Reading The Shining Girls sends us careening through the twentieth century as we chase Harper, a time-traveling killer, from one era of Chicago to the next. Whenever we land, Lauren Beukes crafts a richly atmospheric scene, accurate right down to the music. Below, Beukes walks us through some of the songs mentioned in The Shining Girls. You can listen to all the songs above in the Spotify player.
“Somebody from Somewhere” by George and Ira Gershwin (1931)
It’s the sweet Gershwin showtune the violent drifter Harper hears as he staggers through the city streets, led by the flickering street lights to the House which will change everything. The lyrics are particularly resonant to the shining girls he will track down and kill “somebody from somewhere, for nobody but me.”
“Pistol Packing Momma” by Al Dexter (1943)
Along with Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, Al Dexter is one of the albums on heavy rotation playing over the speakers at the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company as welder Zora Ellis Jordan heads home for the day in 1943, thinking about troublesome young Blanche who says she’s in love with her.
“Get It While You Can” by Janis Joplin (1971)
Off the album Pearl, which pioneering music pirate and abortionist Margo Cooper recorded onto an early tape deck in Jane’s living room in 1972. It becomes the theme song for Julia Madrigal’s boyfriend after she’s murdered in 1984. He sees it as a provocation to seize the day, but he grabs on to all the wrong things.
“A Sunday Kind of Love” by Ella Fitzgerald (1947)
Alice Templeton has never recovered from the shock of love-at-first-sight with the intense stranger with the limp at the State Fair in 1940. She’s spent the last ten years daydreaming about being reunited with him in scenarios influenced by the movies. She wants to find the kind of love that lasts past Saturday night. But when Harper does come for her, finally, it’s not what she expected at all.
“All That She Wants (Is Another Baby)” by Ace of Bace (1993)
It’s the song biologist Mysha Pathan is rocking out to late one night in her lab at Milkwood Pharmaceuticals, singing along so loud that she doesn’t hear the man in the dark sports coat come in behind her.