March 7, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Postcards from Fred

On my birthday in 2013, as we made a dinner of the lovely happy hour specials at Jack Allen's Kitchen, (bacon-wrapped Texas quail, barbacoa stackers, and smashed guacamole with pumpkin seeds), The Woman and I celebrated the pending release of Endless Vacation. Releasing a novel into the wild is a significant effort and requires acknowledgement via suitable celebrations.

As I told her of my plan to write and release Open Season by October 1, she looked on with unmitigated horror. First off, I have generally taken a year per book, sometimes longer, and she was imagining the state of the household if I tried to do a book from scratch in six months. Second, this was a completely new project in a completely new style, a risk from both creatively and in terms of branding. Third, and probably most important to The Woman, she wanted another Fred book.

And of course, she was not alone in this desire. Many fans had importuned me for an addition to the canon.

The problem was that when Escape from Fred released in 2006, I meant it as the final word on the subject and had no intention of returning to Fred, at least literarily. However, The Woman can be most persuasive, especially during the Jack Allen happy hour specials, and she pulled a zinger out of her bag of tricks.

"What about the postcards?" she asked.

"The postcards?" I replied with a certain sense of incredulity that she would drag out this old chestnut. "We've hashed this out many times. There is just no way to market the postcards."

"But what if you use them in a Fred story?"

Perhaps I should back up and explain. In 1996 I was working 60-hour weeks at three different jobs and still not making ends meet. Then I got a call from out of the blue. A recruiting company from California had seen my resume on the internet (yes, I had my resume on the internet twenty years ago) and offered me a single 40-hour/week job at twice my annual income.

Of course there was a catch. It was limited to a one-year contract and it was in a town 1,000 miles away. I would have to quit my current job, all three of them, and move to another state. At the time my kids were in high school: one a freshman, one a senior. I told the guy it was a tempting offer but I couldn't leave my wife behind to face two teenagers alone for a year. Then I called The Woman and next thing I was packing a suitcase to live as a bachelor for a year.

A month into the gig, reality began to set in for The Woman and I knew I had to do something drastic to keep her out of the psych ward. So I went to the post office, bought a jumbo pack of blank, pre-stamped postcards, and sent her one a day for the rest of the year.

Yes, I sent one postcard every day the mail was delivered for eleven months. Two hundred sixty four cards. Two-hundred sixty four blank cards I had to fill up with something. I started off with the sexy quotes from the Song of Solomon and such, but eventually I ran out of verses and had to create new content. I wrote in my apartment. I wrote in restaurants. I wrote in bars listening to jazz or blues. I wrote on the plane traveling for my monthly weekend home.

The last one arrived in the mail the day after I moved back to Texas. The Woman slid it into the album she had acquired for the purpose and at last she had the full set.

Yes, those postcards. They were the ones of which she spoke, attempting to seduce me into writing another Fred book. I cogitated on it for a while and came up with a plan. What if I wrote a series of short stories in which Mark Cloud solved the relationship problems of himself and others by ghostwriting postcards? It could work. And I'd wanted to write some short stories anyway.

So I mixed up my first-draft magic potion, went out on the deck, set the iPod to play Led Zeppelin I-IV over and over, and began. When I hit 20,000 words I realized I was out of short story territory and decided it would be a novella. When I hit 40,000 words I realized that I wasn't going to achieve my dream of writing short stories, or even novellas. All I needed was another 30-35K words and I’d have a novel. And so it was.

I used many of the original cards written back in the nineties, and also wrote new poems as the plot required. And it turned out to be the best Fred book ever. Of course, given I wrote it ten years after the first Fred book came out, it would have been unfortunate if it was the worst Fred book ever. I mean, I’d like to think I've learned a few more things about writing novels in the last ten years.

So, there you go. That’s the story of how, after seven years, the fourth Fred book came to be. And also the story of the postcards.

By the way, if you sign up for the BradNotes newsletter and send me an email with your snail-mail address, I'll send you an actual postcard postmarked from Fred. What's not to like?

