Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply: Heavy Metal Noir by Warren Moore

Being a fan of both crime fiction and metal, I was obviously quite intrigued when I heard about Broken Glass Waltzes (Snubnose Press), the debut novel from Warren Moore, which is a crime thriller set in the heavy metal club scene of the late 80s/early 90s. The book hasn’t made it to the top of my monstrously out of control TBR stack quite yet, but I’m pleased to be able to go ahead and give Warren some space today to tell everyone a little bit more about the book…and the importance of heavy metal. \m/ \m/

Warren MooreWhen I was shopping Broken Glass Waltzes to agents, I told them it was a heavy metal crime novel. At least one agent replied that people who listened to heavy metal didn’t read, and vice versa. Similarly, when I was working on my Master’s, I had a creative writing prof express consternation about all this hard rock stuff I was listening to and writing about, in my fiction and in reviews and such as well. “What’s the deal with all this heavy metal stuff?” he asked.

“I like it,” I said. “I’ve played it in bands and I listen to it and enjoy it.” All of which was true, although I listened to a lot of other stuff too. The year before, I had a front-row seat to see Miles, and I had seen Bill Monroe at a grungy little place in Nashville. But having spent my teens in the Cincinnati burbs in a pre-Internet era, metal was the most common form of loud, fast, technically challenging music, and I liked it. So I wrote about it.

After the professor walked away, my officemate looked at me and said, “You blew it. Now [the prof] is going to think of you as that guy who listens to stupid people music.” And maybe he did – I know he wasn’t real pleased with the fact that I wrote genre fiction, either.

And that ghettoizing attitude is part of why I left the academy for a while. But in some ways, it’s also why putting Broken Glass Waltzes in the world of heavy metal’s minor leagues made so much sense to me.

I knew I was writing noir, and noir isn’t a genre about the powerful – it’s about the folks on the fringe of polite society, the gropers, dopers, and all-round no-hopers, wanting their piece of the rancid scraps that were once the pie. It’s about the ones who are thrown off the hay truck around noon. It’s about powerless people, buffeted by fate and their own wrong choices in a world that is indifferent at best, and likely scornful of them.

Warren MooreHell, that’s why metal won’t go away. When you’re a fifteen-year-old boy, you’re awfully powerless. You can’t drive, and the girls like guys with cars. You go to school and it feels like they’re measuring the things you don’t know, and most of those are things you don’t care about anyway. Your parents are busy, and it feels like they only notice you when it’s time to take out the trash. But if you have a guitar and a big enough amp, you can make people hear you – even if they don’t want to listen. That’s a kind of power. And if you wear a Cannibal Corpse or Slayer T-Shirt, you can make people notice you – even by shocking them into looking away. That’s a kind of power, too. And there’s always a fresh crop of fifteen-year-old boys, and a lot of us never forget what fifteen felt like. Metal is a way to be powerful and to be dangerous, even when you’re just another fifteen-year-old (or seventeen-year-old, or warehouse worker…) in the burbs.

And society does its part by ghettoizing it, by turning it into “stupid people music”, whether the people who listen are stupid or not. They make it outlaw music. And it’s that outlaw aspect that made it perfect for Broken Glass Waltzes. If you set a noir novel in a jazz club, no one would blink. But jazz – although it’s still marginal – has been adopted as a sort of high-cultural marker, which it wasn’t in the days of juke joints. It isn’t outlaw music anymore. If you want music that’s dangerous now, you go for metal or hip-hop, and because I’m of my place and my time, I chose metal.

So, metal. So, Broken Glass Waltzes. I hope you like it.

Warren Moore received his B.A. in English from Excelsior College, his M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky, and his Ph.D. in British, American and World Literature from Ball State University. Moore has worked in jobs ranging from magazine editor and freelance journalist to stand-up comic, and is currently on faculty at Newberry College. Moore is a regular contributor to the New Chaucer Society’s annual bibliography, and to The American Culture, an online magazine. Broken Glass Waltzes is his first novel. To learn more about Moore, visit his blog and catch up with him on Twitter.
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6 Comments

  • The Latest Stop | Professor Mondo

    March 11, 2013 - 7:19 pm

    […] on the virtual book tour is at Elizabeth A. White’s place. While I’m there, I talk a little bit about why metal works, and why heavy metal and noir […]

  • David Cranmer

    March 11, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    Not a word out of place here, Warren. I agree with you 100%, sir. “And society does its part by ghettoizing it.” Right on.

  • Thomas Pluck

    March 11, 2013 - 3:19 pm

    Love it. I’ll be checking your book out. Any professor asking why you are writing about people no one writes about shouldn’t be teaching.

  • Elizabeth A. White

    March 11, 2013 - 2:16 pm

    I was looking forward to reading this book just based on its description, but as a huge, unabashed fan of metal I am looking forward to it doubly so after this fantastic guest post. Metal…it’s either in your blood or it’s not. \m/ \m/

  • Warren Moore

    March 11, 2013 - 1:57 pm

    Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy it.

    Also, I’d like to put in a plug for Jess Parrott, who took the “action photo” above at a gig last month.

  • sabrina ogden

    March 11, 2013 - 12:20 pm

    I love this! “…noir isn’t a genre about the powerful – it’s about the folks on the fringe of polite society, the gropers, dopers, and all-round no-hopers, wanting their piece of the rancid scraps that were once the pie. It’s about the ones who are thrown off the hay truck around noon. It’s about powerless people, buffeted by fate and their own wrong choices in a world that is indifferent at best, and likely scornful of them.”

    Wonderful post, Warren. And I’m looking foward to reading Broken Glass Waltzes.

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