Murder On Music Row
by Stuart Dill
John F. Blair, Publisher
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Veteran Nashville manager Stuart Dill’s sharp new novel, Murder On Music Row has more twists than a narrow country road. The plot revolves around a hired assassin, an international record company merger and fight for control of superstar, Ripley Graham’s new, but still undelivered album. The writing style is concise and the dialogue feels real. Dill’s day job has him currently managing artists such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Laura Bell Bundy and Jo Dee Messina.
Named checked in the book, but not included as characters are real life industry entities such as Erv Woolsey, Brian Mansfield, Pete Fisher, Tony Brown and Frank Liddell, plus artists such as Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Vince Gill and others. The locations range from Hillsboro Village to the Castle studios on Old Hillsboro Road to the superstar Ripley Graham’s mansion at the Governers Club in Brentwood. Elite Management, the company owned by Graham’s manager, Simon Stills, has offices in a high rise at the Music Row roundabout above Killen Cirlce.
One of the most insightful paragraphs of the book reveals Dill’s management sensibilities presented in terms of the 1776 book Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Manager Simon Stills tells intern Judd Nix one of the book’s two heros why he should be a manager.
“…Adam Smith explained why people’s jobs are so boring. They do the same thing over and over until they’re bored out of their minds. If you want to be a doctor, you can’t be just a doctor, you have to be a specialist. Every day you work in gastroenterology or hematology or oncology—there are no ordinary doctors anymore. Same deal with lawyers. They specialize in tax law or corporate law or divorce law. Same thing over and over until they’re bored to the point of heavy drinking. It’s also true in the music business. It’s a specialized industry. You’ve got your booking agent, publicist, business manager, record producer, music publisher, all doing the same thing day in and day out. But then you get to artist managers. We are the exception. We are the ones that say, ‘Adam Smith is dead!’ We don’t specialize in any one sector of the music industry. We master it all. We advise and counsel our clients on every aspect of their careers. We build a team of specialists around an artist and direct them all. Artist management as a profession is the only unrestricted, unrestrained, non-boring career in the modern world! That’s why you should strive to be an artist manager.”
The book seems tailor made to come alive on the silver screen except for the fact that Judd Nix and heroine Meagan Olsen, obviously kindling a love flame, never actually consummate the attraction. Perhaps that is is due to Dill’s strong religious background as evidenced in the acknowledgements, but never mind, the Hollywood screenplay writers should have no problem inserting that gratuitous detail.
Considering it’s Dill’s first novel, it’s a home run. Once you get to turning a few pages you’ll find yourself caught in the intrigue like the draft behind a fully-loaded 18 wheeler barreling down interstate I-65.