Past and Present

by Sheila Connolly

It’s the first Monday of a new year, so here’s my kick-off for the year.

While our daughter was home for Christmas, we watched the 2013 movie Inside Llewyn Davis. I remember reading reviews of it when it came out, but somehow we never think about going to movies, or even watching movies at home (and my husband has a tendency to fall asleep in his chair after the first hour or so anyway). Not that choosing a movie for three people with very different tastes is easy. I think we looked at everything that On Demand offered, and by the time we’d read all the titles, we couldn’t remember what had sounded good when we started.

Finally -we settled on Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by the Coen brothers. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s about a musician in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, back when the folk movement was just picking up steam. I lived in suburban New Jersey back then, so I’d hear about that scene occasionally, but I was too young to venture into New York on my own, at least until I turned 18. (Okay, I was too chicken to even try.) But I knew about it—among my school friends, it was always pronounced reverently: The Village.

Anyway, whether by design or by coincidence, the movie turned out to kind of mirror our daughter’s current gypsy lifestyle, if you substitute theater for music. I don’t know if she knew that when we chose it, but she didn’t disagree, and we all enjoyed the movie.

A week later, I was driving along Route 44 from Plymouth. Driving alone in the car is about the only time I get to listen to “old” music, and believe me, I sing along. I decided on Peter, Paul and Mary’s album, A Song Will Rise. (Confession: I have every album they ever made, bought new, up through  Peter, Paul and Mommy, and I’ve purchased several of the earlier ones on CD for the car. Yes, I still have a turntable so I can play the records.) The album was released in 1965. Yikes, that’s fifty years ago. Way to feel old fast!

PPM A Song Will Rise

One of the songs on that album is “Wasn’t That a Time,” and I’ve heard it a few thousand times. But this time one line stood out to me:

“There is no freedom in a land/Where fear and hate prevail.”

Pete Seeger

Okay, a brief history of the song: it was written by Lee Hayes and Walter Lowenfels, in 1948, at the height of the Cold War. Hayes and Pete Seeger were both members of the singing group The Weavers, and Seeger made it one of his signature songs. He and Hayes were both forced to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, as suspected Communists. The original lyrics for that stanza went:

“There is no victory in a land/Where free men go to jail.”

Someone changed the lyrics along the way—I have no idea who. But the point is that Peter, Paul and Mary chose to use a modified version, which they released in the midst of the Vietnam War.

Maybe they were thinking about Vietnam when they recorded that song, but their version still rings true today. Look at us now. People—ordinary citizens—are buying guns because they’re afraid that they’ll find terrorists at their door or their school or their mall. Large blocks of our population want to ban immigrants from our borders. I keep yelling at the debates and commercials I see on television, “but we were all immigrants once!” My grandfather came from Ireland in 1911. He arrived in New York, got a job, worked hard, married, bought a house, had kids, and lived a respectable life. Should I point out that there were plenty of “terrorists” in Ireland at that time? Should the authorities have turned him away?

Why should we, one of the most powerful and successful nations in the world, believe we are threatened in our homes? Or on a city street? (And why at the same time are towns and cities cutting police forces because they can’t afford to pay them, and the voters don’t want to see their taxes go up to cover the cost? But that’s another story.)

It makes me sad. It’s why I like to spend time in Ireland, particularly West Cork, where the crime rate is very low, and where even the police don’t carry guns (unlike in Northern Ireland). And I think it explains why we at Wicked Cozy Authors choose to write cozies. There are plenty of suspense and thriller writers who are very talented—and very successful. I admire them. But I find more and more I don’t want to read their books, even though I’m pretty sure the main character will live to fight another day—after leaving a trail of carnage behind. Who needs the anxiety and stress? Yes, there are deaths in cozies, but we write about ordinary people who seek and usually find justice. And cozies sell because our readers want to believe in small safe communities where people care about each other, and care about doing the right thing. I’d like to think such places do exist.

It should be an interesting year.

And nCover A Turn for the Badow the pitch: A Turn for the Bad, the fourth book in the County Cork Mystery series, will be released February 2nd.  It’s about high-dollar (or euro) international smuggling (surprised?), but it’s also about people helping each other, at their own risk, because the people–friends and relatives–matter.