Murderer’s Music

by Jeff Abbott on September 17, 2008

I worked my way past the chapter that was giving me mental Ebola. Part of the reason it was difficult was that it’s from the viewpoint of possibly the most evil character I’ve ever created. I’ve written scenes from the viewpoints of callous murderers, terrorists, and serial killers before but this was much more difficult. I don’t want to give too much about the character away but suffice it to say he is a traitor on every level of the word–to family, to country, to world–a wolf in sheep’s clothing–but one that feels a certain level of remorse for his actions. It’s easy to write a bastard; it’s much harder to write a bastard who has regrets. And writing him in a way that worked was a critical challenge.


One of the ways I put myself into the mind of this character was by listening to the music of Gesualdo. Don Carlo Gesualdo killed his wife and her lover in 1590 when he caught them in bed (forcing the lover, a duke, to don his wife’s clothes before running him through with his sword). Gesualdo never faced justice; he had immunity due to his aristocratic standing. He wrote some of the most progressive and beautiful music of his time; since he was a prince, and had to satisfy no patron, he could be as outlandish as he wanted. His Tenebrae (which I listened to) are responses for a part of a church service where the candles are extinguished, one by one, until the congregation is sitting in darkness. Inside the music one can hear threads of death, of a man seeking redemption for his crimes, of guilt that has burned like a flame.

It is murderer’s music, and it helped me through the chapter.

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kirk September 17, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Gesualdo is great. And I hope you’ll include a playlist with the book, or at least on the site, for those what want to listen to the appropriate soundtrack. :-)

    Jeff Abbott September 19, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Kirk, I actually did a playlist for PANIC that was available on iTunes. I didn’t do them for COLLISION and FEAR, although I have a lot of music that I listen to while I write and that certainly forms a “soundtrack” of sorts for each book. I’ll write about the music I listen to more in the future.

    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: