Posts Tagged ‘Michael Neil Smith’

Out of the blue, Kevin R Doyle dropped into my inbox, asking if I’d review his short piece, One Helluva Gig. I was right on the tip of launching The Rock of Pages, but he was willing to wait for me to switch things over.

What a treat, to have something brand new to review – and in a timely fashion, too! – for my brand-new home of Rock Fiction.

I hope this is a sign of things to come because I absolutely adored One Helluva Gig. Kevin sent it over and, knowing I’d have time to kill while I waited for my kids, I loaded it onto my e-reader and devoured it in less than an hour, including interruptions. Jett never stood a chance with this one!

In other words: this isn’t a long read (I want to say it’s 14,000 words), but man, is it a good one.

In a nutshell, it’s the story of Frank Peters, a reporter whose career takes off when he writes a review of a band playing his college campus. The band is fronted by a charismatic guy named Rob Jeffers.

It takes a couple of years, but the two cross paths again. Again, Frank writes a review. Again, it gets noticed and he moves up the journalistic ladder, finally hitting his peak at the LA Times.

While he’s doing that, Jeffers is also climbing the ranks.

This is no fairy tale, with Jeffers riding high and Frank just so magically happening to do the same. Jeffers loses his hair and resorts to a comb-over. His waist expands beyond a middle-age spread. In a sense, there’s a feel of Elvis about his destruction, which Frank acknowledges. But there’s more, and it’s this more that sets this novella apart from so many other works of Rock Fiction.

It’s the contrast between Jeffers’ public and private personas. Author Doyle has succeeded in creating a very real private person, one who is vastly different from the person we’d like him to be. Yes, we’ve seen this person before; the scene with Frank and Jeffers during Jeffers’ birthday party isn’t new. It’s what Doyle does with it, the kinship between the two men and their acceptance of their lives that is this story’s selling point.

These two understand each other on an intuitive level. They’re men who have realized their dream, only discover it’s different from what they’d hoped for. And while that sounds depressing and pathetic, in Doyle’s hands, it’s not. It’s real, and it’s touching, and it’s the sort of thing that lingers with a girl long after she puts the e-reader down and steps back into her life, a life that somehow seems rosier and yet diminished, all at the same time.


A West of Mars Recommended Read that brings to mind Adrian in Jessica Topper’s Louder than Love, Merle in Michael Neil Smith’s The Drummer, and Darrell in Dan Schell’s The Road to Fluffer – and all for different reasons. Check it out.


One final note: Doyle says this is a departure from his regular fiction. So don’t pick up his other titles expecting more Rock Fiction. But you can — and should — expect more of the great writing and character building.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I’ve read a lot of Rock Fiction by this point in time, and I’m pleased to say Anthony Neil Smith’s The Drummer doesn’t fit any mold I’ve encountered.

I like true originals, and maybe it’s a stretch to say The Drummer is a true original. But the plotline – of an aging rocker who is on the run, hiding from the Feds and his past – is different and fresh enough that it’s hard to not appreciate its structure.

Cal is hiding, calling himself Merle Johnson, when the singer from his old band appears in his life. Maybe Cal hasn’t been so careful, after all.

And then all hell breaks loose, and Cal is dragged into a situation that at times seems implausible and doesn’t leave our hero much room for controlling what’s going on around him. It works because sometimes, life happens to you. Not every male character in a thriller is a take-action sort of guy. Cal is certainly not an action hero, but that’s okay. From the get-go, he refuses to be. He’s in hiding, after all. Retired from the spotlight that loves both drummers and heroes alike.

Musically, this book is solid. From an editing perspective, I spent way too much time wincing and wishing it had been given a better polish, and not just from a stylistic perspective, either.

There’s more to say, much more. Cal’s past is both typical and shocking, all at the same time. There are some twists that you may or may not see coming, but it’s all in the fun vein of Eighties Hair Rock, and it may be a bit more insidious than it felt at the time – yes, I was there – but it also fits right in with what the period was truly like.

A West of Mars recommended read. It’s different. It’s fresh. It’s a little dark, a little disturbing in parts, but overall, it’s worth the time.