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The Role of Music in Storytelling

Matthew Hodge
Matthew Hodge Author Interview

Gotham City Sounds: The Music of Batman Villains is a case study on the psychological and emotional impact of the music used in the Batman franchise. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I’ve always been fascinated with the role of music in storytelling. Whether it’s on a stage or a screen, music can absolutely affect an audience on a primal level. A great score can inform how you connect with a specific character or story. I also think pop culture entertainment is a great window into deeper conversations about important things. It’s why I’m a professor who consistently use pop culture references and examples in my college courses I teach. And if I want to navigate readers through the psychology of music for tormented characters, I figured analyzing Batman villain scores would be a fascinating way to go about it!

What villain’s theme music is your favorite and why?

I personally have a deep love for Danny Elfman’s Batman Returns score. The way he aurally connects the three main characters (Batman, Catwoman, Penguin) with complementary yet individualized music themes is masterful and emotionally powerful. In my opinion, that score is perfection.

What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer in this book?

I wanted to make sure my second full-length book met the bar I had set for myself with my first full-length book Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse: A History of Jazz and Disney. I was so honored and humbled by the reception Cool Cats and a Hot Mouse received (including it earning half a dozen national award recognitions). Just like my Disney Jazz book, I wanted my Batman villain book to educate readers about our history of entertainment in a captivating way.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have several upcoming chapters in scholarly books being published in the next year. I’m also excited to be launching a new pop culture hub called POP PROFESSOR, which will be a website where I’ll offer blogs and videos covering bite-size presentations of fascinating pop culture things (similarly to my books). That can be found at, and my professional website is I’m also still a full-time university professor, and enjoy spending my days in classrooms with students.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads | Website

Why So Musical?
Move aside, Batman. It’s time for Gotham City’s infamous villains to take center stage! Whether through film, television, or video games, members of the Dark Knight’s notorious rogues gallery consistently come to life on screen with the help of creative scores constructed by masterful composers — the true unsung superheroes of Hollywood.
Award-winning composer, professor, and author Matthew Hodge shines a fascinating spotlight on the psychological and emotional musical representations constructed by composers for numerous portrayals of Batman’s iconic villains. These pages discuss dozens of Gotham City characters, including well-known villains and lesser-known troublemakers. From flamboyant tricksters and monstrous brutes to seductive femme fatales and complicated antiheroes, the musical possibilities are endless.
Gotham citizens, beware! Evil doesn’t just have a name and a face — it has a sound.


Guitar is the perfect book for you if you are looking to learn about the guitar. By reading this book you not only learn how to play the guitar but you also get to know the different parts of the musical instrument. Ken Jackson also shows readers how to hold the guitar, clean it, along with safekeeping instructions. Learning about the guitar is an interesting and fascinating experience. Like the author puts it, ‘there is more to just playing the guitar’. Clicking on the strings, knowing which fingers to use and which notes to hit best.

The best way to learn any instruments is by looking at the illustrations that accompany the text. There are plenty of images and illustrations that guide you as a reader when you are reading Guitar, and I liked how clear the images were. The reading experience is pleasant because one can easily understand which part of the guitar the author is talking about.

A few pages in one can already feel the love the author has for the guitar. Ken Jackson is passionate when he writes, and this translates to the amazing work he shares with everyone. The author reminds every guitar player, whether a rookie or expert, that there is nothing as soothing as having your instrument and playing any song you want. Owning a guitar is a wonderful thing. By knowing how to play the guitar, you can make a hobby out of it, play it for entertainment or even make some extra cash out of your skill. Ken Jackson’s book will help you realize that learning to play the guitar is not as complicated as some people may assume. All it takes is patience, concentration and passion.

I learned plenty of musical terminologies from the book. Learning the musical jargon and learning new phrases felt powerful. Ken Jackson did an incredible job introducing those that are not familiar with the terminologies. What I also enjoyed was how the author explained and defined the music terms in simple but comprehensive ways. This book is easy to comprehend as the author does not use complex expressions or images. I loved the surprise songs in the book. The author included tens of songs, and showed the reader how to play each of them. Singing the songs and practicing with the notes shared looks like a fun activity both for expert players and newbies.

Guitar by Ken Jackson has great vibes and cheers one up. This book is an exceptional starting point for anyone wanting to learn guitar as it is filled with practical advice and easy to understand instructions that will help level up your guitar skills.

