I had a hard time thinking of a playlist for Gun Dealers' Daughter because the novel was music-deaf: the novel was about words, books, graffiti. Sol, the heroine, is in love with words, using language to get hold of her elusive past. But I had forgotten a primal scene, the image that had sparked the novel—the mourning of the death of John Lennon in 1980 by young radicals in Manila. I ended up burying that scene in revision—it was too didactic. But musical trauma was, in fact, central to the novel. December 7, 1980, to be exact (December 8 in New York). When Denise, my editor, asked me to create a dateline, I realize I had framed the novel's tragedy around the date of John Lennon's death.
In a way, I wanted to capture that odd confluence of commercial veneration and commie heartache that was the weird detritus of the death of John Lennon in 1980 in Manila—that weird moment of genuine heartbreak among the commies was an emblem to me of the implausible idealism of our times.