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Schraders Chord Main

"Schrader's Chord" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Tor Nightfire

schraders chord scott leeds poster large

Written by Scott Leeds
2023, 448 pages, Fiction
Released on 5th September 2023


I love novels with a strong musical theme and Schrader’s Chord, the impressive debut of Scott Leeds, slow dances with the best of them. Many of the scenes are set in the Cuckoo’s Nest, this independent record shop is so vividly and colourfully described I felt like I had just dropped 100USD shopping there! This nostalgic spending spree took me back to the late eighties, when the teenage version of myself scoured the shelves of ‘1Up’, a record shop in Aberdeen, Scotland remarkably similar to the place described in the novel. I remember the folks who worked there being incredibly knowledgeable about music and were generous with their recommendations, and this is exactly what happens in the Cuckoo’s Nest, with the customers and staff chilling together in this wonderful Seattle institution. The musical references (and tips) come thick and fast and music lovers are going to have a lot of fun with this highly entertaining book. I could not help think of John Cusack’s shop in High Fidelity, based on the book by Nick Hornby, where the staff lived and breathed music and mocked mainstream fans. It’s exactly the same here, customers looking for a copy of The Eagles Greatest Hits beware!

Even before the intense supernatural story kicks off I was lost in music and the genuine love all the characters show for it. The first half of Schrader’s Chord is outstanding, but once the cat is out of the bag it loses some of its steam in its second section and could have done with being slightly shorter, especially in the final third, where events take too long to wind up. However, the closing segment is definitely worth hanging around for. Even if ghosts are introduced into the plot very early in the action, it is still fascinating discovering how a story of cursed vinyl records might play out.

The novel opens with music talent scout Charlie Remick finding out about the suicide of his estranged father Raymond, the owner of the Cuckoo’s Nest. As Charlie has many unbelievably bad memories of his father, his first instinct is to sell the shop and cut ties. However, after meeting one of the record shop employees, Ana, he has a temporary change of heart. The young woman is an obsessive music fan and whilst working in the shop has spent the last five years helping Raymond fix the old place up. She adored Raymond like a father, but Charlie cannot understand why. He does, however, think Ana is both gorgeous and charming. She is worried about the future of her job, but also feels a kinship with Charlie, and they hang out with Ellie (Charlie’s sister) and fellow record-shop worker Dale. The dynamics of the characters, both before and after the supernatural events, are one of the highlights of the story and are both charming and perfectly pitched.

Ultimately, there would be relatively few horror novels or films without truly dumb decisions, and the heroes of Shrader’s Chord commit a cracker. A stone-cold musical equivalent of “Whatever happens, DO NOT go in the basement,” and you know the rest…. Charlie is left four rare vinyl 12-inch singles in the family will and later discovers there might be a sort of curse if they are played simultaneously, which he laughs off. The friends get drunk one night, and guess what they do? When I was a kid, there was a rumour playing Led Zeppelin’s "Stairway to Heaven" backwards would call the Devil and something in the same ballpark occurs here. The scene when it all kicks off is truly outstanding, as are many of what follows, with atrocities from other dimensions jumping into our world. Suddenly the group are wishing they stuck with the local pub jukebox (with The Eagles not being so bad after all!) and the novel changes speed and hurtles full throttle into supernatural horror, ghosts and much worse.

Along the way there is a lot of intricate family dynamics added into the mix in which Charlies complicated relationship with his father is explored and this does slow the book down slightly. I loved the way in which the ghosts interact with the living, even remembering the details of their past lives. Overall, this is an impressive horror thriller and the best with such a strong musical theme since (two of my favourites) David Peake’s masterpiece Corpsepaint and Leo Darke’s hilarious Lucifer Sam. For those about to rock (or read about it) we salute you!


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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