In the Mail: Music Edition

The Song Is You by Megan Abbott

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of James Ellroy nostalgic for his gritty, cynical take on postwar Hollywood in such noir classics as L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia should enjoy Edgar-finalist Abbott’s second novel (after Die a Little). The author uses a less-celebrated real-life crime—the disappearance of actress Jean Spangler from Los Angeles in 1949—as her hook to spin a downbeat tale about a journalist-turned-studio-flack, Gil “Hop” Hopkins. Hop was with Spangler, a stunner but a second-rate acting talent, the last night she was seen, and harbors guilt over leaving her in the company of a famous acting and singing duo, Marv Sutton and Gene Merrel, who have a reputation for rough play. Hop’s efforts at amateur sleuthing unearth a blackmail ring and a possible mob connection to Spangler’s disappearance. Abbott deserves credit for resurrecting this virtually forgotten case and concocting a plausible fictional solution to a true crime.

Show I’ll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concert-going Experience by Sean Manning

From Publishers Weekly

In this uneven but engaging collection of essays, 50 writers recall their most memorable concert experience, spanning about 50 years of popular music history. Manning does a great job of collecting a diverse range of writers and musicians for this project, and his sequencing has the intuitive logic of a well considered set list. Though the book is chronological, the parallel movements of different musical eras are allowed to bump up against each other in fascinating ways, such as when the smooth showmanship of Billy Joel gives way to the raw violence of X in 1979. The pieces in this collection are most successful when they combine personal anecdotes with specific and original recollections of the band being profiled. Tracy Chevalier’s essay about seeing Queen in 1977 is a perfect evocation of experiencing live music for the first time, as she describes “the familiarity and yet also the strange rawness of the songs.” While the overall pace of the collection is slowed by “you had to be there” essays about a Bruce Springsteen show, Woodstock and other events, there are enough high points to satisfy a dedicated live music aficionado.

White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd

Book Description

When Muddy Waters came to London at the start of the 1960s, a kid from Boston called Joe Boyd was his tour manager; when Dylan went electric at the Newport Festival, Joe Boyd was plugging in his guitar; when the summer of love got going, Joe Boyd was running UFO, the coolest club in London; when a bunch of club regulars called Pink Floyd recorded their first single, Joe Boyd was the producer; when a young songwriter named Nick Drake wanted to give his demo tape to someone, he chose Joe Boyd.

More than any previous sixties music autobiography, Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles offers the real story of what it was like to be there at the time. As well as the sixties heavy-hitters, this book also offers wonderfully vivid portraits of a whole host of other musicians: everyone from the great jazzman Coleman Hawkins to the folk diva Sandy Denny, Lonnie Johnson to Eric Clapton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Fairport Convention.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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