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Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen

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Like some born killers, this pairing of crime stories and the songs of Bruce Springsteen is a natural one. Each of the accomplished authors in this unique anthology chose a Springsteen title as a starting point, and in the criminally inclined spirit of the Boss, drove headlong to wherever that inspiration called. The destinations are as wildly diverse and far-reaching as Like some born killers, this pairing of crime stories and the songs of Bruce Springsteen is a natural one. Each of the accomplished authors in this unique anthology chose a Springsteen title as a starting point, and in the criminally inclined spirit of the Boss, drove headlong to wherever that inspiration called. The destinations are as wildly diverse and far-reaching as the songs that influenced them. Some arrive at hope and redemption; others end up smoking in a ditch. One thing’s for sure: you sign up for this ride, and Trouble in the Heartland will transport you somewhere unforgettable.


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Like some born killers, this pairing of crime stories and the songs of Bruce Springsteen is a natural one. Each of the accomplished authors in this unique anthology chose a Springsteen title as a starting point, and in the criminally inclined spirit of the Boss, drove headlong to wherever that inspiration called. The destinations are as wildly diverse and far-reaching as Like some born killers, this pairing of crime stories and the songs of Bruce Springsteen is a natural one. Each of the accomplished authors in this unique anthology chose a Springsteen title as a starting point, and in the criminally inclined spirit of the Boss, drove headlong to wherever that inspiration called. The destinations are as wildly diverse and far-reaching as the songs that influenced them. Some arrive at hope and redemption; others end up smoking in a ditch. One thing’s for sure: you sign up for this ride, and Trouble in the Heartland will transport you somewhere unforgettable.

30 review for Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liam Sweeny

    The first thing you need to know about this compilation of short stories is that you don't have to be a Bruce Springsteen fan to enjoy it. I like Bruce Springsteen, know a few of his songs, and have heard more, but I'm no diehard. The stories in this book are inspired by Bruce Springsteen songs, yes. They have the titles of Bruce Stringsteen songs, yes. But it's what Bruce Springsteen represents: the America of the working class, of the hopes and dreams that dot the rolling countrysides and flow The first thing you need to know about this compilation of short stories is that you don't have to be a Bruce Springsteen fan to enjoy it. I like Bruce Springsteen, know a few of his songs, and have heard more, but I'm no diehard. The stories in this book are inspired by Bruce Springsteen songs, yes. They have the titles of Bruce Stringsteen songs, yes. But it's what Bruce Springsteen represents: the America of the working class, of the hopes and dreams that dot the rolling countrysides and flow along the gutters of city streets. America, not as a plastic postcards, but as a tattered photographs, stained with blood and sweat in a million photo albums, naked in all its good and its bad. Not a country, but a feeling, an experience that resonates throughout the world. That's what Bruce Springsteen inspires, and the grit beneath that experience is what fills Trouble in the Heartland. For a book like this, it's easy to name-drop and be done with it. Look at the cover if you want that. It's there. There are big names and unknowns in here. But what surprised me was the consistency of the stories. There's a current in Trouble in the Heartland that puts the rebellion and desperation, and sometimes desolation, that is uniquely American in flavor against a backdrop of small-town decline. Economic opportunity comes and goes at the barrel of a gun. Justice doesn't exist past that granite steps of courthouses. Lost love comes at terrible costs, and in the stillness of a quiet country night, someone is dying; they just don't know it yet. I didn't want to single out favorite authors and stories. And in fact, I did jot down something about each story in the collection. I liked them all that much. But if I wrote them all down here, you'd never finish reading this. I've been turned on to a lot of new (new to me) writers that have incredible stories in here. You just might too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Isler

    You know when you had that one favorite album? You would put it on the turntable and listen to it over and over, because you could not get enough of it? That is how I felt about this anthology. I loved it, from beginning to end. There was not a single bad song, I mean story, in the whole book. What a brilliant idea to take a group of very talented writers and have them write short stories inspired by Bruce Springsteen's songs. This is a gathering of crime stories. They are not too violent. So, i You know when you had that one favorite album? You would put it on the turntable and listen to it over and over, because you could not get enough of it? That is how I felt about this anthology. I loved it, from beginning to end. There was not a single bad song, I mean story, in the whole book. What a brilliant idea to take a group of very talented writers and have them write short stories inspired by Bruce Springsteen's songs. This is a gathering of crime stories. They are not too violent. So, if you are squeamish, you will be just fine with this book. Some of the writers are very well known and some of the writers are just starting their journey. To tell you the truth, every story is a hit and I found myself flipping back through the book and reading some of them for a second time. I really loved this book. I highly recommend it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rory Costello

    The concept here is inspired (even if I myself have just a passing interest in the work of Bruce Springsteen). What's more impressive still, though, is the inspiration that this broad array of fine writers drew from the concept. Crime is the bedrock of this collection, but there are other surprising elements to it as well -- a dash of sci-fi and even a funny joke for variety. You'll find numerous different settings, hear many different voices, and be impressed by the skills on display. Only here The concept here is inspired (even if I myself have just a passing interest in the work of Bruce Springsteen). What's more impressive still, though, is the inspiration that this broad array of fine writers drew from the concept. Crime is the bedrock of this collection, but there are other surprising elements to it as well -- a dash of sci-fi and even a funny joke for variety. You'll find numerous different settings, hear many different voices, and be impressed by the skills on display. Only here and there will you actually find yourself thinking directly of Springsteen -- the team just runs from that starting point.

  4. 5 out of 5

    P. Henninger

    To be honest, I was not fond of some of the writing here. I think that the stories had some promise, but the writing fell short of that promise in more cases than I would have liked. Still, most of the stories were quite good and well written.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    3.5 stars, uneven but very enjoyable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mack

    This collection of short stories is uneven, some very good, some meh, and most somewhere in between the two extremes. I'd actually like to give it 3.5 stars. Still, I enjoyed it and will probably return to some of the stories later. I happened upon this book because my wife is a Springsteen fan and while I noodling around the internet looking up Springsteen songs I found that there is a strong element of noir in many of his songs as well as crime themes. Being that crime and noir are two of my fa This collection of short stories is uneven, some very good, some meh, and most somewhere in between the two extremes. I'd actually like to give it 3.5 stars. Still, I enjoyed it and will probably return to some of the stories later. I happened upon this book because my wife is a Springsteen fan and while I noodling around the internet looking up Springsteen songs I found that there is a strong element of noir in many of his songs as well as crime themes. Being that crime and noir are two of my favorite subjects for reading, I needed to read this collection. The stories are based on the titles of Springsteen's songs and not the subjects of the songs. This was a legal requirement; Springsteen's people said it was ok to use the titles but don't mess with the songs themselves. The authors do a good job finding the emotions behind Springsteen and you can pick up elements from the songs. People making bad decisions, trying to make that one last score, trying to escape. There are too many stories in the collection to try to describe them all but it leads off with a very strong story by Dennis Lehane based on the title of the song State Trooper. It is a good story to pull you into the collection. Here are a couple of quotes to give you the feel for what the stories are shooting for. One of my favorites is from a woman working in a convenience store. She changes stations when a Springsteen song comes on saying I'm one wrong turn from being a character in his songs. The story based on Open All Night is a fun read taking place in an all night diner where everyone has secret thoughts and they are going to come out before the night is over. The waitress on duty, Barb, muses to herself: Nightshift at a 24-hour diner had to be the slowest version of suicide she could mearure. Twenty-six years and counting and still the sweet, quiet stillness of death hadn't claimed her yet. Darkness on the Edge of Town is a story I didn't entirely get but has some good hardboiled stuff. A woman wakes up in the blazing sun at the bottom of a drained artificial lake. It opens with this: It was the kind of sun you couldn't escape, the kind that made any scrap of shade shrivel. A vampire sun, sucking your salty lifeblood, leaving you ready to discard yourself by the side of the road, a withered husk of whoever you used to be. I really loved this bit of hardboiled description: The thing I liked about this one was the way her lipstick was on just a little bit crooked. I wanted to smear it all over her mouth until it looked like she'd recently killed a small animal with her teeth.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    As a big fan of Springsteen (even my first son's called Bruce) and crime fiction, I was always going to get around to reading this at some point. I finally tracked down a reasonably priced copy on eBay and here we are. Joe Clifford cites in his introduction that "you'd have a tough time finding a more impressive roster of who's who in modern pulp fiction," and he is not wrong. The book is chock full of cars, bars, marriage & murder and a bevy of folks working towards a dream however they can, bu As a big fan of Springsteen (even my first son's called Bruce) and crime fiction, I was always going to get around to reading this at some point. I finally tracked down a reasonably priced copy on eBay and here we are. Joe Clifford cites in his introduction that "you'd have a tough time finding a more impressive roster of who's who in modern pulp fiction," and he is not wrong. The book is chock full of cars, bars, marriage & murder and a bevy of folks working towards a dream however they can, but usually through ill deeds. I'll run down my favourites from book with a brief summary of my thoughts: "State Trooper" by Dennis Lehane - Sticking the star player in as the lead batter and he hits a home run and really sets the tone for the book on the whole. "Prove It All Night" by Jordan Harper - This was published in Harper's "Love and Other Wounds" collection also, but I'll take any chance to pump up Harper and this is a great story. "Candy's Room" by Chris Leek - This flash fiction piece was the inspiration behind the anthology and it's not hard to see why once you've read it. "Hungry Heart" by Hilary Davidson - What happens if he went out for a ride and came back 10 years later? "Local Hero" by Tom Pitts - This one was very jarring. "Highway Patrolman" by Ryan Sayles - Wonderfully twisty tale. "Nebraska" by Paul J. Garth - Felt the twist coming, but no less effective for it. "We Take Care of Our Own" by Todd Robinson - My favourite story in the book and one that has legit made me feel bad that I have never found the time to read Robinson yet. He's been near the peak of my reading list for a LONG time. "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City" by Jen Conley - This is a change of pace for the anthology and is more a tale of missed opportunities and what ifs, but certainly in the vein of The Boss. "The Promised Land" by Court Merrigan - A wonderful example of the story telling that can be squeezed into a short story. "Open All Night" by Eric Beetner - Five individuals with bad intentions sit around a 24 hour diner in the early hours of the morning. Story bounced around to each characters perspective giving us a full view of what's going on. "Last to Die" by Richard Brewer - The last story in the book, but certainly not least. A trio of losers look to knock off the upmarket burger joint in their neighbourhood. There's these and plenty more in what is a stellar anthology. Not that I needed more new authors to seek out, but this anthology has certainly set me on a path to do so. Highly recommended for Springsteen and crime fiction fans.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Taro Yamashita

