Review: The Drummer by Michael Neil Smith

Posted: April 1, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , ,

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.

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