POWDER

Kevin Sampson, Author
Kevin Sampson, Author . Canongate $15 (502p) ISBN 978-1-84195-371-7
Paperback - 502 pages - 978-0-224-05082-1
Open Ebook - 512 pages - 978-1-4481-3761-9
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Former manager of a Liverpool band, Sampson takes a lengthy, labored spin through the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll in his turgid debut novel, a formulaic rags-to-riches saga about an alternative British pop band called the Grams. The primary narrator is 30-ish lead singer Keva McCluskey, a charismatic, moody lad who is obsessed with the Grams' rivalry with Sensira, another London band led by his former best friend. Sampson shifts gears to cover the band's initial success through his secondary narrators, the self-important manager, Wheezer Finlay, and the slick but unfulfilled producer, Guy de Burret. What follows is a not so magical, decidedly unmystical tour through virtually every cliché of the rock novel, from the landmark first gig, the big contract and the first album, to the penultimate make-or-break tour and the inevitable meltdown that follows. The plot hits all the overfamiliar moments, with overwrought scenes about rivalries within the band; snapshots of the lavish, over-the-top tour lifestyle; and incidents in which the band manipulates the fatuous rock press. The characters are decently drawn despite the triteness, but Sampson makes the hedonistic rock lifestyle as boring and pedantic as that of an accountant. If this imitative plot had been more concise, it might have been effective, but Sampson insists on chronicling virtually every aspect of the band's progress and setbacks. The result is a novel that feels as long and tortured as a two-hour drum solo and as predictable as the three-chord, verse-chorus-verse structure of every pop hit released in the last 50 years. (Sept. 18)

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