I’ve just finished reading Black and Blue by Ian Rankin, one of his novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus. I was really impressed by the way he navigates through a complex plot with confidence and clarity, never losing the reader’s understanding or interest – not an easy trick to pull off. He also creates a real sense of melancholy and place.
But what I like most is the way he inserts a song title at various moments, which echoes a particular thought in Rebus’s mind. For example, at one point, when Rebus realises he’s about to be implicated in a corruption case from years ago, he hears Alex Harvey’s Framed, then Jethro Tull’s Living in the Past.
I loved this because that’s exactly what happens to me sometimes. For example, if I’ve had some kind of small triumph, I might find that We Are The Champions by Queen has popped into my head. Or, if I’m feeling melancholy, I might hear a snatch of Way to Blue by Nick Drake, or something by the mighty John Martyn.
It’s like an intermittent soundtrack to my life, and I’m guessing an equivalent score plays in Ian Rankin’s head, hence the inclusion of songs in his novel.
Some people see popular songs as disposable, but how can they be when they’re so intricately meshed with our inner lives? We grew up with them. Some spoke to us during our formative years when we were experiencing our first crushes, heartbreaks, disappointments, triumphs…
Other songs were just there in the background, and maybe seemed less significant – but even many of these were quietly weaving their way into our subconscious.
Maybe this is why a song can pop up randomly in our mind years later, commenting on the particular emotion or situation we’re going through, reminding us that there’s someone else in the world who understands.
So thanks, Ian Rankin – there’s nothing better than reading a book and finding a part of yourself reflected within its pages.
And good luck to you, Detective Inspector John Rebus – may the cosmic jukebox be forever playing in your head…
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