Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Behind the Tracks": Behind the Scenes of Tom Grasty's New Novel, Blood on the Tracks

Excerpt from the inside flap:

Jack Frost was good at what he did. He made millions for Bob Dorian, and Bob Dorian didn’t have to do a thing. But as good as he was, Jack Frost wasn’t infallible. Jack Frost had made a bad decision or two. And his most recent decision had cost Bob Dorian more than his client would ever know.

Jack Frost was unsure exactly how much he had actually lost in the venture, but he was sure it was everything Bob Dorian had. It was everything he had, too.
And he knew the only way he was ever going to get even a fraction of it back was to stay on Elysian Row. But staying in this godforsaken place meant getting into business with Elysian Row’s crooked top cop, Commissioner Tiresias. The Commissioner was right: Frost wasn’t going anywhere.

And neither should you.

Where is Elysian Row, Anyway?

Let Tom explain...

Now, as promised, your behind the scenes tour of Blood on the Tracks.

Postcards & Penny Whistles: Lost & Found on Elysian Row

Elysian Row. That's where it all takes place. And as you are about you learn, Elysian Row is a very odd place, indeed.

There's no question our story gets off with a real 'bang.' After all, nothing says, "You ain't going nowhere," like a loaded gun. And as Frost is about to learn in very short order, he's not leaving Elysian Row anytime soon.

Commissioner Tiresias' .45 Caliber Pistol

Commissioner Tiresias reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver pistol. He placed it on the table.

Jack Frost always said he would have laid down his life for Bob Dorian. He always believed it, too. But now that he was staring down the barrel of a .45 caliber pistol he wasn’t so sure.

For a closer look at the Commissioner's pistol click on the image above. Note the detailed ivory inlay. Genuine baby seal.

Jack Frost's encounter with Commissioner Tiresias isn't, however, the only prickly situation Frost is going to have to navigate. Dr. Reich is about to get involved, and that means things are about to get complicated, indeed.

Dr. Reich's Leather Cup & Silver Flask

Dr. Reich pulled a leather cup from the left breast pocket of his overcoat. From his right pocket he withdrew a silver flask.
He unscrewed the cap of the flask, then in a single, fluid motion he filled the cup with a thick, syrupy liquid. He took a swig from the cup.

Then, as would be expected from a man who had fallen under the influence of absinthe, his eyes rolled back into the sockets of his head. A soft, carefree smile stretched across his face. “Well, let’s see what we have here—”

What we have is the biggest rock star in the world staring wide-eyed up at the ceiling.

Looks like it's time to bring in the the fall guy. And boy is this guy dressed for the part or what?

Say 'hello' to the man from Rue Morgue Avenue...

Mister Johns' Dour Attire

He walked into the room, a pencil in one hand and a pair of eyeglasses in the other. He slipped the glasses into the pocket of his dark, wool suit that was, like the man himself, painfully prosaic and nondescript.

That lack of description, however, spoke volumes. The fact you couldn’t say anything about him, well, that really said it all. Even his name was ordinary: Mister Johns.

And as Mister Johns stood there in his dark, dour suit, he was beginning more and more to resemble the most disgusting lowlife of them all: a
pestilent, parasitic pest some 354 million years in the making. Mister Johns was metamorphosing into a cockroach right before Frost’s very eyes.

Just out of curiosity? Have your ever wondered what a cockroach actually looks like? Don't have time to read Kafka? Then click on the above
diagram. It pretty much looks like that.

So let's recap—

Biggest rock star in the world just turned up dead. No one can figure out why he came back to the one place he vowed never to return. Lot's of unanswered questions. Not a lot of time before this starts to get really messy. Time for Frost and his new partner to round up the usual suspects.

Pretty convenient since they all live on Elysian Row.

Sofia's Brownstone

“There was a girl. She wasn’t the first, and certainly she wasn’t the last. But she was there at the beginning, and frankly I always thought he fell for her the hardest.”

“And this girl … she have a name?”


“Now we’re getting somewhere. This Sophia—she live nearby?”

“You’re in luck, Mister Johns,” Frost said drolly.

“And how’s that?”

“Her house—”


“You’re standing in front of it.”

Sofia's Library

Of course, it's not what Sofia's townhouse looks like from the outside that's going to help Frost and Mister Johns crack the case. It's what they're going to encounter once they're inside that's going to count.

