Seated in folding chairs in the back of Broadway Books, we must have been a smaller audience than any the Drive-By Truckers have played to in twenty-five years. But frontman Patterson Hood was feeling nervous. Tuesday evening was his first literary reading—he recently published the story, “Whipperwill and Back,” in The Highway Kind: Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers, and Dark Roads.
The book is a collection of crime fiction involving cars. Part of a long-touring band, Patterson Hood knows the road. The Highway Kind also includes a piece by George Pelecanos, writer/producer of HBO’s The Wire. So yeah, this is a pretty sweet first foray into published fiction for Patterson. Willy Vlautinn, local novelist and singer-songwriter of Richmond Fontaine fame, also read from a story he contributed to the anthology.
Patterson grew up in Alabama across the river from Muscle Shoals, son of the bassist at the historic studio’s rhythm section. Patterson’s writing often circles back to the characters he grew up around. His story sheds a sympathetic light on a couple of petty criminals, buddies who rank Thin Lizzy and drugs above most everything else. He said, “There’s a good bit about Charlie—the guy driving the car—that comes from someone I knew back when I was a teenager.” Hood began writing songs at the age of eight, but didn’t consider performing them himself until a revelatory teenage encounter with The Replacements. He felt a surge of confidence in the potential of slacker guitarists, triggering a series of events that ultimately birthed the Drive-By Truckers.
Hood and his wife decided to move their family from Athens, Georgia to Portland a year and a half ago. Reflecting on the move, Hood said, “Getting us all settled has been difficult. It’s hard moving your family cross-country, probably harder than I’d realized or else I might not’ve done it. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know.”
Asked about the biggest changes in his day-to-day life, he said:
It’s culturally pretty different. I’m a lifelong liberal, so it’s kind of nice not being in the oppressed minority. I’m also outdoors a lot more–I bought a bike. Where I lived before, if you rode your bike down the street rednecks would run you over with their truck. Whereas up here they kind of get out of your way.
It would be awfully ironic if Patterson Hood was killed in a drive-by truck murder–even more so considering the theme of The Highway Kind, but we’re glad he’s biking and writing in relative safety.
Read more about the The Highway Kind from Mulholland Press here.