Pages: 414 : ASIN : B08KWPFR5H

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Gotham City Sounds

Award-winning composer author Matthew Hodge has created an alluring musical representation of Batman’s Villains. Dozens of familiar villains take center stage in each chapter, along with detailed character facts. The facts and content of Gotham City Sounds: The Music of Batman Villains are fun and intriguing. In addition, readers will find the history of the music and character development mentally stimulating.

Movies, video games, and TV shows use music to build drama and anticipation. These sounds stick with people long after the piece has ended. It allows foreshadowing without saying a word. Hodge dives into the psychological and emotional impact of the music given to villains in the Batman franchise. Readers will appreciate that he goes into detail, not just about the blockbuster movie, but the video games and television shows as well. This fascinating book looks into how music impacts the experience one has watching or playing the games.

Given the depth of the content, Hodge seems to know how to keep it lighthearted and easy to understand through his writing style. He sets the pace to allow the reader to focus and take in the content, giving each character its own chance to shine. Even minor villains are given a stage to shine as their music is just as relevant as the supervillains at creating an atmosphere of foreboding and anticipation. In addition, readers will appreciate how the chapters are divided up, allowing them to focus on one character at a time. This allows this stimulating book to be picked up when readers want just a quick read.

Gotham City Sounds: The Music of Batman Villains is a fantastic read for DC fanatics or film buffs. This would also appeal to music fans who want to look into pop culture music and its use in media. Finally, it would be a great and valuable source for university/college-level film study.

Pages: 258 | ISBN : 1683903218

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A Genuine Labor of Love

Mike Murphey
Mike Murphey Author Interview

We Never Knew Just What it Was shares the life story of the Chad Mitchell Trio. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Like many people my age, the Chad Mitchell Trio had a huge influence on me as a kid growing up in a small, conservative community during the 1960’s. More than any other music, folk music has been a significant historical influence in American history. It played a significant role in American life through the Great Depression, World War II, the post-war McCarthy blacklists, and the tumultuous ‘60’s. Because Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell both live in Spokane and were willing to cooperate, I jumped at the opportunity to tell their story and immerse myself once again in all that wonderful music. It was a genuine labor of love for me.

This was written with members Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell. What was the collaboration process like on this book?

Despite living only a couple of blocks apart, Mike and Chad don’t see each other a lot. During the summer of 2019, the probably spent more time together than when they were touring in the 60’s. We would meet together for interviews once a week, then I would talk to them separately each week as well.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned about the trio when writing this book?

The crux of the story is that these are two guys who have polar opposite personalities. Those differences led to Chad’s departure from The Trio in 1965, and John Denver’s emergence as Chad’s replacement. They didn’t speak for twenty years. Then a woman attempted to arrange a reunion appearance. They both said, essentially, I will if he will. Despite the animosity that led to their divorce, the one thing that was sacred to both of them was the quality of the music. On that day twenty years later at that awkward meeting, the woman who brought them together asked, “Do you think you remember the harmonies on Four Strong Winds? And it was as if they’d never been apart. The again shared their demand for excellence, and once again reveled in the music.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from their story?

I just hope this instill in us old Boomers a recollection of a time and place when for, so many of us, a dedication to social justice was instilled in a generation by three guys who sacrificed their commercial success to biting satire and social statements that radio and television refused to play.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Of all the groups to emerge during the folk era of the 1960’s, The Chad Mitchell Trio was unequivocally the best. Their complex harmonies, sense of comedic timing and stage presence were unique to the folk movement. They didn’t enjoy the commercial success of some other groups because their material made political and social statements that radio and television refused to air. They were wildly popular, though, on college campuses through America during this turbulent time and fostered political and social awareness among thousands of young men and women as they faced the tumultuous era ahead.
As Mike, Chad and Joe Frazier raced along a frantic treadmill of rehearsal, recording sessions, nightclub performances and concerts, Mike and Chad began to realize the demand for musical excellence was they only thing they had in common. Their personalities were and remain polar opposites.
When Chad left The Trio in 1965, to be replaced by John Denver, neither Mike nor Chad mourned the parting. Two years later, Joe’s demons caught up to him, forcing his dismissal.
When folk reunions became popular in the 80’s, fans and folk historians agreed that The Chad Mitchell Trio was the one group that would never take the stage again. Their schism was just too great.
They hadn’t spoken in twenty years.
Then came a call.
I will if he will.
Their mentor and music director Milt Okun worried the were making a mistake. They couldn’t possibly be as good as their fans remembered.
They were.
They kept their day jobs, and their distance. But once again, they had the music.
As their friend Tom Paxton noted, “Sometimes the only thing people have in common is musical talent. But if they have that one thing, they’d be fools not to use it.

