Sinister Regard : Music
            

I lived it almost thirty years ago. I started writing it almost seventeen years ago. Today, at long last, The Accidental Terrorist is here. (Quick, lock your doors!)

What more can I say to you about it? I hope you'll order a copy, if you haven't already. Here are some review excerpts. Here is a reading I did last week. And while you're waiting for the book to arrive, you can listen to this Spotify soundtrack in less than a mere two a half hours.

Oh, yes, and don't forget to stop back in about an hour for a very important announcement...

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William Shunn at HiFi Bar, October 11, 2015
You probably missed my spoken-word performance this past Sunday night at HiFi Bar, the first of a handful of events celebrating the forthcoming release of my memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. The set combined excerpts from the book with original poetry, and featured musical backing by the very capable Daniel Geoghegan on drums and Jon Pope on bass.

We had a terrific time doing it. Happily, my friend Jeff Lang shot video, so you can hear what we sounded like. Here, for example, is our rendition of an old poem of mine called "Coney Island Lifeguard Blues":

And if you want to hear more, Jeff has also posted video of the full 42-minute set. Check it out.

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The Sundays Sessions with William Shunn feat. Daniel Geoghegan and Jon Pope
New Yorkers! Come see me at HiFi Bar this Sunday night, as I perform memoir excerpts and original poetry with drum-and-bass backing. I probably won't be going on until after 9:00 pm, but please show up for the whole evening to support The Sunday Sessions at HiFi.

We'll have books for sale, too, pre-release.

The Sunday Sessions feat. William Shunn
with musical backing by Daniel Geoghegan & Jon Pope

Sunday, October 11, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

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The Falcon and the Snowman and me

            

The Falcon and the Snowman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack In 1985, I was a far bigger fan of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny than just about any other musician. The album that infected me was 1982's Offramp, which sounded unlike anything else I'd ever heard. I became a hardcore consumer of any and all vinyl featuring either Metheny or his compositional partner in the Pat Metheny Group, pianist Lyle Mays. (My friends and I could and did spend hours debating the meaning of the 20-minute title track from As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Yes, we were not normal.)

Thus it was inevitable, thirty years ago, that I would buy the new album from the Pat Metheny Group as soon as it appeared, even if it was the soundtrack to a movie I had not seen. I had a vague understanding of the true-life espionage case behind The Falcon and the Snowman (based on the book by Robert Lindsey), which told the story of Christopher Boyce and Daulton Lee, two young men from southern California who were arrested in 1977 for selling intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union. (Boyce was a falconry enthusiast and Lee a cocaine dealer, which is where their sobriquets came from.) I always meant to see the film, but never did.

But that didn't affect my enjoyment of the soundtrack. In fact, it might have enhanced it, as I could listen and try to imagine what was happening on screen during each passage. It wasn't my favorite Metheny album by any means, but parts of it I liked quite a lot. I even grudgingly came to enjoy the collaboration with David Bowie that kicked off side 2 of the record, "This Is Not America"—though I disliked the way the credits on the single made it seem like the Pat Metheny Group was just Bowie's backing band.

Anyway, it was late in 1985, when I was 18, after I'd been living with the album for eight or nine months, that a close friend of mine, whom I call "Andy Kilmer" in The Accidental Terrorist, came to me with a request. This passage is from the book:

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I've always believed that I have a pretty good memory—in particular, that I can recall formative events and conversations from years or even decades ago in reasonably good detail. When I started work on my memoir The Accidental Terrorist, I made a list of incidents, events, and bits of lore from my mission that I wanted to include. The more of these that I wrote down, the more others I started to remember. My notes ran pages and pages and pages.

I'm now working my way through a revision of the book with notes from my editor, Juliet Ulman. The occasional query scrawled in the margin questions details I seem to recall clearly. I've started wondering how much I can trust those old memories, especially the smaller moments I could easily have misremembered or invented. I've started looking for bits I can actually confirm.

Last night I came to the passage below, which seemed like it should be eminently verifiable. The scene is southern Alberta, October 1986:

On Friday of that week, we were talking heavy metal when I mentioned that the only band I liked of that sort was Rush.

"Ah, so you're one of those," said Fowler. "Same as every other missionary in Canada. You know last winter they had a concert scheduled up in Edmonton?"

"That was the Power Windows tour. What a great show. I saw it in Salt Lake."

"Well, I was serving in Edmonton at the time. I swear half the elders in town must've had tickets."

I gaped. In my civilian life, I had the right to choose to see a rock concert if I wanted, whether or not the Church or my father approved. But for a missionary, ordained and set apart as a representative of Jesus Christ, the rules were different. No music, especially not rock music, and especially not live rock music. That was just handing Satan the keys to your soul's front door.

"Including you?" I asked.

"Naw, Rush ain't my thing. But anyways, the day of the show this massive blizzard hits. No joke. Shuts everything down. No planes in or out. Concert canceled."

"Whoa."

"You're telling me. You think God wanted all those missionaries rocking out in clouds of dope smoke? No way. It would have killed the Spirit dead in Edmonton for a month."
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The following story is an outtake from my memoir The Accidental Terrorist. The names of most of the other participants, including relatives, have been changed to offer some small measure of concealment.

When I was eighteen, my father and I drove from northern Utah to Los Angeles for my cousin Delia's wedding. I had recently put in my application to become a Mormon missionary, and I had yet to learn where I'd be spending the next two years of my life. It wasn't for the sake of one last road trip with my father, though, that I agreed to tag along. I was hoping to meet Danny Elfman.

After the wedding—a brief affair in a tiny chapel like a sugar-frosted cake—the entire gathering moved down the road to the Arcadia Women's Club, a large banquet hall for rent, where a shaggy trio played jazz on a spare proscenium. A dozen long tables were set up in ranks across the room, and we enjoyed an abundant feast of cold cuts, casseroles, and cakes as the music played. "Hey," I said to my aunt Deborah, who sat across from my father and me, "I thought Oingo Boingo was supposed to play."

"All Delia and Sammy's friends are musicians," she said, "so lots of different people are playing. I don't think they're on until later."

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[from Missionary Man, a memoir still in progress]

I had a very stupid argument once with my girlfriend Bertha, back when we were still living together. (Actually we had a lot of very stupid arguments, but I only plan to consider one here.) This was 1995, and we were at a small club in Seattle waiting for Barenaked Ladies to take the stage. We had both enjoyed the opening band, an act which managed the impressive feat of playing tunes in tricky time signatures without ever alienating the audience.

"How would you count that last song they did?" Bertha asked me. She had taken a class in music theory in college, coming away with just enough knowledge to make her a danger to herself and those around her. "It didn't sound like you could count it like a normal song."

This was her way of asking the number of beats per measure. "It was in five," I said.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

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