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The Day the Music Died (Sam McCain, #1)
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The Day the Music Died (Sam McCain #1)

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  217 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
It's 1958 in Black River Falls, Iowa (pop. 26,750), and at Bill Malley's barber shop and the lunch counter in the local Rexall, there's a lot of talk, a lot of it negative, about communism, fluoride, civil rights marches, a guy named Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. And even at twenty-six, with a law degree and a private investigator's license, Sam McCain thinks nothing of ...more
Hardcover, 210 pages
Published January 1st 1999 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1998)
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Susan
Jan 07, 2014 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first in a mystery series, featuring lawyer Sam McCain, who lives in the small town of Black River Falls, Iowa. It is 1959 and the book begins with Sam and the girl he yearns after, Pamela, watching Buddy Holly on the show which would prove to be his last. If you are a fan of Buddy Holly, then let me just warn you that McCain’s love of rock and roll is something that is mentioned in passing only and to set the scene; Holly himself does not feature in the novel. Each book in the serie ...more
Book Concierge
Aug 21, 2014 Book Concierge rated it liked it
Sam McCain is an attorney and a private investigator in Black River Falls, Iowa. It’s the late 1950s and he likes rock and roll, Pall Malls and his rag-top 1951 red Ford convertible. Sam works for Judge Esme Ann Whitney, so when she calls him early in the morning and tells him to go to her nephew’s mansion he goes right out there; Kenny Whitney seems near hysterical, the Judge tells Sam. When he arrives he finds Kenny’s wife, Susan, dead in a pool of blood and Kenny holed up in his bedroom with ...more
Marvin
The Day the Music Died is the first book in Ed Gorman's series featuring perpetually broke lawyer/P.I. Sam McCain. It was published in 1998 but is now being re-released on Dec. 31th, 2013 by both Mysterious Press and Open Roads Media.. Not coincidentally, this makes it my last review for 2013.

I must confess that I decided to read this for the title. I love fiction that has a basis in musical pop culture. For those who don't know, the title is a line from Don Mclean's song American Pie which refe
...more
Rob Kitchin
The Day the Music Died is a P.I. novel set in a small Iowa town in the late 1950s and is the first book in the Sam McCain series. In many ways it is the mirror of the typical hardboiled P.I. tale set in a big city. McCain is smart, pleasant and good, lacking physical presence and menace, and is unlucky in love. Black River Falls is a small, conservative town run by a handful of families, where everyone seems to know everyone. The story revolves around an apparent murder-suicide. It’s a strong ho ...more
Michael Schramme
Feb 24, 2014 Michael Schramme rated it it was amazing
This is a very special 'private eye' series build around a lawyer and special court investigator, Sam McCain, in a small town in the midwest (Iowa) in the fifties and sixties. I absolutely love this series for several reasons:

