Music has always played an important role in crime fiction — both in the lives of authors and the characters they create. Hieronymus Bosch, the eponymous detective of the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly, enjoys jazz. Legendary blues guitarist and singer Robert “RL” Johnson inspired both author Walter Mosley and his character Soupspoon Wise in the novel RL’s Dream. Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes—a character with a penchant for German operas and a facility for playing the violin (a Stradivarius acquired at a pawnshop, no less). Alexia Gordon built an entire series around her classical musician protagonist in her Gethsemane Brown Mysteries. The list goes on.
The Great Filling Station Holdup: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Jimmy Buffett
The nexus between crime fiction and music isn’t surprising. Music, like story, is built on a foundation of conflict. The dissonance and consonance of music is akin to the disruption and resolution of story.
One never knows exactly when inspiration will strike or where it will take you. I was a Jimmy Buffett fan long before I lived in the Florida Keys. When I learned that Josh Pachter, author and editor extraordinaire, was rounding up a group of crime writers to submit stories to an anthology inspired by the songs of Jimmy Buffett, I knew I wanted to be included.
Each story in the anthology shares a title with one of Jimmy Buffett’s original songs and each song had to come from a different one of his seventeen albums. My first and second choices had already been claimed by two of my cohorts. So, I did what any self-respecting Parrothead would do. I flipped on Radio Margaritaville.
The first song that played on the radio, I heard in its entirety. The opening stanza refers to a photograph of Albert Einstein standing on the beach in Santa Barbara staring across the waves. I knew immediately this was the song for my story. Not only was I familiar with the photograph, but I’d spent fourteen of my twenty-two-year law enforcement career as a cop patrolling the streets of Santa Barbara. By the time Jimmy sang about the Channel Islands where I used to scuba dive, my mind was racing. When he mentioned surfing, well, I was all in. “Einstein Was A Surfer” comes from the 2013 album, Songs from St. Somewhere and is the song that inspired my short story of the same title. The somewhere is Santa Barbara, the song comes from the sea, and Einstein is a surfer. The rest? I hope you’ll read for yourself.
The Great Filling Station Holdup: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Jimmy Buffett will be released in February. Contributors to the Murder Books blog are well represented in the pages of the anthology. In addition to my story, Isabella Maldonado, Bruce Robert Coffin, and Lissa Redmond contributed stories as well. I reached out to my fellow authors and asked them to describe what drew them to the particular song they chose. Here’s what they had to say.
I chose the song ‘If I could just get it on paper’ because it was vague and open to so many possibilities. Who hasn’t had an unexpected, wonderful night and wanted to remember every second of it? I got the email about the anthology on Super bowl weekend and a group of us had rented a house. Most of the guys were more worried about their football pools than who won the game and that got me to thinking. And we all know what happens when crime writers get to thinking. The whole way home from the rental house my husband and I listened to music and I threw ideas at him. I know that out of every short story I’ve ever written, this one was the most fun to write. Jimmy Buffett is more than a musician. He’s a storyteller. And his stories inspire other stories. I can’t wait to read what his music inspired in all the other authors in this book.
I chose the Jimmy Buffett song “Incommunicado” as the impetus for my short story of the same name because I fell in love with the references to John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee. Plus, the Duke, John Wayne and how could I choose anything else?
While I do listen to music while writing, generally I stick to instrumental music, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, or the occasional symphony soundtrack. I’ve even been known to put Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Riviera Paradise on repeat. Basically, anything melodic, sans lyrics, works for me.
I never use music to facilitate my writing because I’m too easily distracted by the lyrics, or even the melody if there are no lyrics. Each piece tells a story that sometimes conflicts with the one I’m trying to build. I do, however, listen to white noise while I write. Being at home with my family means loud noises and other distractions that I must tune out!
Regarding the anthology, I chose “Smart Woman (In a Real Short Skirt)” from the 1988 album, Hot Water. Buffett’s lyrics describe a man in search of his ideal woman: one possessed of both beauty and brains.
I decided to create a story about a man named Donovan Snell, a weapons smuggler based in Miami who laments that he cannot use a margarita shaker to blend his gorgeous girlfriend with his brainy female accountant to create the perfect woman. Snell’s hubris–and his contempt for the law–ultimately land him in very Hot Water indeed!
From the Back Cover
Jimmy Buffett is one of the great contemporary singer/songwriters, and it’s hard to imagine a citizen of Planet Earth unfamiliar with such classic hits as “Margaritaville.” Jimmy has also written novels, children’s books, memoirs, and a stage musical based on Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival, and his family-friendly concerts almost always sell out to audiences comprised of a mix of dedicated Parrotheads, casual fans, and newbies.
In The Great Filling Station Holdup, editor Josh Pachter presents sixteen short crime stories by sixteen popular and up-and-coming crime writers, each story based on a song from one of the twenty-eight studio albums Jimmy has released over the last half century, from Leigh Lundin’s take on “Truckstop Salvation” (which appeared on Jimmy’s first LP, 1970’s Down to Earth) to M.E. Browning’s interpretation of “Einstein Was a Surfer” (from Jimmy’s most recent recording, 2013’s Songs from St. Somewhere).
If you love Jimmy’s music or crime fiction or both, you’ll love The Great Filling Station Holdup. Mix yourself a boat drink, ask Alexa to put on a buffet of Buffett tunes, kick back, and enjoy!
The Great Filling Station Holdup releases on February 22, 2021 from Down & Out Books. Pre-order the trade paperback from the publisher for $16.95 and you’ll also receive a free digital copy!
If you are interested in a digital copy only, you’ll receive special pre-order pricing of $3.99. (Once it releases on February 22nd, the eBook will revert to its normal price of $6.99.)
The Great Filling Station Holdup is also available digitally on Amazon.
Table of Contents
- Introduction by Josh Pachter
- Down to Earth (1970)
“Truckstop Salvation” by Leigh Lundin
- A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973)
“The Great Filling Station Holdup” by Josh Pachter
- A1A (1974)
“A Pirate Looks at Forty” by Rick Ollerman
- Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (1977)
“Tampico Trauma” by Michael Bracken
- Son of a Son of a Sailor (1978)
“Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Don Bruns
- Volcano (1979)
“Volcano” by Alison McMahan
- Coconut Telegraph (1981)
“Incommunicado” by Bruce Robert Coffin
- Somewhere Over China (1981)
“If I Could Just Get It On Paper” by Lissa Marie Redmond
- One Particular Harbour (1983)
“We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About” by Elaine Viets
- Riddles in the Sand (1984)
“Who’s the Blond Stranger?” by Robert J. Randisi
- Last Mango in Paris (1985)
“Everybody’s on the Run” by Laura Oles
- Hot Water (1988)
“Smart Woman (in a Real Short Skirt)” by Isabella Maldonado
- Off to See the Lizard (1989)
“The Pascagoula Run” by Jeffery Hess
- Don’t Stop the Carnival (1998)
“Public Relations” by Neil Plakcy
- Beach House on the Moon (1999)
“Spending Money” by John M. Floyd
- Songs From St. Somewhere (2013)
“Einstein Was a Surfer” by M.E. Browning