Zack Fluett, keyboard player with the band, Cultural Wasteland, makes headlines at the 1997 Grammy Awards when, on camera and in a drug-fueled rage, he punches out his co-writer and lead singer, Lark Dray.
With a broken hand and in need of getting straight, Zack has to hit bottom—and hit hard—before he can begin his rough rise back to a position of prominence again. With the 2008 Grammy Awards as a framing device, we experience, in a-chronological order, the jagged arc of Zack’s career. We see him as he meets Lark Dray at a Bay Area party in 1989 and goes on to form Cultural Wasteland, and how he ends up feeling betrayed by his partner.
We also see the ups and downs in his relationship with P.R. woman Claudia Rankin. Their marriage is one of opposites. Claudia is from Main Line Philadelphia, while Zack was raised on a ranch in Billings, Montana. We then watch as Zack begins his slow return to the top of the charts, culminating in his appearance at the 2008 Grammy Awards, a nominee for Song of the Year, where we wonder if history will repeat itself and he will self-destruct all over again.
Written by an entertainment lawyer, and former rock musician and record label owner, this book takes a knowing look at the rock and roll scene. Although the story charts a familiar course and is filled with potential clichés, the author for the most part steers clear of this criticism by rooting his characters and their experiences in trenchant observation and hard-won knowledge about the business.
As a bonus, the author includes made-up discographies, Billboard charts and newspaper articles for the artists named in the story, which wittily add to the novel’s sense of verisimilitude. In the end, this is a rock and roll novel that can proudly stand with other classics of the genre, such as Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments and Harlan Ellison’s Spider Kiss.
Reviewed for IndieReader by Kenneth Salikof