March 2, 2014

On Religious Bullies

Not long ago a stranger sent me this email, which I have anonymized as a courtesy to the sender. These things happen when you have the nerve to publish and make your thoughts available to the world.
Hello Brad,
This is R—. I have a brother named Brad so the name is familiar and I feel like I know you somewhat.
I recently ordered your book from Amazon, “What would Jesus drink?” I have read it.
Before I read it, as well as after, I looked at the outside of the book. and wondered why a Christian, a born-again believer, would be identifying himself with Jack Kerrouac [sic] and James Taylor. I was raised in Californina [sic], was a ¨hippie¨, a beach bum, etc. and am familiar with these men as well as others. I am 67 years old and a Vietnam veteran etc. Not a big deal, just experience I suppose.
I do want to say that if and since you are consuming alcohol you are participating in what this world system loves, adores, and even worships. Are you participating in what the world system produces on a grand, no immense scale and which, as first mention in the scriptures, the shame of Noah and one of his sons and their generations to come. First mention is very important as you surely well know.
Question for you Brad. Are you a member of a local independent church that is non-sacramental, and believes the Bible. By that I mean, not an Episcopal church, (I was raised Episcopal), nor Catholic, nor Luthern [sic] etc. Just wondering.
Thanks for reading this .
R— B—
Missionary to [a place]
Although, as I readily admit in the book, I make no claim to be a Bible scholar, it was because of messages like this one, often delivered through sermons from the pulpit, that back in 1996 I sat down to do the research on this topic, much in the spirit of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who examined the scriptures to see if what Paul had preached to them was true. As a protestant, I am of the opinion that every believer can, and should, go directly to the source rather than be forced to rely on some religious hierarchy to tell them what to think.

I undertook this project not to defend a preconceived position but to find out what the Bible really said about alcohol. And I was fully ready and willing to accept whatever I found, pro or con, and live by it.

To that end, I ferreted out all 247 verses in the Bible that mention wine and strong drink and read them in context to make sure I understood what was actually being said. Up to that point I had heard many opinions on all sides of the issue, but I was not satisfied with hearsay. I spent several months reading and compiling the results.

The truth is that I had a sneaking suspicion that, despite appeals to scripture on both sides, much of what I heard was not scriptural but man’s opinion and personal experience. Based on my findings, I wrote an essay that found a wide audience on the internet, and in 2011 I expanded the essay to a short book called “What Would Jesus Drink?” It’s a quick read because I wrote it for regular Joes like me, not for theologians.

Despite my suspicions, I was surprised at the overwhelming clarity of the message I discovered. I won’t rewrite the whole book here because this post is not so much about what the Bible says about alcohol as it is about something else that has been around for a long time and that has been more at the forefront of my awareness since 2011. That thing is religious bullying.

While I have no doubt that the author of the email is completely sincere and believes that he approached me with the purest of motives, his email evidences several tactics of the religious bully. A natural-born manipulator will use them, probably without realizing it much of the time.

Perhaps I should first define what I mean by a religious bully.

A religious bully engages a person, whether in his/her local fellowship or a complete stranger, to attempt to enforce a personal view upon this person, all under the guise of spiritual maturity.

The engagement is not an attempt to come to a broader view of what the Bible says, not to understand the view of the other person, but rather to impose the view of the bully on the other person. And in most cases, this view is in reference to some peripheral, subjective opinion that is not part of the essential elements of Christianity. (Rather than define what those elements might be, I refer you to Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis or Classic Christianity by Bob George or, for those who want the reader’s digest version, the Nicene Creed.)

With that in mind, let’s take a look at this email from R.B. First, he starts off by asserting that because I share a name with a member of his family, he somehow feels like he knows me. As if a relative of Charles Spurgeon might feel like he knew Charles Manson. Somewhat, at least. We’re only one sentence in and already words fail me in my attempts to point out the absurdity of that claim.

Next we get the “guilt by association” argument, as he is evidently at a loss to explain why I, a writer, would mention that I share a birthday with two highly talented and successful writers of the twentieth century. Instead he implies that because they were “hippies,” or in the case of Kerouac, the seminal beat writer who popularized the term, their ungodly ways disqualify them as a reference point for a writer who is a Christian. Notice that so far he is working in the realm of inference and implication, not scriptural authority. This is a classic tactic of a bully, whether religious or otherwise.

Then he plays the Vietnam vet card and as quickly discounts it. If it really is irrelevant, why mention it? Another bully tactic, to create the impression of authority via specious credentials.

