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Daniel Wiezman's sophomore effort, Cinnamon Girl, has Lyft driver Addy Zantz helping out his old piano teacher clear the name of his deceased son who was charged with the murder in the eighties that has sparked a new wave of crime connected to a teen garage band the boy was involved in as ell as the alluring girl who hung out with them, Cinnamon. The book builds a case for Weizman being a great new voice in L.A. noir. He was kind enough to talk about the book and music with The Hard Word.

SCOTT MONTGOMERY: What was the main difference between working on your first published book and your second?

DANIEL WEIZMAN: Already having my main character in place really freed me up in ways I didn't expect.

Before writing The Last Songbird I'd been trying to write a mystery for years, decades. I started trying at 15, then again at 26, 37, etc. And somewhere in there I had a noodle of an idea--long before this detective was born--a mystery with a garage band test pressing as a clue. I've always been obsessed with demos, test pressings, bootlegs, small-run 45s and fanzines, anything that doesn't get "officially" released or barely exists. 

After writing The Last Songbird, the idea returned with greater force -- now I could really picture this new character of mine, Zantz, the Lyft driver and failed songwriter, finding this test pressing in an old trunk, stealing it, and listening to it. Zantz led and I followed.   

S.M.: Did you see Addy differently in any way as opposed to when you were writing for him in The Last Songbird? 

D.W.: I wanted him to be just one hair more confident than he was in the first book, because he's solved one crime, and now he's taking some classes toward becoming a pro investigator. But like all of us, his personal growth is a game of inches. 

S.M.: Most of the suspects and victims are a group of friends who were in an eighties garage band. The Last Songbird looked into the music scene of the seventies. What do you see as the main differences between L.A. and the music of those periods?

The kids in Cinnamon Girl only got to witness all that when they were very young, but by the time they were teens, punk was in play, John Lennon had been murdered, and rock had already been corporatized, stadiumized, and perverted. Though these kids are innocent, rock music isn't--they're the children of the aftermath. Their Paisley Underground obsession with mid-Sixties groups like Love, the Seeds, and the Byrds is, in part, an attempt to hold on to utopian counterculture, or maybe a fantasy of utopian counterculture, because they know it's on the fade. 

S.M.: The relationship between fathers and sons plays an important part of the book. What did you want to explore with that?

D.W.: Well, the story is about generations, and how they exchange things with one another. Whether they intend to or not, fathers pass things along, including their hopes and their judgements and their hang-ups. And meanwhile sons are driven by a mixed bag of forces too--they want to be their fathers, best them, and honor them all at once. Boys want to impress their fathers in the battlefield at the same time that they war with their father's spirits. 

Here's where it gets tricky--when young men compete with each other, the phantoms of their fathers are in competition too. I don't know if that makes sense but that's the mess I was trying to explore. 

S.M.: Both of your books make a music backdrop and you have a playlist at the end of your book. Are there musicians who influence your writing?

D.W.: For noir fiction, I use music two different ways. When I'm doing the writing itself, I play Les Baxter, Martin Denny, Nino Rota, Walter Wanderly, a few Miles and Milt Jackson records too--Milt and Ray Charles, "Cosmic Ray." I like instrumental music that's gentle and tense at the same time. 

But I'm also a lyric freak and a song freak. There isn't one sentence someone can say that won't remind me of some song! And so when I'm drafting I always try to identify one perfect song to match a chapter, so that my story can also turn into a playlist. 

S.M.: Do you have a case planned for Addy as a licensed detective?

D.W.: In order to become a pro investigator in California, you need the certificate and 6,000 hours in the field. Time for Addy to get smart and get to work! 


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