Observing the world of punk bands and the realities of love from uncommon angles are themes in the literary novel POLK GULCH by Andrew Bardin Williams, and while exploring these it singularly succeeds. Who would have guessed that a featured group might, with minor disguise and some role-switching, regularly perform as its own opening act under a different name, without rabid fans generally being any the wiser?
Wally, a San Francisco sales rep with low self-esteem, just happens to be the lucky partner of one of these too-cool music makers, Jules, the sometimes drummer/sometimes bass player in the bands Mr. Roger’s Coke Dealer and Sunset Revolution. Not that Wally can fathom why Jules is interested as she is clearly out of his league. Obsessed with death (there are so many ways to die!), Wally makes a point of getting his affairs in order. But then, as that trickster known as Life would have it, someone does die; and it’s not him.
It is pleasant spending time with such eccentric characters in the sparkling City by the Bay, though the novel spends much of it describing the seedy underbelly of strip clubs, along with more scenic settings. As a couple, Wally and Julie are playful, affectionate, sexy; in some ways totally idiosyncratic, yet in other ways typical of any couple in a relationship anywhere. Their Boston Terrier Joey (Ramone) also charms. Secondary characters such as band manager/ladies man Potey, however, are less fleshed out, described more via summarizing personal foibles, habits, and growth, rather than letting readers tangibly experience these things and come to their own conclusions. Scenes sometimes seem paced oddly, with a game of Cranium described endlessly, for example, while other important moments feel breezed over. On the whole though, POLK GULCH is one take on what the life of musicians and those who love them might be like behind the scenes; a topic likely to appeal to many. Readers will find that such creatively complex people burp and awake with morning bar-breath. They can also be insanely talented, driven, neurotic, insecure, cocky, and committed, in turn–especially to those with whom they have formed genuine bonds of friendship.
Reading, at points, like an alcohol-fueled dream, POLK GULCH by Andrew Bardin Williams is a colorful, meandering look at what it means to make a beautiful life with someone, only to have that song end.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader