Author David Biddle got a hold of me. He’s written a work of Rock Fiction, and he wanted me to review it.
But… I am horribly behind with my reviews that aren’t for The World’s Toughest Book Critics. So I said no, but that he was, as usual, more than willing to step into the Featured New Book Spotlight for a week.
Well, you guys know how swamped I’ve been with the editing. Maybe you’ve even been one of the people who’s lately been asking me for expanded services. So conversation with David has been slow. And then the holidays hit, and who wants to be posted during the holidays? And then, my feed went down, so I held off again…
That brings us to today. So… because I’ve taken up WAY too much of your precious time already with my saga, let’s get to David.
Hey, David! What song makes you think of your book?
Beyond the Will of God is a rather unique, highly psychedelic novel about the mysteries of loud guitar music and altered states of consciousness. Years ago, after an all-night state of wonder (hopefully you know what that means), I flashed on the notion that our great deceased entertainers, particularly musicians like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison, could possibly still connect to us through their music. I was 17. It was 1975. I was a crazy kid. 25 years later I completed Beyond the Will of God: A Jill Simpson Mystery. It was finally published this year.
The story is chock full of references to every kind of music — from Elvis’ first hit “That’s All Right” and Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye,” to The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” the Grateful Dead’s “Playing in the Band,” and Sun Ra’s improvisational jamming Arkestra. But one song rides high over all the others — Jimi Hendrix’s “1983 … (A Merman I Should Turn to Be).” That’s the song that got me so riled up with this notion of musical mystery. It’s a long (nearly 14 minutes), nutty composition that Hendrix described as science fiction poetry. He worked harder on this single piece than all the others on his defining album Electric Ladyland.
At one point, just before a crazy, beautiful, super over-dubbed guitar solo, he sings: “Anyway, you know good and well/It would be beyond the will of God/And the grace of the king…”
Now, I’m not a very religious person (though I do think about spiritual stuff all the time), but that phrase “beyond the will of God” just smacked me upside the head. To me, it said all there needs to be said about why people seek altered states of consciousness.
And the song … well, the song is still an anthem about those wild days of running free. Jimi played all the instruments on it. He was as unbridled and infinite with his vision of the possibilities of music as anyone has ever been. Had he lived, I’m sure he would have gone even further off into that realm. It’s a beautiful and rarefied realm. He had definitely gone beyond the will of God. And he made it possible for me to do the same with my story years later.
Partial lyrics from “1983 …”
Well it’s too bad that our friends can’t be with us today
Well it’s too bad
The machine that we built
Would never save us that’s what they say
That’s why they ain’t comin’ with us today
And they also said it’s impossible
For a man to live and breathe undrerwater
Forever was a main complaint
Yeah and they also threw this in my face they said
Anyway you know good and well
It would be beyond the will of god
And the grace of the king
Grace of the king
For the full set of lyrics, go here.
Song on YouTube (this is, ironically, one of those pieces of work that Hendrix would never do live)
Ready for the book blurb?? I sure am!
If you’re looking for something different to read this year, Beyond the Will of God is a mystery/thriller that goes completely off the grid. As much as it begins with a murder, the story ultimately points at secrets to many of the unresolved conspiracies people have wondered about for years.
Police detective Jill Simpson is investigating the murder of an Amish teenager outside of Columbia, Missouri. Tabloid reporter Frank Harris has been sent into the heartlands to interview a clairvoyant who claims she is having an affair with Elvis. As these two work first separately and then as a team, the storyline twists and turns to include bigger questions that will change their lives forever.
Beyond the Will of God is a cross between a Tony Hillerman mystery, Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and Carlos Castaneda’s Yaqui Sorcerer series. It is serious yet playful, questioning and entertaining. You could call it a YA novel for Boomers. You could call it a paranormal fairy tale for refugees from another time. Or you could just call it weird, a bit sexy, and a good winter read.