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Rock novels - why do they largely suck?

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This is the theme of a piece I just wrote for <a href="http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article1961967.ece">The Sunday Times</a>. I didn't mention all the bad ones I've read or tried to read over the years, and I'm sure there are people here who have enjoyed books about the rock life, but they tend to leave me cold. A couple of Sunday Times readers just recommended I try Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson and Iain Banks' Espedair Street (not holding out much hope for the latter, as I have really hated everything I've read by Banks before). What does everyone else think?

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And even though it's more of a ska novel than a rock novel, I'd like to give a mention to John L. Williams' Faithless. From Amazon

 

This book does a great job of capturing London in the post-punk days of 1983. The lead character, Jeff, is an ex-saxophonist now working at a used record store (a la High Fidelity). He's drifting aimlessly, trying to figure out what happened to punk, and what's coming next. Some criminal happenings occur, a coworker is killed, he's besotted by a woman who keeps coming and going from his life, and he drifts in and out of contact with an old bandmate, turned semi-big time star. Chock full of bars, junkies, and music industry types, the plot is interesting enough, but the main attraction is the sense of time and place Williams imparts. Check out his subsequent (and better) Cardiff-based books, Five Pubs, Two Bars and a Nightclub and Cardiff Dead, and his earlier travelogue of American crime writers, Into the Badlands.

 

Ignore the cack about it copying High Fidelity. This came out three years earlier.

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I'd also give a thumbs-up to "Espedair Street" and "Powder".

 

Whilst not strictly rock novels, I'd also recommend the work of Martin Millar, who I once read described as, quite accurately, the P.G. Wodehouse of the crusty/traveller world.

 

Try his "The Good Fairies of New York" (the adventures of two fairies thrown out of Fairyland for playing their fiddles too loudly) and "Love and Peace with Melody Paradise", featuring possibly the most incompetently organised rock festival in history, to see what I mean.

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I enjoyed Espedair Street too, although I read it in the warm afterglow of reading the truly wonderful The Crow Road.

 

Not sure I've read anything else that could be termed a 'rock novel' but I'll have a think.

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I enjoyed Espedair Street too, although I read it in the warm afterglow of reading the truly wonderful The Crow Road.

 

 

Me too. I never thought that the enjoyment was linked to the previous good experience, but you could be right.

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