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Five Songs that Inspired and Influenced Blessed are the Dead

I cannot imagine writing a novel that doesn’t have music mentioned in it. My debut mystery, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, also mentions the theme song for the Cops TV show, but that probably doesn’t count.

I include music in my novels to not only set a mood, but, also, sometimes, to make a subtle statement. Here are my five songs in the order they appear in Blessed are the Dead.

1. UB40’s “Red, Red Wine”

My character, Italian-American newspaper reporter Gabriella Giovanni has pushed back her own personal tragedy for years but in this book she’s going to have to confront that dark past. Driving home one night, she has the first premonition of this happening and flips through the radio dial looking for something cheery to dissipate the shadows descending on her:

Halfway across the Bay Bridge, I catch glimpses of the city as the hazy fog begins to dissipate and reveal a crisp night sky. Twinkling lights dot skyscraper windows. The sky behind them is not black but a deep blue like a Van Gogh nightscape. With the city spread out before me, a sense of buoyancy spreads through my chest as if I could fly. Even on the darkest nights of my life, I’ve always found comfort looking at the San Francisco skyline. Rolling down my window, inhaling the salty air, I punch the radio dial until I find something that will lift my spirits.

I sing along to UB40s “Red, Red Wine” and reassure myself that I have nothing to worry about …

2. “Addio del passato” from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata”

Gabriella Giovanni is getting dumped on the streets of North Beach in San Francisco. She doesn’t want to admit that her boyfriend is giving her the old heave ho here:

Silence. The only sound is the faint strains of opera music coming from one of the Columbus Avenue restaurants. It’s from La Traviata. For some reason, an image of Violetta, alone and unloved on her deathbed makes me sad. But I don’t cry. I never cry. I haven’t cried since the day they lowered my sister’s casket into the ground.

3. U2 “Beautiful Day”

Gabriella Giovanni is shaken to the core after her first conversation with a convicted kidnapper who preys on children. Then her editor tells her to get her butt up there and talk to the guy again:

This time when I arrive at the jail, there are news trucks parked everywhere and it seems like every reporter in Northern California is trying to nab an interview. When I get to the front of the line, I submit my interview request. After a few minutes, I’m told my visit is approved for tomorrow night. An entire twenty-four hours away.

When I find out that I don’t have to talk to Johnson today, the tension I didn’t even realize was there whooshes out of my body. I have a reprieve. I tilt my head up to the sun, feeling the warmth of its rays on my skin as I walk to my car. I put my key in the ignition and roll down all four windows. Soon, I’m flying down the highway with my hair blowing in the wind and U2’s “Beautiful Day” blasting from my speakers.

4. Concrete Blonde “God is a Bullet”

Gabriella Giovanni can’t help it. She’s going on a date with a cop despite all her reservations:

Concrete Blonde’s song, “God is a Bullet,” is blaring from my car speakers as I park along Lake Merritt near Donovan’s apartment Friday night. The song talks about people who become cops because they were picked on as kids.

I’ve never dated a cop. Most cops are hard asses with something to prove. When I became a police reporter, I vowed that it was one thing I wouldn’t do. So much for that, I think as I knock on Donovan’s door.

5. George Winston “Autumn”

The music in this scene reveals another side of tough-guy cop Sean Donovan that Gabriella Giovanni has not seen yet:

His apartment is tiny—slightly bigger than my place because he has a separate bedroom—but with a stunning view. Two wall sconces softly light the living room along with votive candles scattered on tables and shelves. The soft strains of George Winston’s “Autumn” float throughout the space.

He uncorks the wine, pours me a glass, and explains he was lucky to get into his place eight years ago. Now the neighborhood is trendy, and the subsequent soaring rents reflect that. He tells me the manager keeps his rent low because she likes having a cop in the building.

Kristi Belcamino is a writer, artist and crime reporter who also bakes a tasty biscotti. Her first novel, Blessed are the Dead, (HarperCollins June 2014) is inspired by her dealings with a serial killer during her life as a Bay Area crime reporter. As an award-winning crime reporter at newspapers in California, she flew over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, and watched autopsies. Find out more at www.kristibelcamino.com or on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/kristibelcaminowriter.