“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Monday, July 28, 2008

“The Only Salvation That’s Mine For The Asking …”

Following on from the flummery of song lyrics as potential crime novels, as originally suggested by KT McCaffrey some weeks back, we herewith present St. John the Gambler by Townes van Zandt (right, holding his guitar – and there’s no other way of putting this – like a tommy-gun). Would it make for a great crime novel? Erm, no, given that no actual laws appear to be broken, although those “dead men laying deep ’round the door” might warrant some investigation. Still, crime fic or otherwise, it’d make a terrific read. We’re thinking CITIES OF THE PLAIN meets WUTHERING HEIGHTS by way of David Goodis and Gil Brewer. Any takers for a collaboration?
St. John the Gambler by Townes van Zandt

When she had twenty years she turned to her mother
Saying Mother, I know that you’ll grieve
But I’ve given my soul to St John the gambler
Tomorrow comes time leave
For the hills cannot hold back my sorrow forever
And dead men lay deep ’round the door
The only salvation that’s mine for the asking
So mother, think on me no more

Winter held high round the mountain’s breast
And the cold of a thousand snows
Lay heaped upon the forest’s leaf
But she dressed in calico
For a gambler likes his women fancy
Fancy she would be
And the fire of her longing would keep away the cold
And her dress was a sight to see

But the road was long beneath her feet
As she followed her frozen breath
In search of a certain St John the gambler
Stumbling to her death
She heard his laughter right down from the mountains
And danced with her mother’s tears
To a funeral drawn a calico
’neath the cross of twenty years

To a funeral drawn a calico
’neath the cross of twenty years.

2 comments:

JD Rhoades said...

Another great crime fiction lyric is The Drive by Truckers' "Cottonseed"

I came to tell my story to all these young and eager minds
To look in their unspoiled faces and their curious bright eyes
Stories of corruption, crime and killing, yes it's true
Greed and fixed elections, guns and drugs and whores and booze

It's been a while since I put on a suit of my own clothes
And even longer since I cast my shadow on a church house door
They say every sin is deadly but I believe they may be wrong
I'm guilty of all seven and I don't feel too bad at all

I used to have a wad of hundred dollar bills in the back pocket of my suit
I had a .45 underneath my coat and another one in my boot
I drove a big ole Cadillac, bought a new one anytime I pleased
And I put more lawmen in the ground than Alabama put cottonseed

I spent a few years on vacation, sanctioned by the state I mentioned
But a man like me don't do no time too hard to come back from
The meanest of the mean, I see you lock away and toss the key
But they're all just loud mouth punks to me, I've scraped meaner off my shoe

Somewhere, I ain't saying, there's a hole that holds a judge
The last one that I dug myself
And I must admit I was sad to lay him in it, but I did the best I could
Once his Honor grows a conscience, well folks, that there just ain't no good

There's a pretty girl out there said "Daddy, you stay cool tonight
All I need from you is to come home and be here by my side
Say what you gotta say to shut their Bibles and their mouths
If they was to tie a noose, they'd have to lay their Bibles down"

I ain't here to save no souls and even if I could
I could never save enough to put back half the ones I took
So if they rest in torment you can't say it's cause of me
They'd long been bought and paid for like that fool's in Tennessee

Declan Burke said...

Nice one, J.D. ... I'll have to dig that out. Cheers, Dec