We Never Knew Just What it Was …

We Never Knew Just What it Was ... The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio by [Mike Murphey, Mike Kobluk, Chad Mitchell, Tom Paxton]

We Never Knew Just What It Was: The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio by Mike Murphey is a stirring biography of the folk singing group written with help from Trio members Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell. It tells the candid story of the group’s early days in university and follows the trials and triumphs of their career through the 1960s to their contentious split. The story hangs on their unlikely reunion in 2007, which inspired Murphey – who was already a successful author – to write his first non-fiction book.

In his introduction, Murphey describes the book as “a story of missed opportunities, management mistakes, personal struggle, and sometimes bitter conflict.” It’s true that the group did experience these circumstances, and we can certainly see how those problems would have hampered their success. While there is little detail offered as to how the problems affected them as individuals readers will be moved by the early hopes and dreams of the singers and their dedication to their craft.

In his dedication to faithfully cataloging each step of the Trio’s career and each misfortune they faced, Murphey quickly summarizes the conflict. For example, in the early days, management was trying to cast Mitchell as the group leader with Kobluk and Frazier as backup singers and even set them up for their own television show on that basis. This had to have created the first stirrings of jealousy and resentment among the bandmates, but there is little reference to any hurt feelings. Rather, the details of discussions are delivered without indication of the individuals’ feelings. This focus on facts helps readers concentrate on the groups path through the business rather than get caught up in the melodrama. The characters of the singers are well documented, from the casually delinquent Mitchell to the quietly ambitious Kobluk and unassuming Frazier. Each one is interesting in their own right. I thought the reunion show forms the perfect coda to their career.

Author Mike Murphey writes from the perspective of a dedicated fan and delivers an interweaving life story through a complex business in an easy to understand and factual manner that will appeal to readers looking for a credible biography that does not stray from the subject matter.

Pages: 312 | ASIN: B098PPYXS9

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Through A Lot of Adversity

Mike Shields
Mike Shields Author Interview

Life of a Lounge Lizard is the insightful and authentic memoir of your life on the road as a musician and things you learned along the way. Why was this an important book for you to write?

The era of the cover band in America is pretty much forgotten now. But it was a way of life back in the mid-60s through mid-80s. For entertainment, people of all ages, (i.e. twenty-one to fiftyish), went out to a club, hotel, or restaurant to watch and dance to a band. This was before home theatres and VCR tape players and it was the perfect time to earn a living as a musician. Nowadays, unless you’re famous, you’re lucky to have a gig or two a week. You need a Real job!

I appreciated how candid you were. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

I did not want any person mentioned in the book to have their feelings hurt by my words. I wanted to be honest but not vindictive.

What were some ideas that were important for you to explore in this book?

In addition to the whole cover band phenomenon as stated above, I wanted to show the reader that you can reinvent yourself as you go through life. Keeping a positive attitude gets you through a lot of adversity.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?

I think everyone should write their own life story. Each of us have had many life-defining experiences that would make for a very interesting memoir. It’s very important to leave “Little Memories of You.”

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon Music | YouTube

You get only one shot to make it big, right? For Mike Shields, that just wasn’t true. Seeking adventure, this rock star wannabe and club performer followed the music wherever it led him. In his teens, he scribbled down his first song and teamed up with some amateur musicians to create a garage band, and from there, he took his life on the road, moving from one band and performance to the next.He has performed over many musical decades, changing band names and members along the way, while looking up to inspirations such as the Beatles and Jethro Tull. With his honest, humorous, and down-to-earth style, Shields offers a compelling account of landing gigs, finding love, and watching life take many unexpected turns, from meeting and playing with music legends to living through historic events such as the assassination of JFK. He invites you to share in the most profound moments of his career and personal life, illustrating how music has been the unifying passion that has pushed him forward and helped him recover from tragedy and heartbreak.