Next, another guilt-by-association salvo, equating a glass of wine with endorsing the “world system.” This is actually two-for-one because he uses that nice evangelical code word, the “world system.” Very handy, that one. A nice catchall for whatever one wants to demonize.

Then he plays the “first mention” card, which “is very important as you surely well know.” Quite to the contrary, not only do I not “surely well know” that it is important, the law of first mention is an arbitrary and entirely unreliable “law” or “rule” of hermeneutics, as a little study and common sense tells us. And if that isn't enough, a simple search will provide ample evidence to the contrary. But it does come in handy for lending a veneer of authority to a pet position.

Finally, R.B. poses a leading question in the hopes that I will answer. The thing is, no matter how I answer, he will have a ready argument with which to beat me down. Because R.B. is not looking for a true dialog. He’s not wanting to understand and consider the validity my conclusions based on research. Since he told me he has read the book, he already knows my conclusions. So why is he emailing me?

What R.B. wants is to intimidate and browbeat me into submission, to enforce upon me his personal view on a non-essential, peripheral detail of doctrine. He’s made that very clear in every sentence of the unsolicited email he sent to me, a total stranger.

R.B. isn't seeking to understand my perspective, to find out what I think and why.

The reality is that he doesn't care what I think about this topic. And the reverse is also true. I don’t care what R.B. thinks about this topic. However, our reasons are quite different.

R.B. doesn't care what I think because, in his view, what I think is wrong if it is different from what he thinks, and he can’t let that difference stand. He’s zealous enough to engage me, a complete stranger, in an attempt to intimidate me into changing my mind.

And I don’t care what R.B. thinks because a position on alcohol is not a core element of the gospel. I’m perfectly content to let R.B. think whatever he wants to think about it without condemning him as “participating in . . . this world system” or trying to coerce him into recanting his position and adopting mine. (I also don’t go around trying to turn vegans into carnivores.)

If R.B. wants to abstain, I heartily support him in that view. Just as long as he doesn't pretend that he has any scriptural authority to enforce his view on others. The truth is that, according to scripture, the fact that he sees sin where scripture does not places him closer to the weak-in-faith end of the spectrum than to the strong-in-faith end. Where’s the authority in that?

What I am not fine with is R.B., or anyone else, attempting to bully people into conformity to his legalistic rules about whatever non-essential matters of faith he has decided we all need to submit to.

And that’s why I wrote “What Would Jesus Drink?” Not because I think everyone should start drinking wine, but because everyone should make up their own minds on the subject based on the actual scriptures, and let others come to their own conclusions without mounting a crusade to convert them to another view.

Jesus opposed the religious bullies of his day, and only went along with their nonsense when it coincided with the plan of the gospel.

If you’re going to submit to something, submit to scripture, not to bullies.

March 1, 2014

Harry Bosch

Turns out Amazon Instant Video has finally released the pilot of Bosch, a proposed serial with Michael Connelly's fingerprints all over it.You should go watch it, and then rate it highly so we can see more.

In celebration, I provide an index of all the Connelly books that I have reviewed in the past. The first few are brief, but as I go along I wax more poetic.

Harry Bosch novels

The Black Echo
The Black Ice
The Concrete Blonde
The Last Coyote
Trunk Music
Angel's Flight
A Darkness More than Night
City of Bones
Lost Light
The Narrows
The Closers
Echo Park
The Overlook
The Brass Verdict
9 Dragons
The Reversal

Other novels

The Poet
Blood Work
Void Moon
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Scarecrow
The Fifth Witness

