Rolling Thunder

William Simmons, Author
William Simmons, Author Permanent Press (NY) $28 (275p) ISBN 978-1-57962-019-6
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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This breezy debut novel features two off-beat protagonists, New York City radio DJs Velez & Oldham--celebrity party-animal kings of morning FM rock radio. In the turbulent events of their present lives, these fast-talking mavens of witty irreverence find themselves tethered to their alternately lurid and painful pasts. Fortysomething narrator Dennis Oldham is the ""straight man"" of morning radio, counterpart for charismatic Puerto Rican wild-man Roberto Velez, the undisputed love-'em-and-leave-'em womanizing champ of Manhattan's hip bistro scene. Oldham is divorced from Sarah (with whom he is engaged in a bitter custody battle over his beloved five-year-old daughter); Sarah was one of Velez's previous conquests, and Oldham lives in lothario Velez's shadow, never able to acquire his partner's brand of chick-magnet panache. Meanwhile, he lusts after Sally Wallach, the station owner's 20-year-old daughter, and wallows in nostalgic memories of his first love, New Jersey college campus DJ Ellen Larkin, a Jane Fonda-loving antiwar activist. When Rolling Thunder Radio is sold, the morning show faces cancellation. Velez and Oldham scheme to rally support, dreaming up a Veterans' Day extravaganza at a downtown war memorial, featuring the revival of a legendary '60s rock group. The action accelerates as Velez's drug-addled younger brother shows up at the event, begging Velez for money in a drug pusher's Mercedes. Simmons's narrative jumps back and forth from the Vietnam-era to the '90s, introducing a surfeit of oddball characters rendered in a deliberately disjointed and zany po-mo style. Unfortunately, it's hard to warm up to the feckless protagonists, who participate in an all-too-pat denouement. Even so, Simmons's brisk, cutting-edge voice is hard to resist. (Feb.)
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