REVIEW: Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen
I read this book some time ago. It’s easy to see why I ordered it in the first place. Two reasons. The first is obvious: Bruce. The second is less obvious, but still there: crime fiction. I got into the genre a few years ago with Los Angeles Noir. That, by itself, was inspired by the music of Tom Waits … not the book itself, but my wanting to read it. But you know—those Akashic Noir books are more … subtle and elegant, while the Bruce book was just, in too many instances, brutal. I guess that’s also the difference between Waits and Bruce, for all they shared in common. But that’s not my beef with this whole thing. About halfway through the book, I began feeling fried by all these brutal-violence scenes. (No, not “brutally violent scenes.” I mean “scenes of brutal violence.”) Even if the characters performing the acts of brutal violence are sympathetic—and several of them were—I began to question what the sum total of reading about these acts was doing to my soul. I had a similar discussion back in LA with some friends about violent movies, TV shows, even music. What does it do to your soul? Maybe it doesn’t necessarily make you want to go buy a gun and shoot a night clerk like Johnny 99 … but it impacts you in other, more subconscious ways. And so I put this one on the shelf, and I decided not buy any more crime novels or anthologies. Enough with the violence. Even if it’s inspired by Bruce. In fact, I also begin to question why I liked his music because of this—and I had to step back and remind myself why. Not all of Bruce’s music is about desperate characters who turn to crime. It’s about redemption and triumph over adversity … “so that it may raise me above these badlands”! And of course, the Jersey Shore. I want to read more about building things, fixing things, explaining things … inspiring, positive, etc. Maybe that’s why I like science fiction so much, even with political and even violent scenes like those in Alastair Reynolds' novels … because these scenarios would not happen if humanity had not explored and expanded. And yes, sometimes violence is necessary … but it should never be glorified. Crime fiction seems to glorify it. That’s what I don’t like. Gratuitous violence … well, maybe not; when it becomes like Pulp Fiction, it stops being realistic. The stories in Trouble are too realistic. And that’s what disturbs me. That’s what I want to avoid in the future. And so I will.