Native son Bill Flanagan — novelist and MTV executive — discusses big books, musical longevity, Irish Catholicism, and Behind the Music .
Once a staple of the pages of The NewPaper (original incarnation of The Providence Phoenix), Warwick-born Bill Flanagan went on to become a prominent rock journalist whose credits include U2: At the End of the World, the definitive portrait of one of the world's biggest bands. In 1995, Flanagan took a job with MTV Networks, and he has been there since, currently serving as executive vice president and editorial director. His fingerprints are all over some of TV's best music programming, including VH1's Storytellers and CMT's Crossroads. But Flanagan has always been a writer at heart, and he ventured into long fiction with the novels A&R (2001) and New Bedlam (2007). His new novel, Evening's Empire, traces 40 years in the lives of fictional British rockers the Ravons (Emerson Cutler, Charlie Lydle, Simon Potts, and hired-gun American drummer Danny Finnerty) as told by Jack Flynn who, as a young lawyer in the late 1960s, unexpectedly became their manager. Rendered with a keen eye, sharp wit, and abundant humanity, Evening's Empire is more than just terrific rock and roll fiction. It's an entertaining and surprisingly moving experience for anyone at risk of growing older.
BOTH SIDES NOW “[My agent] said, ‘Everyone who writes about the ’60s writes about how fantastic it was . . . Make sure you also write about what was lost,’ ” Flanagan says.
The Phoenix recently spoke with Flanagan by phone from his home in New York City.
EVENING'S EMPIRE IS AN AMBITIOUS BOOK, SPANNING FORTY YEARS OVER 650 PAGES. DID YOU HAVE ANY HESITATION ABOUT TAKING ON SUCH A SWEEPING NARRATIVE? It's almost ludicrous to say this out loud, [but] my notion was that I was going to write three other novels first, each dealing with a different part of the media, and then I was going to write this big 40-year opus. I got two-and-a-half books through my plan and began to think, "I don't know what I'm I waiting for." After my second novel, I had started what would have been the third in the media trilogy [and then] thought, "This is ridiculous. I'm either going to write this big book or I'm going to talk about it forever and never do it."
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