Note: TKZ is delighted today to welcome guest blogger Camille Minichino, author of The Periodic Table Mysteries.
I grew up on the East Coast, about as far from cowboys as you could get. In my neighborhood the Columbus Day parade band played the march from Aida or the drinking song from La Traviata. So what if many of them were goons—they were goons with classical taste.
So how come the satellite radio system in my car is set to Willie's Roadhouse, where Willie Nelson and his friends tell their sad, tragic stories with steel guitars and nasal tones?
I love country music.
How did that happen? I don't drink. I'm too lame to get into a pick-up. I hate the outdoors, with all that dirt and creepy bugs. I barely tolerate living in San Francisco, too far west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My first rodeo was also my last.
But I sing passionately along with Wynn Stewart: I bought the shoes that just walked out on me.
I'm often asked to explain it. My brother-in-law, a real life dude rancher in his youth, asks me often, as if he considers me unworthy to blend my voice with Patsy Cline's.
I've got your picture; she's got you, I twang out.
There are limitless possibilities for backstory in that line, and in this early Willie hit: Hello, walls. How'd things go for you today?
It's like flash fiction. And that's it in a nutshell. Or cowboy hat. Country music lyrics have everything a writer could ask for. It's grand opera without the libretto.
You want PLOT? Country music gives you revenge, big time. What better inspiration for a crime fiction writer?
Take Waylon Jennings: Well, I hope that the train,
From Caribou Maine,
runs over your new love affair. And Miranda Lambert: His fist is big, but my gun's bigger; He'll find out when I pull the trigger.
You want CHARACTERS? Country music has the saddest of the sad, the meanest of the mean—ornery sheriffs, jailbirds, a busted-flat girl named Bobby McGee, and a boy named Sue.
Country characters can be the cruel: How Can I Miss You if You Won't Go Away? Who doesn't need Travis Tritt at least once a day: Here's a quarter, call someone who cares.
The Oak Ridge Boys give us an expansive image: Gonna take the Mississippi, the Monongahela, and the Ohio; gonna take a lot of river to wash these blues away.
You want more METAPHORS? Here's a gosh durn winner, my favorite, from Johnny Cash's Flushed from the Bathroom of your Heart:
On the river of your plans I'm up the creek;
Up the elevator of your future I've been shafted;
On the calendar of your events I'm last week.
Ouch! My poor achey breaky heart!
Unlike the popular music when I was growing up, country music isn't slave to cliché rhymes, like moon-June-spoon, or true-blue-you.
Instead, country gives us Conway Twitty's tongue-twister, When we said I do, we really did, but now you don't.
Okay, it's not all lyrical.
Do you get inspired by music? Is your taste classier than mine?
Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer, the author of The Periodic Table Mysteries. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries). The first chapter of 'The Square Root of Murder," debuting July 2011 is on her website: http://www.minichino.com