Created by Libby Cudmore
“I drove home listening to Elvis Costello. It was a Brutal Youth kind of night.”
All rock stars end up in a plane crash of one kind or another. Sex. drugs. Rock’n’roll. Take your pick.
Someone sad that once.
In MARTIN WADE’s case, the crash was definitely the drugs (mostly heroin) that ended his gig as front man for the “long-dissolved” French Letters, a 1990s band that had a brief stab at success. That, and the disappearance of his wife, Cecilia, which the LAPD long suspected Martin of. Even though he’d been the one to report her missing.
As he tells it, “They didn’t know if she was dead or alive, but they saw a junkie ex-rock star aching for a fix and a blackout where a woman should be.”
But that was eighteen years ago, and somehow Martin was eventually cleared. He survived, cleaned himself up, got his P.I. ticket, “learned how to run searches and what to look for” and came to the conclusion that “there was no trace of the woman (he) had once planned to spend (his) life with.”
It’s that long-ago tragedy, however, that adds a touch of enduring melancholy to this compelling string of short stories, as Martin, even years later, continues to rebuild his life. He attends meetings, and lives quietly and alone in a small place in Perrine in upstate New York, working simple cases out of his shabby office over a vape shop. A nd keeping his head down.
But the big hook for a music geek like me is the never-quite-gone music that was for so long part of Martin’s life. His former bandmates (Ron, Vic the drummer and the late Kurt, killed in a liquor store robbery ten years earlier) are casually mentioned, their songs and albums name-checked (Sidewinder, Fait Accompli, etc.), and we’re kept posted on what he’s listening to (Elvis Costello, The Replacements, The Smithereens, Cocteau Twins, etc.). But I think what sealed the deal for me was a scene in the very first story, “All Shook Down” (in the September/October 2020 issue of EQMM), where Martin locks up his office and goes home, where he ends up playing the piano in his living room, brooding over the case, wondering where the body of the woman he had been looking for would be found.
His conclusion? “I was about as good a detective as I was a pianist—competent, but not especially innovative.”
He’s selling himself short, of course. Martin proves to be an incredibly sympathetic (and empathetic) character; a subtly effective detective with a unique background and a fresh perspective (not an ex-cop!), and the stories have a great, worn-in groove and a subtle, familiar beat you can dance to. You can almost smell the vinyl.
So far, Martin’s returned in several stories, mostly in Ellery Queen, and it’s always a treat when one pops up.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Best known as the author of the hipster mystery The Big Rewind (2016) and the Martin Wade series, self-confessed music nerd Cudmore’s short fiction has been appeared in The Coachella Review, Bleed Error, The RS-500, Tough, The Big Click, PANK, Big Lucks, The Barrelhouse blog and several anthologies, and is the co-editor (with Art Taylor) of Lawyers, Guns and Money, a 2023 anthology of crime fiction inspired by the music of Warren Zevon. She’s taught mystery/crime writing workshops for teens and adults and serves as the current co-host of the OST Party and Misbehavin’ podcasts, and is the creator and host of the #RecordSaturday live-tweet series, “spinning an array of old and new vinyl in a weekly interactive conversation.” Apparently, like rust, she never sleeps.
- “I didn’t like divorce work; it was ugly and unpleasant and somebody always cried.”
— “All Shook Down”
- “All Shook Down” (September/October 2020, EQMM)
- “A Brief History of Local Warfare” (May/June 2021, EQMM)
- “True Companion” (January/February 2022, EQMM)
- “The Artist Will Not Be Present” (May/June 2022, EQMM)
- “Charlie’s Medicine” (2023, Lawyers, Guns, and Money)
- “Wait for the Blackout” (May/June 2023, EQMM)
- “Beyond Belief” (May 9, 2023, Tough Crime)
- Libby Cudmore: Author, Podcaster, Record Player
The author’s official web site.
- A Warren Zevon Primer: Explore The Songs Of A Skilled Songwriter
Libby Cudmore digs into Zevon’s discography (January 2017, VMP)
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- May 30, 2023
The Bottom Line: 1990s rock star crash-and-burns, cleans himself up and becomes a “lowly P.I.” in a compelling string of short stories. You can almost smell the vinyl.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.