usually not one to look back at the soundtrack of my youth, preferring to listen to what’s being done Now. In the Moment. Today. I pride myself on a modern, cutting edge sensibility, and over the years I’ve had little interest in music from my distant past (with a few exceptions, like David Bowie and Lou Reed).

Researching Just Below Sunset has changed that. Putting an era-appropriate playlist together (it’s something I often do while writing; amazing how today’s technology makes it so easy), I’m rediscovering songs I’ve not heard in forty years. I’ve found an emotional connection to this music of my adolescence that I’d shut down as my life moved forward.

Hearing the songs anew has brought tears to my eyes.

I’m sure part of my reaction stems from the sadness of time gone by–the melancholia that inevitably accompanies age–but it’s also because of the beauty and originality of the songs. With the Sixties and Seventies came tectonic shifts in popular music. Blues, R&B, soul, country, folk, jazz, and classical melded together, fusing into new vibrant sounds that, while drawing on history, seemed wildly original.

The music I blocked out for so long now inspires and energizes my writing. I’m excited about this new series. I love working in this period (and pray I get it all right). And I love this musical journey into my past the narrative has forced me to take.

Why did I ever think it was a good idea to leave it all behind?

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