In the latest instalment of my new series, Aidan Thorn talks us through some of the tracks that influenced his book, Rival Sons (Shotgun Honey, 2018).
Music always plays a huge part in my writing. My first book, When the Music’s Over follows one time band member Benny Gower after he has murdered his business partner, a murder with its roots in the 1990’s when Benny was trying to break through in the music scene. My soon to be released novella, Worst Laid Plans, focuses on the accidently kidnap of a rock star. And Rival Sons, the book released by Shotgun Honey at the end of last year? Well on the face of it there’s very little to do with music here. It’s a dark and brutal tale of the Gordon family, a crime family at war for decades, a war that has laid dormant for 20 years but is brought sharply into focus by the terminal illness of the family’s mother. As I say very little to do with music there, apart from the fact that the whole thing was inspired by being at a gig in Southampton a few years ago. The band’s name appeared behind them on the stage, I of course knew the band I was going to see (I was, and still am, a big fan) but it wasn’t until I saw their name lit up behind them that I thought, that would be a great name for a book. The band was of course, Rival Sons.
While Rival Sons were ripping through their opening track of the evening I was plotting out the idea of two sons, one who aspired to the family’s criminal ways, Graham, and one who wanted nothing to do with it at all, Kyle. That first track was ‘Electric Man’, I was already six or seven beers into a good buzz and my plotting didn’t get much further that night, but it was during this fantastic night of live music that the germ of an idea was born.
GOD’S GONNA CUT YOU DOWN
Rival Sons begins in a rundown pub on the outskirts of town – Kyle Gordon, a good son, has returned. The dilapidation of the town shocks him. He’s been serving in the armed forces for 19 years and he cannot believe what he’s returned to. This scene sets up the tone for what’s to come, Paul Brazill recently described Rival Sons as an urban Western. As Kyle finishes his drink and leaves the pub for me it’s soundtracked by the greatest country star of all time singing ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’.
THIS IS A LOW
When Kyle arrives at the family home, he is struck by how frail his mother is and he’s pulled in by a mixture of emotions. He’s concerned for his mother and he’s uncomfortable at being under his father’s roof – he despises his father, every move he has made as an adult has been to rebel against him. There’s also the nostalgia of returning to his old bedroom, unchanged from when he left in the 1990s. For me any of the early scenes in the family home trigger memories of the more melancholic Britpop tracks from my own youth, few sum up my feelings about these scenes better than ‘This is a Low’ by Blur.
HEY MAN (NOW YOU’RE REALLY LIVING)
Like most of my work, Rival Sons is a crime story wrapped around stories about relationships. One of my favourite relationships from this book is the one between Kyle’s teenage daughter, Zoe and her barman boyfriend. There is such a freshness about this pair, such an innocence that while they’re together they feel almost removed from all of the tension of the family. That they are pulled sharply into the focus of the trouble is what changes the course of everything for everybody, but in the moments these two are together there’s a lightness and bounciness that takes me to Eels, ‘Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living’).
The story of the Gordon family concludes at a fast pace. There’s no time to catch a breath as it races towards its bloody finale. It’s frantic, fraught and the body count rises quickly. There’s very little dialogue in these closing exchanges, there’s not much left to say. It’s a gritty finale and in my head its soundtrack is equally gritty, it all plays out to the driving bass and tortured vocal tones of Nirvana’s ‘School’, captured best here in this ’92 set from Reading Festival.
Aidan Thorn is from Southampton, England. His short fiction has appeared in Byker Books Radgepacket series, the Near to the Knuckle Anthologies: Gloves Off and Rogue, Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, The Big Adios Western Digest, Shadows & Light, Hardboiled Dames and Sin as well as online in numerous places.
His first short story collection, Criminal Thoughts, was released in 2013 and his second, Tales from the Underbelly, in 2017. In September 2015 Number 13 Press published Aidan’s first novella, When the Music’s Over. In 2016 Aidan collated and edited the charity anthology Paladins for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, working with 16 authors from the UK and USA to deliver this project.
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