After a longer-than-expected hiatus, Storytelling and Sound is back! Today’s guest is my friend and colleague Tom Andes, with whom I was in workshop twice at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshops. Tom is an outstanding writer and workshop mate, and I’m delighted to feature his work today.
Tom’s writing blends crime fiction with a rich, descriptive literary style that gets the reader inside his characters’ minds and immerses us in the settings he creates. Today’s post features an excerpt of his short story “The Hit,” which first appeared in Xavier Review and was reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories 2012 and Great Jones Street.
“The Hit” gave me a bit of a challenge in terms of finding the right musical pairing. I went into video-making mode with one soundtrack in mind, and decided within a couple of minutes that my idea wasn’t going to work. The music had to have the right quality of tension and darkness to fit with Tom’s writing, but at the same time, it had to allow for give-and-take with the story and had to match the lyricism as well as the forward drive of the narrative.
Ultimately, I settled on two preludes by Dmitri Shostakovich, a twentieth-century composer with a fascinating story of his own. Shostakovich spent his life in Soviet Russia, under Stalin’s rule. He was held up by the government as an iconic representative of Soviet art and culture, but at the same time, was considered suspect and potentially dangerous throughout his career. Artists and intellectuals were believed to be dangerously “Western” in their ideas, and their ability to connect with large numbers of people, and therefore potentially initiate rebellion, made them frightening to Stalin’s paranoid mind. Shostakovich lived in an atmosphere of impending danger, always half-expecting to be arrested, and had a packed suitcase ready in case he had to run.
The two preludes in the video, No. 14 in E flat minor and No. 10 in C sharp minor, both exemplify the darkness and uneasiness in which Shostakovich lived. In both, though, there are also moments of great lyricism and beauty. This mix of light and shadow made them, I felt, a perfect musical pairing for Tom’s work.
Enjoy the video and learn more below about Tom and his writing. To read the complete “The Hit,” which I highly recommend, visit Great Jones Street and sign up for an account. As always, thank you for visiting the blog!
Tom Andes’ writing has recently appeared in Great Jones Street, Free State Review, and Guernica: A Magazine of Global Arts and Politics, and was anthologized in Best American Mystery Stories 2012. Reviews and interviews with writers and musicians have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives in New Orleans, where he makes a living as a freelance writer and editor, plays music, and teaches for the New Orleans Writers Workshop, which he co-founded. You can find more at tomandes.com.
Writers! Would you like to contribute your work for the Storytelling and Sound series? (You provide the words, I provide the live reading and the music.) Email me at email@example.com for info.
Readers! Like what you see here? Be sure to subscribe and never miss a post.
Storytelling and Sound fans: if you haven’t done it yet, don’t forget to check out music-inspired To Love A Stranger!