on 23 September 2011
Now I must say at the beginning that I'm a huge fan of music, film and soundtracks, but as I re-read this novel again (after years of neglecting it in some box somewhere) I listened to the words as I thumbed through it yet again, taking me back years and years...
The music is as crazy and unique and insane as the plot - a broken man who is a Southern California late-night DJ named Scott spins the wax and remembers his great lost love, as we often sometimes do that late at night over a lousy cup of coffee. Scott wants his first great love, but she's gone with the Santa Ana winds.
Be aware, the cultural references here will hit anyone who has lived in California in the last 40 odd years right on the head, because this book was topical and struck a nerve in me some 25 years ago, even though I was a young punk from Chicago when I first bought it back in the late summer of 1986 - and now in 2009 has hit me even harder.
Surf rock, sexual and musical obsession, the whole SoCal lifestyle, and what has got to be one of the greatest soundtracks, fake and real, ever written into a book. It's intertwined into it's DNA, grafted into the spine and pages - from the momentous sounds of the fictional Stingrays and Sharlene Contrelle to the insane and and sometimes genius-like ramblings out-of-his-head music producer Dennis Contrelle living in his own self-imposed Shangra-La, from the old venues and people who helped create rock and roll...
There are the the cars, the lifestyles, it's all there, and in 'Fuel-Injected Dreams' James Robert Baker has written a magnum opus/homage/tribute/indictment of the time he himself lived there, a wonderful spinning yarn of action, drugs, passion, tears, love, sex, sex, sex and of course, rock and roll.
A quick note: James had written a book the previous year, 'Adrenaline' (under the pseudonym James Dillinger) and that book is the flipside to this one, both novels painting a fantastic too-real-to-be-believed time long since past, but so ingrained with detail about living on the West Coast during the musical, sexual and cultural changes from the 60's generation and the 80's Us generation, and it's exhausting but remarkable, the pace, the music, the action, the tension!
On the down side, I must admit it is very much dated, and sure, many of the references to certain resturants, places etc. out West due fall flat (as many of them no longer exist), but this book reads like a wildly bright neon painted coat worn by Don Johnson on a mile of coke, and it clings to your brain and won't let go. I am one of those readers that just who didn't put it down and was finished with it in only a few days. I've read it before almost 25 years ago and it affected me then, and now that I've re-read it, and I not only know every dirty corner of L.A.'s seedier side, I know where they're at if I went there, and I've never even been there! Just take the Pacific Coast Highway, it seems to take you anywhere...
There have been some rumblings from previous reviews and online of "screenplays" being written for this, and to be honest I'd always thought this would be the ultimate rock-and-roll movie, but those were recited over some 10 years ago, and of course, Hollywood is a fickle beast.
This would be a wonderful movie, because if you read the book, you'll fall in love with it, it's like someone turned on the oldies station on surf-rock night, and The Vectors and so many other bands from the book will be there too, playing just for you, and breaking your heart over and over 'til dawn.
The ending is as sad as any writer can make it - it's a mind-numbing tragedy, and on a scale that will blow you away when you get there. All I can say is that if and when you, the reader, pick this up, PLEASE understand that this is a true rock and roll fantasy novel - THE ultimate rock and roll novel, bigger and better than Streets of Fire - and it will change you, maybe just a bit, but just enough to say "Is that all there is? Can a sequel be made?" It's THAT good.
Pick up a copy today, and you won't put it down.
Please, if you have any comments, put them here - I'd like to hear from anyone else who fell in love with Cheryl Rampton as much as I did when I read this tragic tale of teen love and always wanted to jump into the novel at that critical moment - when you read it you'll know what I'm talking about - and somehow change it, just a little, and somehow, with due deference to Meat Loaf, make some real rock and roll dreams come true.
(Thanks for reading!)