Waterloo Sunset Stories

Ray Davies, Author
Ray Davies, Author Hyperion Books $22.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6535-2
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-7868-8454-4
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Davies rose to rock stardom as leader of the Kinks, and chronicled that rise in X-Ray, his autobiography. This sharp but uneven debut short story collection examines the underbelly of the business that made his fortune. In the opening tale, aging British rocker Les finds himself washed up in late '80s Los Angeles, hungry for a record deal and a trustworthy manager. He connects with shrewd, manipulative Richard Tennent, himself eager to make quick money after the '87 stock market crash. Despite his suspicions, Les sets to work on a demo tape that will wow the bigwigs at United Records. His efforts dredge up the host of memories that provide the plots for most of the tales to follow. (Davies divides the collection into ""Waterloo Sunset""--the first 20 stories, all linked by Les's memories--and seven independent ""Stories,"" some of which feature Les.) In one tale, Les watches a rabid rock fan unravel after his girlfriend abandons him. In the next, Les's girlfriend, Donna, begins a dangerous flirtation with a vagabond painter. ""Return to Waterloo,"" the final narrative, ventures inside the mind of a serial rapist riding the London Underground. Classic Davies songs (among them ""Celluloid Heroes,"" ""This Is Where I Belong"" and ""Misfits"") provide templates and titles for a number of stories; some incorporate lyrics. This conflation of rock music and literature has its pitfalls, and the stories that close by quoting entire Kinks songs seem both self-serving and unfinished. Though Davies's fiction can be both inventive and grittily realistic, it suffers from a tendency to preach against obvious targets (money-grubbing rock executives, bourgeois British snobs). The loose narrative structure can also confound readers. Tighter editing could have made this a rewarding look into the music business. As is, it's a book only die-hard Davies fans will love. (Feb.)
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