Simply Spiffin!

Simply Spiffin! by [Terry Tumbler]

Spiff Tracey is one in a million. Case by case, he takes on the world. Fortunately for the world, Spiff outlives everyone and everything around him. His ability to continue to thrive well into the future is matched by none. Spiff also remains unmatched in his ability to investigate and bring the guilty to justice. When he is tasked with something quite different from all of his other cases to date, Spiff feels he is just the man for the job. Nothing is too difficult and nothing too challenging for a man of his means and vast experience.

Simply Spiffin!, by Terry Tumbler, is the third installment of the Carousels of Life series. Spiff Tracey, the book’s main character is virtually ageless and manages to bring his brand of investigative genius into every decade and every major world event. This futuristic tale smacks of science fiction while at the same time offering humor and bits of intrigue and drama. There is nothing Tumbler hasn’t thought of in book three of this series, and for a third in the series, I feel it can stand alone well.

It is always a breath of fresh air to come across humor in a book otherwise steeped in drama. Tumbler’s books have all of that and more. The bigger-than-life characters are well-developed and stand out against a backdrop of what can sometimes be overwhelmingly technical elements. Each new character is a treasure in Tumbler’s writing. It is not often that readers find themselves just as enamored with the supporting characters, but Tumbler manages to achieve just that effect.

One of the most unique aspects of Tumbler’s writing is the inclusion of song lyrics. There is nothing quite like Tumbler’s work. Nowhere else will readers be able to find the words to their favorite classic tunes woven throughout a work of engaging science fiction. It’s a special blend of music and mayhem and, as odd as it may sound, a nice fit. It’s a technique that is present in each of the works I have read by Tumbler and always makes me look forward to the next one.

Tumbler has again handed readers a fantastic main character, a stand-out cast of supporting players, and a wonderful science fiction plot. Spiff Tracey, the private eye and world traveler, will invite readers in, but Tumbler’s unique brand of writing will keep them coming back for more.

Pages: 336 | ASIN:  B08Q9YKT6L

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The Paths That Light Us Up

Natasha Deen
Natasha Deen Author Interview

In the Key of Nira Ghani follows a young Guyanese girl who must balance her parents’ expectations and traditions while pursuing her own dreams. What was the inspiration for the setup to this heartwarming story?

The fun thing with being a writer is that we get to bring reality into fiction. The issue of balancing parental expectations with personal dreams is one (I think) a lot of us deal with—How do we choose the paths that light us up and at the same time, honor the elders that came before us?

There was a direct connection to the story idea, too. My parents really wanted me to be a lawyer (ha! I think it was because I was always arguing with them!), but law didn’t really do much for me.

We ended up compromising on psychology, and then I threw them for a curve when I decided to forgo my Master’s and head into writing. However, I was lucky and they were supportive!

Nira is a compelling character. What were some sources that informed her character development?

A lot Nira’s character creation came from the frustrations and joys I had growing up as well as the frustrations and joys my friends/family had growing up. I also pulled her personality from folks I met during school visits and library sessions.

That’s the thing I love about writing. We can find inspiration for characters and plots in our lives and from the world around us.

I felt like this story was authentic as well as compelling. Was there anything in this story from your own life?

Certainly Nira having to explain she’s from “Guyana not Ghana” and her being one of the only Kids of Color in her school was based on things that happened to me. And…it’s entirely possible the BBQ scene actually happened with my family. (Ha!)

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m really excited for the January 2021 release of my novel, Maria and the Plague: A Black Death Survival Story. It’s available for pre-order now and I hope readers will take heart and hope from Maria’s battle to survive the plague and protect her family.

Author Links: Twitter | Website | GoodReads

A Guyanese girl must find the balance between her parents’ “old world” expectations and traditions while pursuing her dream of being a great trumpeter in this contemporary, coming-of-age story, written by an #OwnVoices author.

Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira’s grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it’s now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion.

As if fighting with her parents weren’t bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie “Mac,” take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira’s much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily’s attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira’s trusted trumpet “George” remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama.

But it isn’t until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she’s not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible.

A relatable and timely contemporary, coming-of age story, In the Key of Nira Ghani explores the social and cultural struggles of a teen in an immigrant household.
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