The two men stepped out of the foyer and into a room—a library they now realized. It was like stepping into another world. The shelves were lined with thousands of books of all descriptions. Classic literature, contemporary novels, history books, art books, reference books: it was as if truly every book ever written was somewhere on these shelves.

Here are just a few of the books you can plan to peruse in Sofia's library. Can you spot which ones ended up in Bob's songs?

Look closer...

Maybe this will help. Click

The Egyptian Ring

But don't let all those books distract you. It turns out the most significant item in Sofia's townhouse is the ring she places on the table just before Jack Frost and Mister Johns arrive.

“It was on the coffee table, next to the sofa," Mister Johns said matter-of-factly. "She had taken it off just before she sat down to talk to us. That’s how I know she wears it on her right index finger. The indention on the finger was fresh.”

Though I can't show you the inscription that will play a major part in helping Jack Frost and Mister Johns piece together the puzzle, if you want to see a fine example of intricate Arabian artwork, then click on the image of the
ring above.

Mister Tremolo's Electric Harp

Curious what that electric harmonica looks like that Tremolo found in the street down in New Orleans when he and Bob took that cross-country trip together in 1965? Here's a preview...

And here's the typewriter on which Dorian wrote the song that took him in a whole new new direction...

And the here's the story that story that brings them all together:

"I’m driving and Bob, he’s all cramped up in the back seat working something out on this old typewriter he’d brought with him. And I said, ‘Bob, can you please do that later. The sound is
driving me crazy. What the hell are you doing anyway?’ And he says, ‘I’m writing a song about you and that funky Tremolo you were trying to suck off last night.’”

“And that’s how you got your nickname?”

“I like to look at it as that’s how Bob got his new direction,” Tremolo said with a chuckle.

It's nice to see someone in this godforsaken place has a sense of humor because the next suspect damn sure doesn't.

Meet Penny Bently...

Penny's Farm

It's been years since Bob worked on Penny's Farm. Come to think of it, it's been years since anyone's worked there.

“Look around, Mister Johns. What do you see?” Penny said, her voice filled with more heartbreak than hate.

“Land,” he replied.

“That’s right, and this land’s been in my family for over 150 years. Beans, tobacco and cotton that’s what this land was used for.”

“It’s beautiful,” Mister Johns observed. And he meant it.

“And profitable … was for a while anyway,” Penny said wistfully.

Penny's Tobacco Tin: "Bently's...just a pinch"

Judging from the shape that tin's in, it's clear that Penny's hatred for Bob isn't the only thing she's holding on to.

"The tobacco may have been fresh. The tin holding it, however, was not. It was dented and dinged. The logo was old, and flaked and faded. Clearly, this tin had not held tobacco harvested from this farm for a very long time.

For a closer look at Penny's beat up tobacco tin bearing the name of what once was, click on the cannister image above.

Another resident of Elysian Row who got kicked when he was down is Lonesome Tom, the man behind Bob Dorian's biggest hit.

Below, the neon sign in the window, and bill for the drinks Jack Frost and Mister Johns have at Lonesome Tom's out-of-the-way blues club.

Care to guess who put banished him to this shit-hole in the first place?

Here's a hint: It rhymes with "Rob" in what he did to Lonesome Tom's integrity when he took everything from him he could steal.

Tom Thumb's Bar & Blues

And as Jack Frost watched the neon thumb move up and down insolitary, muted silence, it occurred to Jack Frost the name with which Bob Dorian had saddled the prodigious producer all those years ago made all the sense in the world. Dorian had always known Lonesome’s fate. He had known the moment he met Lonesome that one day he would cast him aside, banish him to a small, out-of-the-way club at the end of Elysian Row.

You're going to find that while he's a little rough around the edges at first, Lonesom Tom eventually warms up to Frost and Mister Johns.

One guy who definately isn't happy to Jack Frost is Tiny Bobbitt, and you're about to learn why.

This next item is key to finding Bob Dorian's killer.

The Recording Log

Here it is. Tiny Bobbitt's recording of them, anyway.

"That’s a copy," Tiny clarified. "You got yours, I got mine. You know … in case something happens to that one."

Curious what's inside that log? Take a look by clicking on the leather ledger to the left.

The next character in this calvacade of conniving hucksters is a broken-down brakeman by the name of Memphis Blues.

And while no one has any reason to question Memphis Blues's motives (an anomoly on Elysian Row if ever there was one), it really isn't Memphis's motives Mister Johns and Jack Frost will be calling into question.

