Review: Deader Than Disco by David Hiltbrand

Posted: July 11, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

I remember when I first heard of David Hiltbrand. He’s a rock journalist and feature reporter for those cross-state folk at the Philadelphia Inquirer. No, not THAT Inquirer. Sheesh.

Anyway, I picked up Hiltbrand’s first novel, Killer Solo. Even dropped the man a friendly e-mail because, hey, us rock and roll authors ought to stick together.

And then… I didn’t love the book the way I expected to. I know, I have really high expectations for anything involving a musician. Maybe too high.

But you know what? I liked the book enough to hit up BookMooch or PaperbackSwap and get my hands on Hiltbrand’s next two books. They hung around my office awhile, as books usually do. In preparation for Rocktober, I finally picked up the second book, Deader than Disco.

If Killer Solo had been as good as this book, I’d be raving about this series from top to bottom. Deader than Disco is a GREAT read.

The rocker at the heart of the book, Angel, is almost a total ripoff of Madonna. (I hope Madonna isn’t so unpleasant in person, but on the other hand, I can believe that there’s a glimmer of truth in Angel’s character.) The storyline deviates, however, in that I don’t believe anyone has ever turned up dead at Madonna’s home, making her a suspect and sending her on the run.

As with Killer Solo, the music details are pretty authentic. Hiltbrand knows this world, inside and out. In Deader than Disco, however, there are some almost fatal mistakes. Eighties bands such as Duran Duran are shifted an entire decade earlier, into the seventies, for example. Given the level of knowledge of a pop star’s inner circle, these mistakes seem more out of place than the mistakes you’ll find in a book that doesn’t obviously know the rock world so well. Yes, I’m saying I’m holding Hiltbrand to a higher standard. Given his pedigree, it’s not an unreasonable standard.

Where Hiltbrand doesn’t fail is with our main character, detective Jim McNamara. He has an authenticity about him that can’t be denied. His AA life is well represented and seems as real to me as the music world.

Of course, Jim rides to the rescue and saves the day — and Angel’s hide, too. That’s pretty much a given in today’s literature, and people would be calling for his head if this weren’t the case.

Unfortunately, this series, published between 2003 and 2006, seems to be Hiltbrand’s only fiction. Not just rock fiction, but fiction. Period. It’s too bad. While the series got off to a rocky start. Deader than Disco is a definite West of Mars Recommended Read.

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