#22 – “Jefferson Had An Airplane?”

Or, “What Does Jefferson’s Airplane have to do with it?”

26 Pickup—The Half Ton

I will add to the question about the music in Craig’s books. In The Western Star, Grace Slick makes an appearance. Music is obviously important to Craig. When you add certain songs/characters to your books is it a spur of the moment decision or planned in advance?

-Tim Sager

Hi Tim,

I’m not very good at the seat of the pants thing, simply because I tend to get things wrong. Whenever I’m putting real people in my books, I try to make sure that I’ve done my research and get the facts straight, otherwise it ruins the believability of the book for the reader and annoys the real people. 

In the book you mention, I originally had Walt being picked up by a truck driver, but that didn’t really assist in informing the reader that this was the sixties (early seventies, but basically the same thing). I immediately thought of the music of the period, which is a sure-fire shortcut to getting the reader there. So, I thought that if I could get Walt picked up by a rock band that might be something different and give me a number of opportunities to not only advance the period, but the characters as well.

First of all it had to be a band or an artist that was touring not only that year but at that period of time, and believe it or not it was a little difficult to come up with one… Bob Dylan was touring, but he wasn’t anywhere near Wyoming at the time thatthe book took place–then I discovered that Jefferson Airplane had done a concert in Central Park in New York and at that time would’ve been on their bus on their way back to San Francisco. Well, the direct course would’ve had them coming through Wyoming at just the right time.

I have a good friend out in California who was a Federal Judge and is an enormous fan of Bob Dylan, as a matter of fact I used him as a character in The Western Star… Anyway, I knew he’d be disappointed if I didn’t gerrymander Dylan, but because Walt always seems to bloom in the company of women, I decided on Grace Slick.

​You have to be careful when you put celebrities in your books in that no matter who they are, you need to treat them with respect. I really enjoyed writing a genuine Rock legend into the book and I think the sequence poses a number of questions. What if Walt had taken Grace up on her invitation to stay on the bus and continue on to San Francisco in the late sixties/early seventies? What would his life had been like? Would he have pursued a career in music, instead?

​I think it was fun to include one of those moments that are crossroads in your life, where one small decision would’ve set your life in a completely different trajectory. 

I like to think that I did a good job in portraying Grace in the book and after it came out, I received a package in the mail, and it was my book. I remember being puzzled by it and wondered why somebody would mail me back a copy of The Western Star?

​The mystery was solved when I opened it to the title page where Grace Slick had not only signed it, but informed me that in no uncertain terms, she would’ve gotten Walt to stay on that bus…I believe her.

See you on the trail,

Craig

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