It felt like any other morning with a crisp, fresh vibe in the musty air. The dame had gone to work her dead-end job under the cover of the early morning darkness, stepping around the puddles which were the only signatures of the downpour the previous night.
Feeling the Autumnal chill, I slipped on some clothes and couldn't shake the thoughts that were in my head. There was an assignment that had to be tackled, that had to be shared with the world. An assignment like no other when compared to some of the jobs I'd had to chew on.
I sat down to write a review of a box set that initially spoke to me of pretention, but once I started to dig deeper revealed so much more. The box set was a collaborative package incorporating the varied talents of an author called Ian Rankin, an illustrator known as Timothy Truman and an actor that had paved a notable career and went by the name of Aidan Quinn.
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These three misfits were affiliated with a box set that came to my attention thanks to some publicity and an individual who will remain anonymous. The tip off was somehow concealed within the shadows of electronic mail, and it whispered to me.
I don't recall word for word what it said, but it contained a vague similarity along the lines of: "Gary, you're a no good waste of space who sits on his backside from morning to night. It's time for you to earn a pretty penny and wrap your eyes and ears around this collection."
They were right on a couple of accounts, and who was I to say no. I got bills to pay just like the next fella.
Thinking back to how it all started stirs something in me, something that I cannot put my finger on. I guess I should start at the beginning.
It was a few minutes after noon as I rubbed my chin, feeling the prickles of my stubble, when the phone rang. I quietly hoped that it might be a guardian angel ready to inform me of a plan to whisk me off to 'Kickback City' to check out what others called 'The Lie Factory' but instead I heard the soft lilt of an Irish accent. The voice belonged to Rory Gallagher's brother, Donal Gallagher.
He sounded like it was business as usual, and over the course of our conversation had a lot to say. After all, he had lived and grown up with a guitarist and vocalist who shook things up and did things his own way.
Rory Gallagher was known for initially making an impact via a band known as Taste, but from 1971 through to 1990 had successfully built up a body of consistently strong work that allowed him the luxury of impressing and touching many famous hearts as a solo artist.
The spell he cast reached such notable talents as Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers, Brian May and many, many others. Whether you stumbled across him through hearing a cover of his track 'Cradle Rock' by Joe Bonamassa for example, or you'd been there when the guitarist/vocalist was alive and performing emotive gigs, somehow this guy got under the skin.
"I knew my brother Rory was a great lover of crime books, and it was one of his hobbies and passions", began Gallagher's Brother as the story unfolded. He went on to fill me in on the work he was doing for an acoustic-based album by Rory and how during the mixing process the engineer informed him that the book he was reading was called 'A Question Of Blood' by Rankin. The protagonist in this book went by the name of Rebus and was a fan of Rory Gallagher.
"I thought about this idea of a crime novel", Donal advised when referring to talks with Sony about concepts and releases to do with Rory's back catalogue.
"Once I knew the record label were kind of interested in this crime idea then, I was going to Scotland, so I asked Ian if he would be kind enough to meet me and chat about the idea of; it was my son (Daniel Gallagher) actually said rather than get him to write the sleeve notes get him to write about something more specific."
With the concept of the crime theme sitting around for about two years, and with Donal accumulating around forty tracks that retained that sense of criminal character from the body of work that Rory had left behind, the plan was in motion.
"So I gave Ian these forty tracks like a jigsaw puzzle and said well actually, could you find a thread or a storyline through these songs?"
As it happens, Rankin completely got it and whilst this idea unravelled, another element to this intriguing story was taking place in the U.S.
A comic book called 'Grimjack' had an episode about a musician who carried a battered Stratocaster and resembled Rory Gallagher along with other subtle nods to the man.
"We made contact with the artist, a guy called Timothy Truman, who declared his love for Rory." Truman highlighted his general love of music and how he too played guitar and had worked on cover artwork for Grateful Dead amongst other things.
"I said, look I've got this idea. Ian Rankin's going to write the story, would you perhaps do some graphics for it?" enthused Donal as he reflected over the exchange of communications.
About a year or so went by as the process came together knitting the words of Rankin with the graphic design of Truman for the main character known as a Regan, the Private Investigator, or Agatha Dempsey, Kid Gloves and Anthony Costello amongst others. Donal then explained the thinking behind bringing in Quinn to provide a voice for Regan adding another dimension to the crime-themed concept.
"We had the story formed from Rory's lyrics and the graphics formed from Ian's writing so it had become quite elaborate by then; and actually thought well a lot of people who are, to make sure they would get it I felt that it needed almost an audio book because not everybody's you know, the greatest reader, and particularly crime plots can be a little bit entangled for people.
"So we approached Aidan Quinn because we wanted a voice with a good sort of American gang, detective accent if you like, that was non-descriptive, the 40s, 50s, whether it was Chicago, New York or L.A. or whatever."
I interrupt my recollections of that fateful conversation over the phone by taking a look at the hardcover book-like presentation of 'Kickback City', with Regan's image standing in the middle of the street. This was worthy of any top quality graphic novel I could have ever laid my hands on. Truman had done good; I couldn't dispute that.
As I leaf through the pages, there is the novella by Rankin which he titled 'The Lie Factory', the name for the city that Regan chooses to give it due to the criminal and illegal nature of how the city built its way up. Slipped in amongst the pages are pockets containing three CDs.
One is a studio-based compilation that showcases fourteen tracks from Rory's solo career that are appropriate to the story. A second CD is the remastered and audio version of the 'Live In Cork Opera House' film around the time of Rory's 1987 album 'Defender', with a third CD providing the audio book where Quinn does a fabulous job of putting a voice to Regan taking us through the story of 'The Lie Factory'.
If that wasn't sufficient, I then notice some postcards adding the cherry on top.
'Kickback City' is a lavish affair providing those who take the time to not only read a crime-based novella from the mind of Rankin, but also get to indulge the eyes with a feast of graphic novel proportioned imagery. The compilation of Rory's music is the inspiration behind the novella and had to be included, but what is a real treat for those Rory fans is the live CD which is a real bonus.
I'd spent several days going to and fro in my car with the third CD playing. Watching the road twist and turn to the soundtrack of Quinn's voice narrating the words that Rankin had set out for his novella. When I'd go back to the written material and read 'The Lie Factory', interestingly enough I heard Quinn's voice in my head. They were meant for each other.
Father and son team Donal and Daniel Gallagher haven't cut any corners making this box set a comprehensive and thrilling collection. I felt like this was real value for money and an interesting collaboration bringing together top names from different fields.
Would I dare visit 'Kickback City' and survive to tell my story? A scruffy urchin like me would be murdered in cold blood and buried without anyone noticing that I was gone. 'The Devil made me do it' I guess. I'm off to face those 'loanshark blues'.
So, on that thought, I'm off to dip in to this world that's all thanks to the initial works of Rory Gallagher, and then given a new lease of life by the ever-talented mind of Ian Rankin.
1. Kickback City
2. Continental Op
3. Kid Gloves
4. Big Guns
5. Loanshark Blues
6. Secret Agent
7. B Girl
8. Slumming Angel
9. Barley & Grape Rag
10. Doing Time
11. In Your Town
12. Sinner Boy
13. The Devil Made Me Do It
14. Seven Days
1. Continental Op
2. Tattoo'd Lady
3. I Ain't No Saint
4. Off The Handle
5. The Loop
6. Messin' With The Kid
7. Loanshark Blues
1. The Lie Factory – Narrated by Aidan Quinn