Playlist: An introduction to John Q by Jeff Gulvin

The following Spotify playlist is an introduction to Texas Ranger John Quarrie. It’s a guide to the music that inspired the development of The Contract – a New Orleans-based novel written in memory of my great friend ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ detective, Gary Hirstius. Gary was a native of New Orleans and a good friend of Helen Mirren and her husband Taylor Hackford. There are three of his songs on the list.


  • John Mayer — ‘Badge & Gun’. When I first heard this, it summed up the feeling I get when I write John Q – Texas, the landscape, a Ranger.


  • Gary Hirstius — ‘Long Shot’. I met this guy in 1998 at Levon Helms Club on Decatur Street. He was playing this song as his beautiful girlfriend Julie looked on through what I thought were opera glasses. Later he told me she was 80 per cent blind.


  • Lizzie Miles — A’ Good Man is Hard to Find’. Lizzie was from the 7th Ward and a hell of a blues singer. You’ll find her referred to in the novel and this is one of my favourite songs.


  • John Lee Hooker — ‘Boom, Boom, Boom’. The king of blues for me. That beat – it’s in the sweat-soaked air every time I land at Louis Armstrong Airport.


  • Etta James — ‘I’d rather go blind’. A rundown 1960s roadhouse in the 7th Ward and Etta’s unmistakeable tone as John Q walks in looking for Gigi Matisse.


  • The Four Tops — ‘Reach out’. As Etta’s song ends we hear the Four Tops and the Ranger has found his quarry.


  • Marvin Gaye — ‘Can I get a witness’. Late in the novel one of the bad guys watches John Q from his car while Marvin Gaye is on the radio. A title like this – it was the perfect song.


  • Gary Hirstius — ‘Fine Line’. Gary and I were in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and another New Orleans stalwart – Coco Robichaux, was playing. When he took a break, Coco handed Gary his guitar and this is what he was playing.


  • Reckless Kelly — ‘She sings the Red River Valley’. Nobody sings this quite like Reckless Kelly. Originally from Stanley, Idaho, they’ve been in Austin, Texas since 1996. Check out their version of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning’.


  • Gary Hirstius — ‘Always have, always will’. One of the best love songs I’ve ever heard. I listened to this when I was writing the family aspects of the novel as John Q cherishes his wife’s memory.