1. the wonderful immersion into a different time, spanning a decade from the late fifties to the late sixties. The descriptions are detailed, evocative, engaging and realistic. They are exceptionally well done.
2. The protagonist is a likeable average joe, who is easy to ide
...more
Maxine
Feb 11, 2014 Maxine rated it really liked it
Sam McCain is a young lawyer in Black River Falls, Iowa in the late 1950s. Unfortunately, Black River Falls already has more than their fair share of lawyers so McCain is forced to do detective work for Judge Esme Anne Whitney who represents all the wealth, power, and eccentricities of Old Money. Sam has just arrived home after attending the final concert by Buddy Holly, when he is ordered by the judge to go to her son’s house. McCain hates the son who has always been a bully and a snob but what ...more
Karen Musser
Apr 11, 2015 Karen Musser rated it liked it
I thought I would enjoy this book more, having grown up in northern Iowa in the 50s, but there are several major flaws. First, Gorman is a very good writer and I enjoyed the humor in his comments. But when a writer places a story in historical times, I think it behooves him to get the details right. I got the feeling that he looked up 50s culture and just sprinkled the music, clothes, etc. throughout whether the they were typical of 1959 or not. The first big error is on the first page; Buddy Ho ...more
Beverly
Jan 24, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it
The book we're reading in my Mystery Group next month is the 3rd in a series and I really hate to read out of order so my intention was to get the 1st and 2nd read prior to the assigned book. Her's the first one and I was pleasantly surprised--it was a quick read and I really enjoyed it. The "look" of the book put me off a bit because I'm not really drawn to the 50's but it was set in the late 50's and really took me back to many memories of that time. The book actually starts out--as the title ...more
Fran
Jun 25, 2008 Fran rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans, fans of the 50's
Recommended to Fran by: saw it at the library
Shelves: mysteries
This is a fun visit to the 1950's, complete with references to old TV shows and hit records. The mystery part is just so-so but the "good old days", as well as the not-so-good of illegal abortions and racism, make it a cut above many mysteries.
Chi Dubinski
Apr 22, 2014 Chi Dubinski rated it it was amazing
When Susan Whitney is found dead in her living room and her husband Richie commits suicide less than an hour later, everyone believes it’s a murder-suicide. That includes the police chief and Judge Esme Anne Whitney, Richie’s aunt. But lawyer and private investigator Sam McCain has a feeling about this case. Judge Whitney hires him to clear her family’s name—sure, it’s got its share of liars and cheats, but a murderer is another matter.
Set in 1958 in Black River Falls, a small city in Iowa, just
...more
Amanda Meggs
A very enjoyable novel. McCain is a lawyer/PI who works for Judge Whitney, in a small town in Iowa. This is nicely written, the characters are properly completed, realistic and interesting. The dialogue is good and the story flows well. There is some violence and a few deaths of course as its a murder mystery but no gratuitous violence. I like the touches of historic interest, politics, the cost of a steak, etc. it makes it more interesting. I also like that McCain has parents and a sister as it ...more
Lou
Jan 19, 2012 Lou rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
A modest start to a P.I series. Ed Gorman has written better in other novels.
Eadie
Jan 16, 2016 Eadie rated it really liked it
Book Description
The first in a charming new series featuring Sam McCain, Judge Eleanor Whitney, and America in the 1950s. This will be a memorable weekend for McCain: Buddy Holly has just died in a plane crash; he's got investigative work to do for the judge; and he must help help his sister decide whether or not to have an abortion.

My Review
This was my first Ed Gorman book but it won't be my last. I enjoyed reading about what life was like in the 50's in Iowa and look forward to reading the nex
...more
Michael Schramme
This is a very special 'private eye' series built around a lawyer and special court investigator, Sam McCain, in a small town in the midwest (Iowa) in the fifties and sixties. I absolutely love this series for several reasons:

1. the wonderful immersion into a different time, spanning a decade from the late fifties to the late sixties. The descriptions are detailed, evocative, engaging and realistic. They are exceptionally well done.
2. The protagonist is a likeable average joe, who is easy to ide
...more
Michael Schramme
This is a very special 'private eye' series built around a lawyer and special court investigator, Sam McCain, in a small town in the midwest (Iowa) in the fifties and sixties. I absolutely love this series for several reasons:

1. the wonderful immersion into a different time, spanning a decade from the late fifties to the late sixties. The descriptions are detailed, evocative, engaging and realistic. They are exceptionally well done.
2. The protagonist is a likeable average joe, who is easy to ide
...more
Megan O'Neill
Oct 12, 2012 Megan O'Neill rated it really liked it
I have a habit of picking books up from shelves at the library just because I like the cover, or because I think the title is clever. When I spotted, by chance, a series of books all named after 1950s/60s rock and roll songs, I knew I had to at least give the first one a shot. Once I stopped hearing the refrain of Don McLean's American Pie in my head and started reading, I had the feeling I'd made the right decision. Gorman's writing effectively captures a mood that establishes the reader in the ...more
Sandy
I should have enjoyed this book more than I did - the description of it sounded like a book I'd enjoy. I think one of the problems I had with this is that the characters all seemed very one-dimensional and there didn't seem to be any real reason that they acted as they did, except for plot purposes. It also seemed incredibly rushed - here's the plot, here are a bunch of complications - ok, that's enough, here it is all tied up with a bow on top.

