Just once, I want to name a novel after a rap lyric.
— Owen Laukkanen (@owenlaukkanen) March 7, 2013
Laukkanen, whose debut novel The Professionals was blurbed by no less than former Simon & Simon writer and author of the comic (as in comedy, not the other kind) crime classic Metzger's Dog Thomas Perry, might be on to something. I dunno.
What I do know, though, is that I like crime novels named after pop songs. And I'm using pop in its most catholic meaning, here, encompassing rock, rap, jazz, country, whatever. Songs people can be expected to know. The point is, as I illustrated in this week's prairie dog magazine, there's no fun in making references that no one gets.
All of my hypothetical novels are named after pop songs. My vaguely autobiographical Bildungsroman is named after a Superchunk song, but not that one. My existential private eye book is named after a John Prine song. And my historical thriller about the secret conspiracy that led to the selection of Moose Jaw as the site of the 1937 World's Fair is named after a line I misheard in a Katy Perry video.
There's a surplus of crime novels named after Tom Waits songs, which is fine and good. And there are probably even more named after Warren Zevon songs, but I wouldn't recognize any of them. Crime writers seem to love Warren Zevon, what can I say?
This would be a good place to say that this blog, A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached, was named after, well, not quite a rap lyric, but a line from a rap track. I don't know what I was thinking when I set up a blog. It was 2006 and that was just what you did. I was listening to Ghostface Killah's Fishscale, which had just come out, and when I got to the part of the form where it asks you what you want to call your blog, I was like, dude, come on, just once, I want to name a blog after a rap lyric. So I did.
Curiously, 2006 was pretty much when I stopped listening to rap, or hip hop, or most things, really. I stopped being a music writer, that's all. I stopped keeping up with music outside my immediate interest and turned the curiosity, the appetite, toward other things. Life, politics, books, I don't know. I didn't write anything for anyone but myself from September, 2006 until the spring of 2009. That was when this blog was really humming, you know? One hundred and ten posts in 2007, 172 in 2008. Not all of it was great writing, most of it wasn't. Then things shifted again. My appetite focused on something new and I started writing for other people more, writing here less*. I lost my standing as one of America's Top Bloggers. The point is, I haven't listened to a lot of rap since 2006. Unless someone put it in front of me, I didn't hear it. I don't actively seek out new music the way I used to. So I'm not necessarily THE GUY to talk about great rap lyrics to use for the title of your next crime thriller. I'm not even the guy to help you find all the comic book references in mid-2000s rap.
I'm more likely to name my crime novels after country songs, because that's kinda sorta the kind crime stories I write. I mean, they're not exactly rural, and they're not about country singers, but I think, thematically, the kind of story I like to write is closer to a country song than any other type of song. They way I write, my philosophy on genre, is a different story. But what I am I telling you for? You know what I'm talking about.
*The recent increase in activity on this old beast of a blog does indeed correlate with a recent decrease in writing for other people.