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Smith Henderson: Musical Inspiration

Fourth of July Creek is the dark and powerful debut from Smith Henderson. As a former prison guard and social worker, his experiences have informed the novel, which explores the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion and anarchy.

After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face-to-face with the boy’s profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times. But as Pete’s own family spins out of control, Jeremiah’s activities spark the full-blown interest of the FBI, putting Pete at the centre of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Here’s Smith himself talking about the music that inspired Fourth of July Creek:

I don’t listen to music at all when I’m writing – the lyrics and rhythms intrude on something that’s going on between my ears. But I will listen in for some inspiration. Or I’ll happen across something that inspires me. Or, like any normal person, I’ll listen to music for it’s own sake.

Here are a few songs and artists whose music somehow became part of the DNA of Fourth of July Creek.

Aaron Parrett

Aaron Parrett is a fantastic Montana musician and writer. Here he is playing some great fiddle music…

…but I must’ve worn out my copy of Aaron Parett’s The Sinners which is goddamn masterpiece. Ehlo Kyuurhi is one of my favorite songs ever.

Your Russia by Wovenhand

A weakness for gothic apocalyptic stuff happening in this track. A little evangelical psychedelic stuff. Pure kakangelism.


Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant

Damn, this is a dark video. Even though this was such a pop song, I always felt the menace in it. Eddy Grant has such an awesome gravelly voice and the revving keyboard… I just imagined it playing in places where Rachel is staying throughout the book.


More Brother Rides by Palace Music

I’d listen to a lot of Will Oldham just to get into that mood, whatever it is… and he’s such an astonishing writer. “We’re busted up, so ragged down/and kissing and subsisting; our eyes glint wild and roll around/ and the dog, he whines insisting…”


Chopin’s Prelude to Opus 28 in E Minor #4 played by Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces

A weird choice, and it wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized what an impact the film really made on me, but it’s definitely an influence (as is a lot of 70s cinema). I didn’t really listen to Chopin while writing, but then I can’t really listen to music at all when I’m writing.

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