On the other hand, I thought there was some potenti
...more
Jersey Joe
Apr 15, 2014 Jersey Joe rated it really liked it
Mr Gorman does a very impressive job of transporting the reader back to the year 1959 in which the story takes place. He ably captures many pop culture icons and images of the day right down to the common household appliances. A good read and worth the trip.
Patricia Ann
Jan 19, 2014 Patricia Ann rated it really liked it
Never read any of Gorman's books. This
book was an easy read. He did depict
the 1959 time period and that of R&R
during that time period. Book introduced
me to 3 new authors of whom I have not
been acquainted with but will pursue their
books in order to see if I agree with Sam
McCain's assessment of their writings.
Glad that I did read this book.
Douglas Esper
Apr 24, 2015 Douglas Esper rated it liked it
fun read tied to a horrible accident. I read this years ago but saw it on my shelf recently and think it might be time to revisit it.
Mrklingon
May 17, 2015 Mrklingon rated it really liked it
Great - nice time capsule and engaging misytery
Sandy Hall
Jan 02, 2014 Sandy Hall rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery-thriller
I received this as an early read via NetGalley. I loved this. From start to finish I simply loved this story! It was really well written, the characters felt real from the very first page, I enjoyed the thread of humor running throughout the book and I had no idea whodunnit (which is hard to get by me). I will look for more by this author and these characters
Selena
Jul 09, 2013 Selena rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013
Yuck. I did not like this book. The plot was convoluted, the characters were flat, and holy cow, way too many 50s references. And I think the author got confused at a point when the main character recalls a conversation. He said it was with Rita, but it was with the waitress, Juanita. Unless it was a conversation that happened that wasn't written about. Did not like this book.

SPOILER





what was up with the killer? He was someone barely even mentioned? Come on.
Bonnie
Feb 18, 2012 Bonnie rated it really liked it
My first time reading Ed Gorman. I have checked out all his books in this series and this one promises some good reading. The day the music died, of course, was when Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Richie Valens died in a plane crash. The protagonist is a lawyer living in Iowa City who is asked by a Judge to clear a member of her family who is charged with murder. A very unlikely hero who starts to grow on you.
Steve
Feb 17, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Louis
May 13, 2011 Louis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first mystery featuring Sam McCain, a lawyer who can't imagine ever leaving his small hometown in Iowa in the late 1950s. Sam has just returned from the last concert of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. Their plane crash combines with a murder to reveal the tensions lying underneath a seemingly placid town. Great use of period detail without overwhelming the mystery.
Janet
Feb 15, 2012 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the title, but the "hero" really began to wear me down. He pines after a girl who is engaged to another man, going places where he knows she will be just to be there. He has a girl who loves him but knows he is pining after the other one and so is planning to marry someone she doesn't love but who is okay. And no, these people were not 16 years old.
Mark
Jan 09, 2012 Mark rated it liked it
Decent PI mystery set in a small town in Iowa in 1958. The author tries a little too hard in inserting references to 1950's culture and small town American lifestyles, and some of the characters are very stereotypical. The murder mystery is average, but there are a few good scenes. I'll give the second installment a try.
Joe O'c
Dec 29, 2011 Joe O'c rated it liked it
Very Good; Continuing character: Sam McCain (first in series); set in the 50s. an attorney who works as an investigator for a judge looks into the case of one of the judge's "kin" killing his wife and self, while tending to matters with his sister and mooning after a girl in love with someone else
Jeff Dickison
Nov 11, 2013 Jeff Dickison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good introduction to the Sam McCain series and to Black River Falls, Iowa. Story begins the night of the appearances of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson at the Surf Ballroom. The next day Sam begins his investigation into what turns out to be two murders. Highly recommended.
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Edward Joseph Gorman was born on November 2, 1941 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He spent 20 years in the advertising industry before leaving to write full-time in 1984. Since then, he has been incredibly prolific, averaging 2-3 novels a year in addition to many short stories, editing anthologies, and founding and editing Mystery Scene, the new magazine of the mystery field. He has written in many genres, ...more
More about Ed Gorman...

Other Books in the Series

Sam McCain (10 books)
  • Wake Up Little Susie (Sam McCain, #2)
  • Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (Sam McCain, #3)
  • Save the Last Dance for Me (Sam McCain, #4)
  • Everybody's Somebody's Fool (Sam McCain, #5)
  • Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (Sam McCain, #6)
  • Fools Rush In (Sam McCain, #7)
  • Ticket to Ride (Sam McCain, #8)
  • Bad Moon Rising (Sam McCain, #9)
  • Riders on the Storm (Sam McCain, #10)

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