by Claire A. Murray
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook or print copy of the anthology (winner’s choice), and a link to purchase it.
The 22 tales in this anthology, although inspired by the songs of the ’60s, don’t all take place in that decade. Some will step you back in time, others contemporary, all evoking the sense of the song or its meaning in tales of theft, robbery, kidnapping, dating, family, and other relationships. From the UK to Canada and the US, these authors crafted stories that range from nostalgic to humorous, but all deadly and inspired by songs whose opening riffs are mostly familiar. If not, pull out your old LPs or CDs or log onto YouTube and have a listen as you read Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the ’60s.
The late Earl Staggs wrote Aunt Laverne and Elvis, in homage to Elvis Presley’s 1966 “Don’t Stop Loving Me.” Aunt Laverne seems more in love with Elvis than her several husbands. When her treasured, autographed CD of the same name disappears during her eightieth birthday party, our narrator has one heck of a job figuring out “whodunnit” and rescuing the day in true Elvis fan fashion.
Jack Bates evokes the Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 “Voodoo in the Basement” with The Preacher’s Daughter. The down-and-out PI tale gets a fresh take and brings us back to the days of music festivals the likes of which we don’t see any more. I could feel the tie-died vibe as a kidnapping gone awry gives everyone involved more than that bargained for.
Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 “These Boots are Made for Walking” frames Linda Kay Hardie’s Cooking with Butter. Even when a relationship is over, some people can’t let go. I’ll leave you with that so you can enjoy the story. No spoilers here, just a recipe for disaster.
We shift into 1969 with Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s “Wooden Ships,” as Jeanne DuBois pulls off two plots in this story of the same name. Another kidnapping where things do not go smoothly amidst family relationships fraught with angst. As with all the stories in this anthology, the song behind it speaks to the characters’ motivation and obstacles.
“It Ain’t Me, Babe,” Sonny & Cher’s 1964 hit, takes us into first date and beyond relationships. Can a babe magnet stick around for the long haul? You’ll have to read Terry Farley Moran’s story of the same name to find out.
Yes, there’s cake left out in the rain in Heidi Hunter’s Aliens in MacArthur Park, and the melody stayed in my head throughout my reading. What ties a missing husband, embezzled funds, and lights in MacArthur Park in this homage to Richard Harris’ 1968 haunting melody “MacArthur Park”?
You Better Not Tell by Canadian Merrilee Robson is dead on when it comes to sibling relations. Little brother wants what his older sister has, and she’s just enough older to resent him. “Little Children,” by Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, must have had these two in mind when they released that song in 1964.
Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 “Spirit in the Sky” bonded three US soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam and helped them face terror. In their present day lives, one member of the trio continues to pull the other two out of trouble in Claire A. Murray’s story of the same name. But age is catching up with them and he won’t always be around to keep them safe.
Few can carry off a story that moves between two time periods as well as Michael Bracken does in Jimmy’s Jukebox. Bracken evokes the twangy, homespun sound of 1966’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by B.J. Thomas and the Triumphs. So who is Jimmy, and why doesn’t anyone know anything about him? You’ll have to read to find out.
What makes or breaks three widows who need just a little more money to keep their dream alive? When I hear “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” Jan and Dean’s 1964 hit, I don’t think of my grandmother. Nope, she’d never have been involved in a bank heist, like the three in Maddi Davidson’s Little Old Ladies from Pasadena.
In Joseph S. Walker’s Mercy, we have another sibling relationship. This one reversed—younger sister whose older brother grudgingly lets her play his 45 singles collection “only in his presence.” The story tugs at your heart as he leaves for ’Nam and her behind with an abusive father. Then Mercy walks in and our character understands fully Roy Orbison’s growl and the word mercy in his 1964 song “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
“Under the Boardwalk” takes on a nostalgic note in Dawn Dixon’s story of the same name. The Drifters’ 1964 hit echoes throughout the telling of Mary Lizzie’s and Ruby’s relationship with each other and their men. Hmm … boardwalks, boats, and booze.
Karen Keeley brings us Lovely, Just Bloody Lovely and a glimpse of the Canadian side of police work. Murder doesn’t feel right in the time of peace, love, and rock ’n’ roll, yet murder it is. The Beatle’s 1967 “Fool on the Hill” is a fitting tune for how this procedural plays out.
In Can’t Find My Way Home, from Paul D. Marks, our narrator’s journey moves through time, with a different song framing a different year in the narrator’s life. The title song, from Blind Faith in 1969, is the perfect overarching theme for this sad story of youth, love, trust, betrayal, and vindication.
The haunting melody of “Nights in White Satin” echoes throughout Wendy Harrison’s story, titled after The Moody Blues’ 1967 hit. Marriage for revenge and murder for … what? … will keep you reading a story that captures the essential mood of the song.
Mary Keliikoa will have you wondering who is the criminal or, at least, the most morally ambiguous, in “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” from Neil Sedaka’s 1960 hit. Is it the PI’s client, his missing wife, or the PI? You’ll have to read it to find out.
From the UK, Maxim Jakubowski serves up the 1966 Beatle hit, “Eleanor Rigby,” in All the Lonely People. The song structures his waking thoughts as much as the dreams of his having committed murder frames his sleep. Does the narrator realize he is one of the lonely people?
While rock and roll dominates the anthology, James A. Hearn swings over to Frank Sinatra’s 1962 “I’ll Be Seeing You” in a tale of the same title. Mix one part lounge singer, a missing mystery woman, two parts thug, and a manager with a shotgun. Shake well and pour.
I always found The Zombies’ 1964 “She’s Not There” somewhat haunting, both in melody and words. C. A. Fehmel’s story of the same name has a similar vibe. A cold case, with most witnesses dead and others never questioned, finally comes to a conclusion for the detective who couldn’t let that one case go unsolved.
Catina Williams gives us a sobering reflection on madness in Standing in the Shadow. Inspired by the Rolling Stones’ 1966 “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow,” we wonder, with the narrator, why his mother named him Leslie. And we wonder so much more as the story unfolds.
More madness in Won’t You Come Out Tonight by Josh Pashter. You’ll hear Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing 1962’s “Sherry Baby” as our narrator deals with a workplace stalker who keeps asking for one date. The pressure’s on as she realizes his uncle won’t fire him, the stalker law has no meat, and he’s not going to give up—ever.
The book ending the anthology is another Elvis tune. This one, his 1969 hit “Suspicious Minds,” is also John M. Floyd’s story title. Hired to pull a job, but leery of the circumstances, our narrator takes extra precautions. Sometimes, a little suspicion can be a good thing.
Editor Sandra Murphy took all the above stories and made sure they were polished and ready for prime time. She only wishes there had been room for more.
Disclaimer: Claire A. Murray, your reviewer, is one of the authors in this anthology.
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