    So, it turns out that I'm just not a fan of crime pulp fiction. The stories of crimes committed by people on the desperate edges of trying lives don't appeal to me. I was drawn to the book because I like Springsteen's music. Appreciating his music is not critically necessary to understand the stories, but the songs provide some context for some of the stories, and for others, part of the appeal is to see the divergence from the song's storyline that the writing takes. So, it turns out that I'm just not a fan of crime pulp fiction. The stories of crimes committed by people on the desperate edges of trying lives don't appeal to me. I was drawn to the book because I like Springsteen's music. Appreciating his music is not critically necessary to understand the stories, but the songs provide some context for some of the stories, and for others, part of the appeal is to see the divergence from the song's storyline that the writing takes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Dorneman

    This collection of 41 short (very short, about 3-4 pages each on the average) crime stories were all inspired by Bruce Springsteen songs, although many have little feel of the song they share a title with. Too many revenge stories, too many ex-cons down on their luck stories, and the constant stream of fatal violence gets tired quick. For fans of the genre worth picking up, but otherwise... meh.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Neil Friedman

    Some good writing, but mostly disappointed. Though I rarely read short stories, there were only a few of these that were more than interesting. Most of them fell flat. Of course, I was drawn to this set primarily because of the Springsteen title connection. Beware, however, except for a few nods to Boss songs and lyrics, these stories had only passing allusions to Springsteen.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Loki

    A collection of excellent stories of out-of-working-class born in the USA people whose glory days are way, way behind them. With a few exceptions, the stories are very good, but there's a certain samishness to them that makes this a better book for dipping into than for mainlining. But hey, making a good book last ain't no crime. A collection of excellent stories of out-of-working-class born in the USA people whose glory days are way, way behind them. With a few exceptions, the stories are very good, but there's a certain samishness to them that makes this a better book for dipping into than for mainlining. But hey, making a good book last ain't no crime.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Shelby

    I'm a huge Springsteen fan and this anthology hit the nail on the head. Can't pick a favorite story because I really enjoyed all of them. Highly recommended! I'm a huge Springsteen fan and this anthology hit the nail on the head. Can't pick a favorite story because I really enjoyed all of them. Highly recommended!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A first class collection from a great group of scribes. If you're a fan of the Boss, crime fiction or both.... check it out people. A first class collection from a great group of scribes. If you're a fan of the Boss, crime fiction or both.... check it out people.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Patton

  15. 4 out of 5

    Craig

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Burrough-Williams

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elise St. louis

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pam Stack

  19. 5 out of 5

    E.J.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark Lombardi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deborah E Brophy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  24. 5 out of 5

    michael bisceglia

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Anthony Power

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Thornton

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  28. 5 out of 5

    Linda Watson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Peter Vlieger

  30. 5 out of 5

    David L May

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