Memphis Blues's 'Medicine'

“You sure you weren’t just hearing voices?” Johns said, glancing over at a bottle of railroad gin. The bottle was empty.

Memphis Blues reached down and picked up a Styrofoam cup. He defiantly brought the cup to his lips and drained its contents.

“I’m sure,” Memphis said tersely.

And while Memphis may have the annoying habit of telling the same story twice, in this case it works to the advantage of Jack Frost and Mister Johns.

As it turns out there are indeed two ledgers, and a guy named Husk the Siberian has that second ledger.

Of course, getting to Husk means a trip out the lumberjacks...

Husk's Siberian Hideaway

"Suddenly, up around the bend, the vestiges of what appeared to be an abandoned lumberjack camp came into view—"

“You are aware that this guy is a cold-blooded killer?”

It was really more of a statement than a question. After all, everyone on Elysian Row knew what Husk had done in that Italian restaurant over in Red Hook a few years back.

Admittedly, it's tough talking to a contract killer. It can, however, be done.

The Savage Innocents Movie Still

Here's the old film still on the wall Husk uses to break the ice. "The Savage Innocents"—an old 1959 Anthony Quinn film.

Click on the picture below to see it up close.

Speaking of Eskimos, this next suspect—the second of the three women Jack Frost and Mister Johns visit—is one cool customer.

As you're about to see, getting her to talk is a chilly proposition, indeed.

Mister Johns's Note to Hannah

“So what’s with you and that notebook, anyway?”

It helps me think,” Mister Johns replied coolly. “Probably like you and those cigarettes. If my note taking is distracting, however, I’d be happy to put it away.”

“I appreciate the offer, Mister Johns. If taking notes helps you to think, you’re welcome to take them.” She tapped the ash in the ashtray. “But the notes stay here when we’re done.”

Of course, when Johns does leave the notes he's taken behind, his take on the conversation is clear.

Leaving that little note behind won't be the only thing Mister John does to rattle Hannah's cage.

The "Search Warrant"

The former songbird might not have sung at all if it weren't for this little piece of paper.

“A search warrant?” Frost said, pulling the gate behind him. “You don’t have the power to write a search warrant?"

“Hopefully she doesn’t know that.”

“So what was it that you were waving in her face?”

“A death certificate from the morgue. It got her to talk, didn’t it?”

Amazingly, it did.

Hannah must not have looked very closely, but you can by clicking on the death certificate above.

We've got one last suspect to talk to...a pair of them, actually.

And while Tommie and Julius (aka 'Tommie 'the Make' and Julius 'the Squeeze') claim they had nothing to do with Dorian's demise—that poster on their wall suggests bets aren't the only thing they're good at hedging.

Poster from the 'Abramson-Isaac' Fight

Obviously, the fact Mister Johns was accusing Tommie and Julius of cashing in on the death of Bob Dorian didn’t sit well with the shifty promoters; but it was Abramson-Isaac—the thing that had given Johns the idea that they were shifty in the first place—that really had them worried.

“You can’t tie us to Abramson-Isaac,” Julius said defiantly.

“Actually, I can—” Mister Johns said.

And just how does Johns connect the pitiless promoters to the fight...

The Blue & Red Shoestrings

Mister Johns reached into his overcoat and pulled out the blue and red shoestring he’d slipped in his pocket earlier.

It seems that Tommie and Julius' duplicity is about to tie them up in knots.

nd so there you have it. The inhabitants of Elysian Row. All of them suspects. All of them had a motive. All of them had a means. A few even had the opportunity.

So who killed Bob Dorian? They're not talking...and frankly, neither am I. But there is just one last thing you need to see before we go...

The DAT Tape

Sixteen songs. According to his producer, Tiny, probably the best Bob Dorian had ever written. And they're all here.

“You’re giving me the masters?” the man in the shadows asked suspiciously. “You could have made a fortune.”

“Trust me, it’s not totally out of the kindness of my heart," Frost replied. "Do with them what you want. But this way he’s out of both of our lives.”

Too bad no one will ever hear them...

Or will they?

Looks like you're going to have to get your hands on a copy of Blood on the Tracks to find out.

So go ahead...pick your poison:

To go back to the main page, click

To watch Tom's recent interview and hear him answer questions about the book, click here.

The author would like to thank the artists and photographers who had the courage to go to Elysian Row, and the common sense to come back. Without them, most of what we know about that godforsaken place would be pure speculation.