February 24, 2014

Wodehouse Quotes

  1. I was feeling like a badly wrapped brown-paper parcel.
  2. She was rather like one of those innocent-tasting American drinks which creep imperceptibly into your system so that, before you know what you're doing, you're starting out to reform the world by force if necessary and pausing on your way to tell the large man in the corner that, if he looks at you like that, you will knock his head off.
  3. I was so darned sorry for poor old Corky that I hadn't the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself.
  4. She fitted into my biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season.
  5. Lady Malvern tried to freeze him with a look, but you can't do that sort of thing to Jeeves. He is look-proof.
  6. [Regarding to Jeeves objecting to his moustache.] It seemed to me that it was getting a bit too thick if he was going to edit my face as well as my costume.
  7. I’m not much of a ladies’ man, but on this particular morning it seemed to me that what I really wanted was some charming girl to buzz up and ask me to save her from assassins or something.
  8. He lugged them out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of the salad.
  9. . . . he always looked like something that had been dug up by the roots.
  10. Something bumped into the Wooster waistcoat just around the third button, and I collapsed on to the settee and rather lost interest in things for the moment.
  11. I knew that young Bingo, when in form, could fall in love with practically anything of the other sex; but this time I couldn’t see any excuse for him at all.
  12. On the occasions when Aunt is calling to Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps . . .
  13. I was feeling more or less like something the Pure Food Committee had rejected.
  14. It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
  15. He got after me with a hunting crop just at the moment when I was beginning to realize that what I wanted most on earth was solitude and repose, and chased me more than a mile across difficult country.
  16. It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear its throat a mile away.
  17. He came in looking as if nothing had happened or was ever going to happen.
  18. “But lots of folks have asked me who my tailor is.” “Doubtless to avoid him, sir.”
  19. I have never been in the West Indies but I am in the position to state that in certain of the fundamentals of life they are streets ahead of our European civilization. The man behind the counter, as kindly a bloke as I ever wish to meet, seemed to guess our requirements the moment we hove in view. Scarcely had our elbows touched the wood before he was leaping to and fro, bringing down a new bottle with each leap. A planter, apparently, does not consider he has had a drink unless it contains at least seven ingredients, and I’m not saying, mind you, that he isn’t right. The man behind the bar told us the things were called Green Swizzles, and, if I ever marry and have a son, Green Swizzle Wooster is the name that will go down on the register, in memory of the day his father’s life was saved at Wembley.
  20. “We must think, sir.” “You think. I haven’t the machinery.”
  21. It is a nasty thing to see this bald and bushy bloke advancing on you when you haven’t prepared the strategic railroads in your rear.
  22. “I fear,” Jeeves sighed, “that when it comes to a matter of cooks, ladies have but a rudimentary sense of morality.”
  23. “I had no idea young girls were such demons.” “More deadly than the male, sir.”
  24. For when it is a question of a pal being in the soup, we Woosters no longer think of self; that poor old Bingo was knee-deep in the bisque was made plain by his mere appearance – which was that of a cat which has just bee struck by a half-brick and is expecting another shortly.
  25. “Unless right-thinking people take strong steps through the proper channels, my name will be mud.”
  26. The going was sticky and took about eight and elevenpence off the value of my Sure-Grip tennis shoes in the first two yards.
  27. There was a hissing noise like a tyre bursting in a nest of cobras.
  28. The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say ‘When!’
  29. I didn’t like his collar, and Jeeves would have had a thing or two to say about the sit of his trousers; but nevertheless, he was authoritative.
  30. He withdrew, leaving a gap in the atmosphere about ten feet by six.
  31. Now, setting a booby-trap for a respectable citizen like a head master (even of an inferior school to your own) is not a matter to be approached lightly and without careful preparation. I don’t suppose I’ve ever selected a lunch with more thought than I did that day. And after a nicely-balanced meal, preceded by a couple of dry Martinis, washed down with a half a bot. of nice light, dry champagne, and followed by a spot of brandy, I could have set a booby-trap for a bishop.
  32. . . . a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rock-bound coast.
  33. . . . rather like when you take one of those express elevators in New York at the top of the building and discover, on reaching the twenty-seventh floor, that you have carelessly left all your insides up on the thirty-second, and it’s too late now to stop and fetch them back.
  34. In one second, without any previous training or upbringing, he had become the wettest man in Worcestershire.
  35. The brow was furrowed, the eye lacked that hearty sparkle, and the general bearing and demeanour were those of a body discovered after being several days in the water.
  36. One of the first lessons life teaches us is that on these occasions of back-chat between the delicately-nurtured a man should retire into the offing, curl up in a ball, and imitate the prudent tactics of the opossum, which, when danger is in the air, pretends to be dead, frequently going to the length of hanging out crepe and instructing its friends to stand round and say what a pity it all is.
  37. I sauntered along the passage, whistling carelessly, and there on the mat was Aunt Agatha. Herself. Not a picture.
  38. “Remember what the poet Shakespeare said, Jeeves.” “What was that, sir?” “’Exit hurriedly, pursued by bear.’ You’ll find it in one of his plays. I remember drawing a picture of it on the side of the page, when I was at school.”
  39. He was so crusted with alluvial deposits that one realized how little a mere bath would ever be able to effect. To fit him to take his place once more in polite society, he would certainly have to be sent to the cleaner’s. Indeed, it was a moot point whether it wouldn’t be simpler just to throw him away.
  40. My Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth . . .
  41. “I follow you, yes,” I said, a little dubiously. “What you have in mind is something on the lines of Mary’s lamb. I don’t know if you happen to know the poem – I used to recite it as a child – but, broadly, the nub was that Mary had a little lamb with fleece as white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go. You want me to model my technique on that of Mary’s lamb?”
  42. I was thinking that if God wasn’t in His heaven and all right with the world, these conditions prevailed as near as made no matter.
  43. I’ve often wondered about that scarlet woman. Was she scarlet all over, or was it just her that her face was red?
  44. Considerations like these prevent one feasting the eye on Tudor architecture with genuine enjoyment and take from fifty to sixty percent off the entertainment value of spreading lawns and gay flower-beds.
  45. Many a fellow who looks like the dominant male and has himself photographed smoking a pipe curls up like carbon paper when confronted with one of these relatives.

