Music and Murder: A Crime Fiction Mixtape

Music and Murder: A Crime Fiction Mixtape

Listening to someone’s favorite song can tell you a lot, and amateur sleuth Jett Bennett is hoping that by listening to her friend KitKat’s mixtape, she can learn the identity of the man who killed KitKat. In Libby Cudmore’s debut novel, The Big Rewind, Jett takes readers into the hipster depths of Brooklyn in search of a dangerous killer. In many ways, the book is an ode to the power of music, and in honor of its release, Cudmore made a mixtape for Bookish readers. Here, she paired her favorite crime novels with their perfect songs.

To most people, a playlist or a mix CD is just a collection of music. But in my debut novel The Big Rewind, a mixtape is the clue that Jett Bennett needs to solve the murder of her friend, KitKat. Music runs as a theme throughout the novel, from chapters titled after songs to the playlists Jett makes for her friends. After all, the only thing better than a great read is a great read with a killer soundtrack. Since most books don’t come with soundtracks, I’ve compiled a few tracks to pair perfectly with my favorite books.

Soundtrack for: The Long Goodbye → “West of Hollywood,” Steely Dan

In this Raymond Chandler book, Phillip Marlowe is in Hollywood once again, working to clear the name of his friend Terry Lennox, who has been accused of murdering his wife and feeling to Mexico. I paired this book with “West of Hollywood” by Steely Dan. “I’m way deep into nothing special…” The sonic atmosphere of this song is muggy, like the hour before a storm. This song is a skin-crawling jazz beauty that sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place playing on the radio of a big black Packard, winding through the hills of LA.


Soundtrack for: Sin City: The Hard Goodbye “Accidentally Like a Martyr,” Warren Zevon

In Frank Miller‘s Sin City: The Hard Goodbye, deranged lug Marv mauls and kills his way to the top of the Basin City elite in order to find who framed him for the murder of his beloved, a hooker named Goldie. I paired this book with “Accidentally Like a Martyr” by Warren Zevon.  Zevon was no stranger to songs about criminals, whether they were date-murdering lunatics or little old ladies getting mutilated by werewolves. But this delicate piano tune is a sad, soulful little ballad of heartache and loss.

Soundtrack for: Queenpin“She’s a Knockout,” Social Distortion

In Megan Abbott‘s Queenpin, an unsuspecting young woman is hired to keep the books for Gloria Denton, only to discover a world full of luxury furs and slick-talking gamblers. I paired this book with “She’s a Knockout” by Social Distortion.  I like to imagine this song was written about me, although I somehow doubt it. But I love picturing the object of the singer’s affections walking through a noisy, dirty punk club wearing “black silk stockings and high-heeled shoes.” She is cool, confident, and doesn’t need you. What’s not to love?

Soundtrack for: The Talented Mr. Ripley“Lido Shuffle,” Boz Scaggs

Lido just packs up one day, cracks open the work safe, and hits the road to live a life of gambling and glory. It’s the dream of any office drone: new identity, new life, maybe a few small crimes. Sound familiar? In Patricia Highsmith’s cat-and-mouse tale, quiet con-man Tom Ripley maps out the ultimate escape from an otherwise dreary life.

Soundtrack for: “Fire In the Hole”“Mama Said,” Justine Townes Earle

U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, formerly of Riding the Rap and Pronto, comes home and finds his old friend Boyd Crowder has gone to the wrong side of the law. Elmore Leonard’s “Fire in the Hole” is one of the finest pieces of short crime fiction in the modern canon, it was even adapted into a TV series called Justified. Walton Goggins’ portrayal of the ill-fated career criminal Boyd Crowder on Justified always reminds me of this tune’s delicate southern cadence. Despite the singer’s promise to lay off drinking and cussing, it still seems like there’s a life of crime in this quiet little tune.

Libby Cudmore worked at video stores, bookstores, and temp agencies before settling down in upstate New York to write. Her short stories have appeared in PANK, The Stoneslide Corrective, The Big Click, and Big Lucks. The Big Rewind is her first novel.


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