A PAYBACK SOUNDTRACK
by M. A. Griffin
As a young man I was inspired and energised by the razor-sharp protest-politics of Public Enemy. (“I got a letter from the government the other day…” begins Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos; “They wanted me for the army or whatever / Picture me giving a damn. I said never.”) I still listen to a lot of rap music in the course of my day-to-day, and much of PAYBACK’s revolutionary zeal comes in spirit from the kind of purposeful anger that can be heard there. I was delighted to get the chance to name-check a list of superstar rappers in the acknowledgments to the book.
Here’s a weird thing though – despite always writing to music, once I’m sitting down at the keyboard I can’t listen to anything with lyrics. So PAYBACK, a story about an anti-capitalist group of teenage Robin Hoods stealing from the corrupt and wealthy, then redistributing ill-gotten profits to those in need, was written to movie soundtracks.
Perhaps understandably the scores that work best for me are ones for films I’ve never seen. Which means I often find myself watching a film for the first time having listened to its music on twenty or thirty previous occasions. This happened most recently with Frank Darabont’s wonderful adaptation of The Green Mile. I knew Thomas Newman’s score backwards. To see it with images was a strangely moving experience.
So here are four instrumental/orchestral soundtracks to put in your ears next time you’re plugging away at that novel…
1. I can’t vouch for the quality of Nicholas Jericki’s thriller Arbitrage, but I can tell you Cliff Martinez’s moody, electronic score is great for conjuring nocturnal cityscapes and nefarious plots. Which is rocket-fuel when you’re writing a series of break-neck heists executed by a gang of teen thieves.
2. Niki Caro does a wonderful job directing The Zookeeper’s Wife. Apparently. I’ve never seen it. But Harry Gregson Williams’ orchestral score soars. Put it on if you want to write a scene in which two teen gang members find themselves alone for the first time, and one feels a growing attraction to the other he can’t bring himself to express…
3. My dad’s a big fan of Scott Frank’s neo-noir A Walk Among the Tombstones. Never seen it personally so I couldn’t possibly comment. But props to Carlos Rafael Rivera for a soundtrack rich in eerie strings which suggest suspicion, guilt, fear. Great if your protagonist has a growing sense of impending doom as the cops close in and relationships strain under pressure.
4. I never caught Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. It might be about badgers or bats? Probably not. Anyway, Abel Koreniowski’s highly-strung music is fragile and taut, borderline melodramatic. Great if you’re busy cornering your heroes in new and nasty ways. We readers know it’s a trap but they’re too blind to see it…
PAYBACK by M. A. Griffin out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)
Follow M.A. Griffin on twitter @fletchermoss and find out more at www.chickenhousebooks.com