February 14, 2014

Want to get published?

Occasionally someone will ask me about how to get published. Here's what I say.

First off, I recommend self publishing. Here are a few good articles about why.

And here’s a recent report analyzing the Amazon revenue for various publishing approaches.

If you decide to self-publish, everything you need to know to get started is in this book.

If you decide to go traditional, there are hundreds of books and articles on the subject. Here’s a good one.

My path to getting traditionally published won’t help, because an editor called me when I wasn’t trying to get published.

As far as developing content going forward, find a compatible critique group. If you're in the Austin, TX area, this is a good one that meets on second and fourth Sundays from 1:30 to 3:30. We always welcome new members.

November 25, 2013


There's been some discussion of subtext among my fellow writers. I'm speaking in terms of the second definition from Collins English Dictionary.
subtext, n
1. an underlying theme in a piece of writing
2. a message which is not stated directly but can be inferred
I ran across an excellent example while watching Inspector Morse. Here's the setup:

Mary married Trevor, the oldest son in a wealthy, traditional family. Mary has been having an affair with her husband's younger brother, Steven. A few days after Trevor's murder, Betty, her sister-in-law, shows up at Mary’s house. Mary answers the door. They are both the outsiders in the family.
Betty: I thought about phoning but then I thought, well, that was the easy way, so . . . here I am.
Mary: Do you want to come in?
Betty: How are you bearing up?
Mary: Alright. Don’t think it’s sunk in, yet.
Betty: Family rallying around?
Mary: Yes, everyone’s been very kind.
Betty: Good. If Stephen and I can do anything to help, then you will let us know, won’t you?
Mary: Thanks. You’re very kind.
Betty: We wouldn't want you to be alone, unless of course you prefer it. One of us could stay with you if you like.
Mary: No. No, that won’t be necessary.
Betty: You sure you don’t want me to send Steven round. I mean he could sleep on the sofa or something. Just until you've over the worst of it.
Mary: I wouldn't dream of imposing on him. He’s got enough on his plate as it is.
Betty: He wouldn't mind. He can sleep anywhere. It makes no difference to him. Shall I lend him to you for a while?
Mary: Dangerous. I might want to keep him.
Betty: I don’t think so. He is very unreliable, you know. A lot of unexplained absences.
The solution is left as an exercise to the reader.

September 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Whittington

Dear Mr. Whittington,

I have been reading your book Welcome to Fred aloud to my children at night. Sometimes, I take it in the truck with us to read aloud as my husband drives us around town. (Sometimes we drive around to get the baby to sleep, other times to soothe the grown ups.) Most of the time, I sit in the hallway between the children's bedrooms and read to them as they settle in for sleep.

I chose your book because my oldest son has just turned 14 and I thought he would appreciate the point of view afforded by someone around his age and stage in life. The younger two are not far behind in age and they all loved The Wonder Years. I figured this would be a light-hearted way to introduce a variety of subjects that they might have on their mind but not know how to bring up. Also, I am a preacher's kid myself and I thought it might be nice to help them understand what is wrong with their momma. :)

I just wanted you to know that there has been a lot of laughter and good conversation. The-10 year-old has taken to saying "Bingo was his name-o!" as if it was his very own idea.

