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Pink Cadillac Paperback – July, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


"Real rock 'n' roll literature—a book with all the wily literacy of a Chuck Berry song."  —David Hajdu, author, Positively Fourth Street

From the Publisher

The idea for Coral Press came when I began to write a novel, Pink Cadillac, set in Memphis in 1955–56, at the time that blues and country music came together to create rock and roll. The writing of Pink Cadillac, a dramatic fable about the creation of and search for a lost 45 record, allowed me to spend years back in that time, inside a magical roadhouse with a swirl of strong characters—and I loved it.

Pink Cadillac turned out well enough that I decided to turn my fictional forays into musical history into a trilogy. The blues scene in Chicago in early 1963 is the backdrop for the second book Cutting Time; Detroit and the Deep South in 1964 informs the third, Soul Cavalcade. What I discovered is that writing about the music I loved, either early rock, electric blues, or mid-’60s soul, allowed me to live imaginatively in that world in a way that augmented my love of the music itself, as well as work with themes of race and musical liberation that ring deep in the American soul.

It was an easy leap to thinking that I could publish Pink Cadillac myself, via the Web initially, in a way that let me do it right, meaning, reaching a special audience interested in music and avoiding the inefficiencies of the traditional book business. I also realized there were other fine books, both out of print and not yet published, that could add to the pleasures of the music by telling stories set around the music itself. Two out-of-print novels are worthy of being back in print: Nighthawk Blues by the author of the definite Elvis biography, Peter Guralnick; and Glimpses by Lewis Shiner, a brilliant fable about a man who goes back to help artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Brian Wilson with legendary unfinished masterworks. More are being written every day.

It’s Coral Press’s belief that a great record always takes us to the singular place and time of its creation, and that it’s a simple jump from listening to the music to desiring to read about that time in a well-told story. Thus Coral Press was born. (The name comes from Buddy Holly’s record label.)

Coral Press will specifically appeal to music lovers who also love to read—and it will be able to reach them directly and in unconventional ways, through ads in music publications, for instance, a presence at large music festivals, and Internet link exchanges as well as Web rings devoted to the music. But because Coral Press intends to publish only top-quality fiction, with strong stories, a vivid sense of place, and solid characters, the appeal to anyone who loves to read novels is clear. World War II buffs would seem to be a good target for a novel set in World War II, but make the book good enough, the characters and story vital and intriguing, and the readership expands exponentially. Same with Coral Press.

Coral Press’s slogan is simple: We Love Rock & Roll. We Love a Good Story. Put the records and the stories together and we don’t just enjoy the music, we live in its world. That’s where Coral Press will take readers: into and beyond the music itself.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Coral Press; First Edition edition (July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0970829302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970829306
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,724,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Dunn is a writer, teacher, and musician.

His novels include The Sting Rays, Pink Cadillac (chosen as a Book Sense pick in 2002), Cutting Time: a Novel of the Blues, Soul Cavalcade, Meet the Annas, and Look at Flower (which Wavy Gravy digs!). An excerpt from Pink Cadillac appeared in The Best in Rock Fiction (Hal Leonard, 2005). Another musical story, Bo Diddley, is in the anthology The Best Underground Fiction (Stolen Time Publishing, 2006).

He has finished a new novel, Stations of the Cross, to be published in June 2013.

For the last years of the writer Bernard Malamud's life, Dunn was his personal assistant.

He's also published widely, including an O. Henry Prize-winning story, as well as fiction in The Atlantic, Redbook, Omni, and numerous literary journals, a poem in The New Yorker, and a front-page essay in the New York Times Book Review. Years ago he worked for The New Yorker magazine, and he taught at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

For the past 25 years Dunn has taught fiction writing at The New School in New York City. He also works for Sports Illustrated magazine as a copyeditor. As a musician, Dunn is the founder of the musical group Thin Wild Mercury, as well as its guitar player and principal songwriter. The group is on hiatus now, but in the past they've played often around New York City, including regularly at Arlene's Grocery and CB's Gallery.

Dunn is married to a set designer/art director and lives in New York City.

Find out more at, including music tracks and info on new novels.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dean Fiora on March 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read about 30 books a year and consider "Pink Cadillac" one of the two or three best novels (of any genre) that I've read in the last half-decade.
Author Dunn cuts through the sickeningly-sweet nostalgia to which rock's first decade has been reduced, and paints a warts-and-all portrait of Eisenhower-era Memphis: the racism and segregation, the subjugation of women, the predatory practices of the music business, the even more predatory practices of the ruling class, and--on the positive side--the energy and exuberance that made early rock 'n' roll and those who created it something truly special.
Dunn also does an excellent job of capturing the music historian's obsessive/compulsive thinking and behavior--a frame of mind that has motivated people such as I to spend our lives researching and writing scholarly treatises on what the people who created the music often disdainfully refer to as "those old things."
"Pink Cadillac" grabbed me from its opening paragraph and still hasn't let me go, some 24 hours after I finished it. Even if you don't like '50s rock 'n' roll, it won't keep you from enjoying this book. And for we who love the music of that period, Dunn's novel serves both as a triumph and as a sad reminder that good novels about rock 'n' roll have been few and far between.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Linda E. Brady on February 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
Robert Dunn has given us a bittersweet story that perfectly captures a time when rhythm and blues was giving birth to rock and roll. A modern day record collector/entrepreneur, grief-sticken by his wife's sudden death, is on a healing quest to find a legendary single. He is convinced that "Pink Cadillac" is the greatest song never heard, a disc that may or may not have been recorded by a rag tag group of musical pioneers in the mid-fifties. Through flashback, the reader discovers the secret of the song, and why its origins have been kept hidden nearly half a century. The colorful characters that populate the story are in and of themselves worth the ride. Thomas "Bearcat" Jackson is a particularly vital and heartbreaking character as penned by Dunn. Bearcat is a brilliant self-taught bluesman and record man, imprisoned and haunted by the Jim Crow era into which he was born. Much to the dismay of his long time musical partners, Bearcat hooks up with two young white kids, creating a new sort of sound with their "Pink Cadillac." But was this magical tune ever actually put to wax? And what dreadful price did Bearcat and his friends pay for daring to make such music together? With "guest stars" such as Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips and Elvis himself (who provided the Cadillac the song is named for), this is a rollicking ride that will be a great read for novices and diehard music fans alike.
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By Pat Fitzgerald on August 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Pink Cadillac's author, Robert Dunn, knows the stuff of Memphis '55/56 -- the days of blues descending and rock rising, the roadhouses, radio stations, deejays, unscrupulous record label owners and the power of the mojo. He's taken that knowledge and transformed it into a riveting novel. I found myself reading late into the night, needing to know how Thomas 'Bearcat' Jackson's record producing career had been destroyed -- why blues singer Sonesta Clarke loved, but couldn't live with Bearcat -- if Dell Dellaplane's powerful father would smash his son's dreams by bringing down Bearcat's roadhouse -- if Daisy Holliday would ever come to her senses, forsake lounge singing in Buffalo, NY and return to Memphis. Most of all, I couldn't put the book down until the truth of the record -- Pink Cadillac -- was revealed. Had it actually ever been recorded? If so, why did it live in legend alone? Did it hold the answer to a mystery that might've been best left unsolved? Buy this book. Once you begin reading, you won't want to put it down.
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By mj on February 4, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Pink Cadillac
Could not finish.........just could not get into the story. It had a hard time getting off the ground and I lost interest.
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