Dapper Dan Man…

November 3, 2008

Alex Austin – The red album of Asbury Park

Filed under: Asbury Park,books,Review,Writing — gazzabazza @ 3:19 PM
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Written by Mirza Gazic
Published October 31, 2008

There should be more books about music. Not more biographies of any kind but novels where the main character has that desperate love for music to the extent that it actually consumes his or her life. More books where the music is an intrinsic part of the plot simply because the person it is about cannot live without it. High Fidelity is one of them, even though it is much more humorous in tone than Austin’s second novel about the hard life on the Jersey shore.

The Red Album of Asbury Park is also one of those novels. Alex Austin’s sequel to debut The perfume factory may have many more happenings in its intricate plot but everything that our narrator and untimely hero, Sam Nesbitt gets himself into is only because he has one goal in life; to start a band and become famous.

Four years have passed since the previous novel ended and Sam returns home after a stint in the navy and is on his way to see his mother, but doesn’t know her new address. After an encounter with a cute girl on the train and a bizarre accident, he finds himself wondering around in the cold.

A murder mystery unfolds that night, and over the span of the novel it turns out to have a much bigger part in Sam’s story than he ever would have expected.

The beginning chapters of the book take you through these events, as Sam tries to absorb these occurrences while being romantically involved with two women and trying to nurture his dream of becoming a rock star.

Sam is not just a gifted musician but also a deep thinker and the pages are filled with his philosophical ruminations. It is truly wonderful to read about a character that burns so undeniably for something. His passion for music, to be somebody in a town of nobodies is infectious.

Austin has a knack of putting you right in the location. While reading The Red Album of Asbury Park, you can picture everything about the place as vividly as if you were actually there, feeling the strong wind coming in from the shore or hanging out in the then vibrant music clubs. He also shows an eye for detail and some very skillful plotting; every event that occurs will unfold and every character that crosses his path will turn out have an important part of the story. The best thing about the novel, however, must be Austin’s ear for very realistic and believable-sounding dialogue. It truly flows well and makes me think that he must have had a lot of fun while writing those parts, and it sometimes brings to mind Charles Bukowski at his deadpan best.

The Red Album of Asbury Park is a very gripping and thoughtful book; it is melancholy and sad at times but also brings a lot of hope with it. You are highly recommended to read it.

New book review up now on Blogcritics. A good novel about music in the late 60’s. It took a while to get this up and running on the site. I actually had a review already written and ready for publication a month ago but the author emailed me and said that he was revising the novel. He sent me the new version, which was an improvement and I finally got it up on the site. Read the book, it is very good and takes place somewhere that not many books that I have read take place which I found refreshing and also a bit educational. A lot of research seems to have gone into this. Here’s the link to the review on Blogcritics.

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August 29, 2008

Book Review: Manual by Daren King

Filed under: Uncategorized — gazzabazza @ 3:22 PM
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Until recently I had never heard of Daren King, but after reading an interview in one of the dailies, loopy titles such as Boxy an Star and Jim Giraffe drew my interest. Manual is King’s fourth adult novel, after a foray into writing children’s books — which seem as off-the-cuff and unconventional as his novels — and so far the only one I have read, but I am now keen to go backwards through his works.

His latest book centres on a couple, Michael and Patsy, who work in the fetish industry. At least that is what we are told they do; the book, narrated throughout by Michael, provides us with an introduction to their line of work in the beginning chapters, but they rarely follow the clients’ requests. Instead they tie some of the clients up and sit around their house, eating packed lunches.

They happen to meet Edward one day, a successful, wealthy and married city businessman who becomes infatuated with Baby Girl, a 15-year-old who is into parties, drugs and hanging out with musicians. Edward desperately wants to be with Baby Girl so he pays Michael and Patsy to take care of her in his ‘luxury studio in the City’, which is convenient for them as they have been kicked out of their own flat and had everything taken away. Everything apart from their stuffed owl, called Owl, which they always seem to carry around, trying to feed it vole, its food of choice.

It is a distinctly odd element in an otherwise quite straightforward plot, but King’s unconventional use of language makes this a compelling read. The prose in Manual is at times so minimalistic that it must have taken a great deal of work to come up with something that flows this well. The short, simple sentences are hypnotic and leave you with a pleasantly strange feeling.

The brief chapters are, bits of dialog aside, comprised entirely of simple statements and observations. Michael narrates the world around him with an almost childlike simplicity, not venturing beyond remarks like ‘On the wall, a mirror. On the bar, bottles. In the bottles, liquid’. He also desperately wants to be like Edward; assured, wealthy and wearing a tailored suit, which is something Michael obsesses about.

After researching his earlier novels this seems typical of his work; Daren King writes bleak stories but with an underlying humour and touching humanity. Michael and Patsy are likeable characters in all their good intentions and naivety, trying to cope with everything around them. Thus, Manual is an accomplished piece of fiction that affects on many levels.

This review that is meant to give the blog a boost was also published on the site Blogcritics.

Click here if you would like to read it there or simply check out the site, something I highly recommend you do.

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