And I wanted to thank you for last night.

You see, three days ago we buried a friend of ours. He was killed suddenly in an accident at work. (Electrician) His name was Donald and he was a very good guy. He could always be spotted around the ball field with a great big smile. He was a friend to my kids but also to everyone he met. He always had a cooler full of Gatorade or ice water to give out to the kids who were running around the park all hot and thirsty. And a pocket full of bubble gum too. He was only 42. He left behind a teenage son, friend and teammate to my 14 year old.

It has been a sad week at our house.

Last night we landed in Chapter 15 where "Old MacDONALD" was in a tragic accident, and the town of Fred buried two people whose time was up too soon, and Sonia's feelings mirrored many of the same ones we've been taking turns with around here this week.

I wanted to tell you about how the kids were drawing out as much from the chapter as they could to relate to their own pain. How they moved from lying in prone and supine positions to perched on the edges of their beds Indian style, leaning toward the hall to hear better, asking me to read a part again, looking for more connections than existed. ("Mom, what was the day of the week Mr. Donald died again?")

I will admit, I had to stop and compose myself a few times in order to keep reading without a trace of tears in my voice. And then, from his fictional pulpit, Pastor Cloud spoke real words of comfort and understanding to a couple of real-life kids in their bed. Like in The NeverEnding Story where the ChildLike Empress begins to speak to Bastian.

Anyway, thanks for the timely words.

September 12, 2013

The Postcards from Fred playlist

All of the Fred books are full of references to music. For your dining and dancing pleasure, take a stroll past the Postcards from Fred playlist, a YouTube playlist of all the songs mentioned in the upcoming novel, Postcards from Fred.

Keep in mind that not all the songs are mentioned in the book in a favorable light. I tried to place the more annoying songs at the end of the list, but YMMV.

August 29, 2013

Cover for Postcards from Fred

In case you haven't heard, there's a new Fred book on the way, and once again Amanda has created a great cover. Here's the final cover for Postcards from Fred, coming out in October. Click to see it full size.
Here's the book description:
Ever wonder what would Jesus do? On a date?
It’s been a bad weekend. Mark Cloud’s dreams of romantic bliss have been cruelly obliterated, and his friendship with the local moonshiner has drawn unwelcome attention from the local Pharisee, Deacon Fry.
Then two girls enter his life: one a lovely and sold-out-for-Jesus preacher’s kid who just might be The One for him, the other a prodigal wild-child who just might give Deacon Fry the ammunition he needs to rid himself of this troublesome pastor and his vexing family.
Mark’s romantic aspirations and his vow to fly under the church-politics radar crash into his vow to live his life asking the seductive but inconvenient question: What Would Jesus Do? His response will determine not only his dating life but possibly the future of his father’s career.

Sign up for the newsletter to get notified when it's available, and also to get sneak peeks and freebies. The next issue goes out next week with freebies for the insiders.

July 5, 2013

The Great Gig in the Sky

This is what happens when you're trying to sneak up on a writing session. You know it's going to take a deep dive, a full plunge into the zone, and even though it's the thing you really want to do, you're dreading the energy it will take to get there. So you futz around reading your RSS feeds and such.

"The Great Gig in the Sky" is one of my favorite tunes, one of the few that can bring tears to my eyes. Because I'm not much of a fan-geek, I never knew the background of the tune. Turns out the vocal melody was completely improvised by Clare Torry, a singer they hired to come in and sing something over the track they had recorded. I had always assumed that the basic melody had been written, not made up on the spot while recording.

As a teen I was blown away by Dark Side of the Moon as an album, and "The Great Gig in the Sky" was the crown jewel for me. I played it for my Mom and she said, "How can you listen to all that screaming? That's not music." [Ed 10/7/2013: This just in from Mom. Her opinion remains unchanged 40 years later.]

You should listen to these with a good speaker system or headphones. Laptop or smartphone speakers just aren't going to do the trick.

The studio version from Dark Side of the Moon.

The making of. Warning: The audio on this is twice as loud as all the others, so you might want to turn in down.

An interview with Clare Torry about the experience of recording it.

Here's a killer live version with three vocalists, none of which are Clare Torry.