The Music of Mysteries, Part One

Over the years, one of the things I have most enjoyed about reading is exposure to some new facet of life that I might not otherwise have discovered on my own. Certainly from reading mystery novels I know exponentially more about murder and mayhem than I have ever experienced in the real world, but also lots of new stuff  about history, forensics, cars, law and order, relationships, duplicity, the lure of strange places, and (perhaps oddly) music. Several authors whose work I read regularly make a point of mentioning the tunes and artists that resonate with their protagonists, and on numerous occasions I have found myself searching the web for odds and ends first encountered on some fictional car radio or playing on the jukebox in some illusory smoky bar.

I think it was Andrew Vachss who first alerted me to this phenomenon, largely because his urban nightcrawler Burke spent an inordinate amount of road time listening to the plaintive and earthy songs of Judy Henske, so naturally I was curious as to what her music might be like. I started reading Vachss well before the advent of YouTube, perhaps before the dawn of the internet for that matter, so it involved a bit of searching to unearth a Judy Henske album (well used), and I have to say that I was a bit underwhelmed at first. Her delivery was decidedly more gruff than the folk icons (Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell) I admired back in the day. The more I listened to her, the more she grew on me, though; I would think she’d hold a good deal of appeal for fans of Eva Cassidy, Tracy Chapman, Buffy Sainte Marie, or even the Jefferson Airplane. She’s by no means easy to pigeonhole, though; her repertoire runs from folk-rock ballads to show tunes, torch songs to ragtime. Here’s a link to her take on the old standard “One of These Days”:

Author John Sandford, who writes the series featuring Minnesota cop Lucas Davenport (Rules of Prey, Winter Prey, et al), carries the theme a bit further, offering on his website Lucas Davenport’s “Best Songs of the Rock Era” list. Davenport leans toward growling, hard-driving road tunes, a good fit for a cop who eschews the police-issue Ford Crown Victoria in favor of his personal Porsche when duty calls from afar. A partial list of Davenport’s eclectic IPod selections: Sharp Dressed Man (Z.Z. Top); Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett); Rock On (David Essex); House of the Rising Sun (The Animals); Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen); Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan); Radar Love (Golden Earring); Lola (The Kinks); Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana); Runaway (Del Shannon); I Wanna Be Sedated (The Ramones); Devil With a Blue Dress (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels); Heart of Saturday Night (Tom Waits). For a complete list, check out Sandford’s website:

So, groovy guys and groovy gals, don’t touch that dial! Tune in right here this time next week for episode two of The Music of Mysteries…


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