Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Three is a Magic Number

Scott's Note: S.W. Lauden seems to guest post a lot here at Do Some Damage.  In fact, I'm sure he does, and it wasn't so long ago that he wrote a guest piece in our friend Holly West's slot.  So why did I let him pop up here in my space so soon after?  I'm not sure, except that I did want to hear his thoughts about recently completing a trilogy, his Greg Salem series, and figured he'd have some interesting things to say about it.  

He does, and here he is.

Three Is A Magic Number
by S.W. Lauden

Rare Bird Books published Hang Time, the final book in my Greg Salem trilogy, in January. Marketing and promotion aside, this brings an end to a project that I’ve been working on for many years. Scott Adlerberg graciously asked me to stop by and share some thoughts on writing a trilogy and what I’ve learned. So here goes...

For starters, it feels strange to not be writing another punk rock P.I. novel. I’d probably be freaking out if that hadn’t been the plan all along. Why only write three books for this story arc? I guess the intellectual answer would touch on the mystical nature of the triad, Borromean Rings, and Pythagoras. But those are just things I Googled a few minutes ago, so I’ll focus on the gospel of Schoolhouse Rock instead.

Here’s a sample of the wisdom from "Three Is A Magic Number":

"The past and the present and the future
Faith and hope and charity
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number"

Boom. Case closed.

For what it’s worth, I consider the three Greg Salem books to be a single continuous story that was too big for one volume. If anybody ever asks me where to start with this series, I always suggest they check out page one of the first book, Bad Citizen Corporation.

My hope is that readers will keep flipping pages from there, continuing on to Grizzly Season and Hang Time. Some do. Some don't. None of that is in my control.


It is in my control to tell the most honest and compelling story I can. When I sat down to write about Greg Salem and his crew, I didn’t want “punk rock P.I.” to be a clever marketing hook slapped on a crime novel. So I put my energy into creating an authentic universe inspired by bands like Black Flack, Circle Jerks, Descendents and Pennywise.

Punk singers can be some of the most flawed narrators around—angry, self destructive and cartoonishly earnest. That helped shape the characters, but I also focused on tempo and tone. Like the songs on a hardcore album, I tried to keep the chapters short and the pace cranked up to eleven. And like the tracks on a hardcore album, the subject matter shifts quickly from chapter to chapter, and scene to scene.
Did I achieve my goals? Some readers think I did. Some don't. None of that is in my control.


“Om” itself is a sacred sound that represents the three stages of cosmic creation. I like the idea that “Om” is deeply spiritual, but also open for anybody to use. But I promised not to fill this post with my recent Googlings. In keeping with the theme, I’ll finish by talking about some of my favorite three-piece bands instead.

I’ve played in power trios and can tell you from experience that it’s an interesting challenge. Armed with only one guitar, bass and drums, a classic three-piece band has to develop big hooks, a unique sound and/or a lot of energy to keep their audience engaged.

Various acts have done this successfully over the decades—ranging from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The James Gang and Rush, to The Violent Femmes, The Muffs, and Nirvana—but for my money there are five magical acts that define the genre. Here they are, in no particular order:

·         The Jam—Favorite songs include “In The City,” “The Modern World,” “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” and “That’s Entertainment.”
·         The Minutemen—You can’t go wrong with “Cut,” “Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing,” “Corona,” and “Stories.”
·         Supergrass—Start with “Caught By The Fuzz,” “Alright,” “Tonight,” “Pumping On Your Stereo” and “Moving.”
·         Husker Du—Dig in with “It’s Not Funny Anymore,” “Celebrated Summer,” “Books About UFOs,” “Whatever” and “Makes No Sense At All.”
·         Jawbreaker—Check out “Want,” “Boxcar,” “Chesterfield King,” “Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault,” and “Lurker II: Dark Son of Night.”

Anyway, I wrote three books about a punk rock P.I. named Greg Salem. I’m proud of them. I hope some of you will read them. I know that some of you won’t. Thanks a ton if you already have.


S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the novella, CROSSWISEand the sequel, CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

1 comment:

S.W. Lauden said...

Thanks for letting me babble, Scott. Always an honor to guest post at Do Some Damage.