I’m a music lover, and as with my two previous books, The Representative and The District Manager, The Water Lord comes with its own built-in soundtrack. In my first novel, The Representative, my flawed protagonist, JD Dothan, was a music lover as well. His tastes were very orthodox. JD is a Generation Xer, thus he is a fan of punk and post-punk. Though he deviated into C&W, and even a bit of 70s singer-songwriter, his tastes largely stayed the course. When I switched gears in The District Manager, I was writing a Southern Gothic novel. Thus my mentally wounded protagonist, Mason Dixon, had an ethos of Alt. Country, largely American music. The Water Lord, though a melding of both books’ characters, sees the return of Dothan as one of three narrators.
I did not want to repeat myself.
Generally, when I’m working on a novel the music reflected in the text reflects my tastes at the time I’m writing it. About the time I began writing The Water Lord, I had become enamored with NME Magazine’s series, The Uncut History of Rock. This was a monthly publication that chronicled music from the 1965 to 1988—what the editors termed as the “golden years of rock music.” I started the series late when my wife gave me 1977 as a gift upon its release. After digging into it I discovered I needed to not only catch up with previous issues, but also follow the series installments as they were subsequently released. These magazines served as a veritable cornucopia of material for reference in The Water Lord. Frankly, I was discovering stuff that I had neglected or was ignorant of altogether.
I would both build on Dothan’s punk/post-punk ethos and introduce a new side to his tastes; a side that would reflect the ironic mysticism of the book’s title.
Though it is not necessary to know the soundtrack of my novels, I believe it does enhance the experience. And for an open ear, The Water Lord is a satisfying audio journey.
I will only touch on the highlights.
Early in the book I needed to create a sense of intimacy, romance, and atmosphere between two married lovers. I found that The Blue Nile’s album A Walk Among Rooftops served this purpose quintessentially, in particular the single, “Tinseltown in the Rain.” As heretofore mentioned, I started off the Uncut History of Rock series with 1977, the Year Zero of punk. Though I had heard of Television, I was not familiar with their music. I was living in abject ignorance. Television is punk as art-rock. There is nothing like it and if you don’t familiarize yourself with “Marquee Moon”…!!!
The book is littered with references to bands like Lloyd Cole and the Commotions and Lords of the New Church (basically progeny of the punk movement as it shattered into brilliant fragments cascading into the eighties). But then it struck me…Dothan, having suffered, is a changed man…hmm…how to musically end a book titled The Water Lord?
I’ve never been a heavy metal fan, really, but I do appreciate its inception. And this is what I turned to. There was a guitarist I once knew who had a habit of drugs and hard liquor. In his oft-altered state, he used to demand that I acquaint myself with several bands. At the time I disregarded him. If he’s still alive, I wish to thank him, because he was right on!
At the conclusion of The Water Lord, Dothan stops off at Cactus Music, a Houston music shop (one of the last of its kind, sadly). He’s old-school, so he likes tangibles. He purchases three albums: Secret Treaties by Blue Oyster Cult; Argus by Wishbone Ash; and Technical Ecstasy by Black Sabbath. And it is the third track of the last that I discovered the best way to end a novel in need of the notion of reconciliation. If you give it a listen (and a read), I know you’ll agree. And I know you’ll be surprised. If you disagree, however…“It’s Alright.”