Graeme Thomson

Books Reviews Graeme Thomson
Graeme Thomson

Killing time with a few good songs

It’s evident from I Shot A Man in Reno that author Graeme Thomson possesses an undying obsession with songs of mortality. To pursue the subject through such terrain as murder ballads, gangsta rap and ’50s teen schmaltz, and to make it a topic of conversation with musicians ranging from Ron Sexsmith to Ice T, one almost has to. Though at times it comes off as a magazine think piece that’s vastly outgrown its 3,000-word slot, the book becomes increasingly compelling with each grim avenue it explores.

Thomson’s well-organized essays provocatively plumb everything from rock ‘n’ roll’s self-destruction myth to funeral top 10s (really!), but the book is at its strongest when the author supports his own thoughts with those of his interviewees. (Richard Thompson almost deserves co-authorship credit for his perceptive contributions.)

While the casual, colloquial prose is far from deathless, better musical surveys are hard to find, and the results are positively life-affirming.

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