James Taylor as a Villian?

Vicki Doudera here, pondering the answer my daughter gave me just moments ago when I asked her what I should write about for this post.

“Blog about the James Taylor concert,” she suggested. That would be Sunday night’s soiree at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. A big contingent of us from Camden-Rockport headed down the coast to see the legendary crooner, meeting first at a friend’s roof deck in the West End for drinks and potluck before walking to the show.

It was a beautiful evening to go up on a roof, whether this old world had started getting you down or not, but truthfully I don’t think we were expecting too much from the concert. After all, many of us — including me — had seen James Taylor several times before, but it had been decades, and we figured that in the intervening years the singer would have lost some of his musical prowess. (While we, ironically, had all gained in talent, of course.)

Instead, he was a steamroller, baby — rolling all over us with the clear, strong tones everyone remembered. The songs were a nice mix of old and new, the venue, much more intimate than you would think, and the crowd appreciative and, in true Maine fashion, friendly. In short, the show was terrific.

But I digress.

Because two days before seeing JT, I stopped in to Rockland’s Salvation Army store and spotted a book from 1986 called Writing the Modern Mystery, by Barbara Norville. I bought it, and have been reading snatches of it now and then. Today, a piece of advice from Chapter 2 (The Realm of Ideas: Sinister Intentions) caught my eye:

You must develop a jaundiced view of other human beings, and look for the worst in them.

Sure, this works perfectly well for street thugs, greedy stockbrokers, or even obnoxious real estate clients, but what about Sweet Baby James? Can we really gaze upon that guileless smiling face, and, instead of smiling ourselves, see… evil?

It’s not easy. Yes, he’s fought his demons in the form of drug and alcohol addictions, divorced a couple of wives, and recorded a few unpopular songs, but those things don’t make him a crook.

Even the sinister photograph at left in which he truly resembles a James Bond Super Villian (Add a weeping “tell” and you’ve got Le Chiffre; photoshop in a cat and – presto – it’s Blofeld!) can’t make me imagine JT as a bad guy.  Can you?

But a gangly superstar musician with a mellow voice dredged up from the depths of my imagination? Now that guy’s pure mean. He might have garrotted a a greedy agent with guitar string, or shoved a too-talented backup singer down a set of steep stairs. He’s a ruthless, heartless, fiend — a product of my creative gray cells, and a villian for sure.

Who doesn’t love this process? Playing God — or, as Barbara Norville describes it, Dr. Frankenstein — is what makes writing fiction such fun.

Who is the most unlikely character you recall being a villian? A babysitter? The minister? A handyman?

A handyman… that makes me think of a song…





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12 Responses to James Taylor as a Villian?

  1. John Clark says:

    Interesting question. One of my villains (albeit an unwilling one) is a planet called Senbec which was deliberately infected with an illness and as a result creates monster storms that devastate the landscape and many of the citizens.

    • John, with some of the weather we’ve had, it’s not too difficult to imagine Senbec! BTW, that wouldn’t be a derivation of “Sennebec,” now would it?

  2. John Clark says:

    Sure would. In my fantasy series, I use a lot of the family farm and the town which has become Simonton.

    • I can remember being in your mom’s Union kitchen and hearing her talk about you, John… she was so proud of you and Kate. And she was very kind to newbie writers like me.

  3. Barbara Ross says:

    I was having lunch with a friend in Chestnut Hill, MA this spring and she said, “I think that’s James Taylor sitting behind you.” It was.

    I said, “If I told you 40 years ago that 40 years hence we’d be having lunch ten feet from James Taylor, would you have assumed our lives had been much cooler than they actually were?”

  4. Barb Goffman says:

    Okay, I don’t have anything thrilling to say about villains right now, but I have to say how much I love James Taylor and how jealous I am that you got to see Sweet Baby James in person. Just thinking about his songs makes me feel calmer. Ahhh.

  5. Lois Winston says:

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, Vicki! The first concert I ever attended was James Taylor at the Spectrum in Phila. Carol King was the opening act. Oh, what a night! (to steal from The Four Seasons.)

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