I first became aware of Willy Vlautin when I received a copy of his third novel, Lean on Pete, to review for LibraryThing. On reading the blurb I did wonder why I’d requested this book as a tale of a young boy and his horse hardly sounded like my sort of thing (I still shudder at the thought of the film The Horse Whisperer and the soft focus horse pictures my ex-flatmate hung around our lounge). But far from being sentimental claptrap, it was a Steinbeck-esque story of poverty, bad luck and bad choices.
From the Lean on Pete blurb (more helpfully this time) I discovered that Vlautin is something of a renaissance man as he is also a musician. He fronts an alt-country band, Richmond Fontaine and since I’m partial to a little bit of alt (and some not-so alt) country music, I downloaded one of their albums. His song lyrics tell stories similar to his books – more tales of woe and the American dram turned sour, but set to some great tunes. I’ve since bought another and I’m tempted to buy more (they have quite a back catalogue). The album Post to Wire has been my listening choice recently and Richmond Fontaine find themselves being in the unique position of being the only band that still exist that I listen to at the moment.
Whilst in San Francisco, I bought his first two books. I read The Motel Life immediately and loved it. I’ve been saving the second Northline because once I’ve read it, I won’t have any more of his books to read. It even comes with its own CD of music, which I’m looking forward to almost as much as the book.