The Relix 40: Words and Music (40 Novels)

Dean Budnick on January 3, 2013

To mark the 40th year of Relix, we are going to run a series of Relix 40 lists in the magazine and online that cover a variety of topics (For more Relix 40 lists Click here). The January/February issue presents 40 non-fiction music books that we recommend. Here we present 40 novels with music themes that can help warm your winter nights. They appear in order of publication.

Harlan Ellison Spider Kiss (Originally published as Rockabilly ) (1961) One of the earliest rock novels tracks the life of Stag Preston (whose life mirrors Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis).

Don Delillo Great Jones Street (1973) Rock star Bucky Wunderlick hides out in an apartment on Great Jones Street in Manhattan.

Michael Ondaatje Coming Through Slaughter (1976) A fictional account of Buddy Bolden, the real-life New Orleans jazz coronet player and jazz progenitor.

Peter Guralnick Nighthawk Blues: A Novel (1980) Theodore Roosevelt Jefferson, an aging blues musician known as the Screaming Nighthawk, is rediscovered by a new generation.

Tom Carson Twisted Kicks (1982) Punk rocker Dan Lang returns home to Icarus, VA.

P. F. Kluge Eddie and The Cruisers (1980) Eddie died is a car crash before his band The Parkway Cruisers came into their own but 20 years later, public interest in the group surges.

George R. R. Martin The Armageddon Rag (1983) The murder of a rock promoter is entwined with that of the lead singer in the Nazgul.

James Howard Kunstler The Life of Byron Janes (1983) A reclusive rock star thought to be dead is living quietly in a New England town.

James Robert Baker Fuel Injected Dreams (1986) Record producer Dennis Contrelle, famous in the 1960s is now a recluse is his mansion, married to the lead singer from his best-known project.

Iain Banks Espedair Street (1987) A rock star of the 70s must find his way in the 80s.

Roddy Doyle The Commitments (1987) Unemployed friends living in Dublin form a soul band.

Mark Childress Tender (1990) Tupelo, Mississippi resident Leroy Kirby rises to renown (and echoes the life of Elvis).

Lewis Shiner Glimpses (1993) Ray Shackleford starts to hear new music in his head from deceased artists such as Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.

Nick Hornby High Fidelity (1995) Rob Fleming makes Top 5 lists and re-establishes a romance, while working at London’s Championship Vinyl.

Sherman Alexie Reservation Blues (1995) – A rock band forms on a Spokane Indian Reservation (Robert Johnson appears as well).

Jay McInerney The Last of the Savages (1996) Will Savage become a record producer while his lifelong friend Patrick Keane opts for the life of a lawyer.

William Gibson Idoru (1996) Rez is an aging rock star who wants to marry a product of artificial intelligence.

Tom Perotta The Wishbones (1997). A New Jersey wedding band makes the rounds.

Camden Joy The Last Rock Star Book or: Liz Phair, A Rant (1998) An author is hired to write a quickie biography of Liz Phair and becomes obsessed.

Pagan Kennedy The Exes (1998) A band comprised of lovers and former lovers works the alternative rock circuit.

Rafi Zabor The Bear Comes Home: A Novel (1998) The hero of this novel is a stellar jazz saxophonist, who also happens to be a talking bear.

Scott Spencer _ The Rich Man’s Table_ (1998) Billy Fairchild, the illegitimate son of Luke Fairchild (echoes of Bob Dylan), writes a book about his distant father

Salman Rushdie The Ground Beneath Her Feet: A Novel (1999) A mythic account of rock’s origins and development.

Lewis Shiner Say Goodbye: The Laurie Moss Story (1999). A San Antonio singer-songwriter moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.

Bill Flanagan _ A&R: A Novel_ (2000) Jim Cantone become head of A&R (artists and repertoire) at major label WorldWide Records.

Madison Smartt Bell Anything Goes (2002) The titular southern bar band travels along the East Coast.

Marc Spitz How Soon Is Never? (2003) Joe Green attempts to reunite The Smiths.

Neal Pollack Never Mind the Pollacks : A Rock and Roll Novel (2003) An alternative rock history with tour guide Neal Pollack.

Max Ludington Tiger in a Trance (2003) 18 year old Jason Burke heads out on Dead tour in 1985.

Elmore Leonard Be Cool (2005) Sequel to Get Shorty, set in the music industry.

Paul Ford Gary Benchley, Rock Star (2005) Gary Benchley moves from Albany to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and begins gigging in Schizopolis.

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006) Engaging Young Adult novel about music and young love in Manhattan.

Jonathan Lethem You Don’t Love Me Yet (2007) Los Angeles based bass player Lucinda Hoekke finds her muse while working at the Complaint Line.

Nick Hornby_Juliet, Naked_ (2009) A love triangle of sorts between the biggest fan of cult musician Tucker Crowe and the girlfriend of said fan.

Michael Shilling Rock Bottom: A Novel (2009) The Blood Orphans arrive in Amsterdam at the close of a disastrous European tour.

Bill Flanagan Evening’s Empire: A Novel (2010) Sweeping saga of a British group that rises to prominence in the 60s and the manager who guides them for the decades to follow.

Jennifer Egan A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) Kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, punk rocker and record executive Bennie Salazar examine their lives.

Dana Spiotta Stone Arabia (2011) Nik Kranis creates his art in private but his niece wants to document his story via a documentary film.

Michael Chabon Telegraph Avenue (2012) The owners of Oakland’s Brokeland Records are threatened by the arrival of a Dogpile megastore

Esi Edugyan_Half-Blood Blues_ (2012) Hieronymous Falk, the star of the Hot-Time Swingers, a German American jazz band forbidden to play by the Nazis, disappears in 1939.