Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shiner skates on

Lewis Shiner has written a couple of excellent rock&roll novels. His GLIMPSES is THE BEST rock&roll novel EVER, to me.
Shiner's SAY GOODBYE was a low-key, gritty story of a woman trying to make a name for herself in the indie-folk scene. Completely realistic, with great, vivid, believable scenes in nightclubs and recording studios, SAY GOODBYE had everything a music fan could ever want -- except for a good solid ending, and a clear explanation of why the main character was so DRIVEN.
Of Shiner's novels I've read, the weakest is now DESERTED CITIES OF THE HEART, which was about Mayan Indians and time travel, and had some nice atmosphere, but isn't in the same time-zone as GLIMPSES.
Shiner's also written some excellent short stories -- "Jeff Beck," "Love in Vain," "Brujo," others.
Well, after I gave up on fiction a week or so ago, I have to announce that Lew Shiner got me again. His SLAM (1990) is a low-key, gritty knockabout comedy about getting out of prison, finding a job, and having your whole world fall apart. It reads like the writer did some living before he started writing.
And it's FUNNY.
Dave gets released from a Texas prison after serving nine months for tax evasion, and heads to the Gulf Coast, where an old friend has grabbed him a skate job -- taking care of a house full of cats while the late homeowner's will goes through probate.
Dave hates cats, but he's grateful for the job. Until people start coming out of the woodwork, trying to get their hands on the house. The wacky head of the "UFO Church" down the street wants to make the house the church's new home. Neighbors think the house is a hot piece of real estate. One old couple swears there's a treasure map hidden somewhere in the house. And Dave's old cellmate thinks it's a great place to hide out while he sets up his next dope deal.
All this is almost enough to drive Dave crazy. But there's also the hot woman who works at the convenience store down the street. And the warmed-over 50-year-old widow who wants to grab the house for reasons only she knows....
This is just for starters. As Dave's story unfolds, it leads into an early look at the "computer underground," and some pretty cool views of "skater culture."
I'm not gonna tell you how it ends. But you'll be laughing.
Though not as amazing as GLIMPSES, SLAM is a lot of fun -- and it's smoothly written, quirky and involving from the first page. I was never bored. And it only took a couple days to read. If you haven't read any Shiner yet, you should definitely check him out.
I'm just happy I actually got all the way through a novel again. Too bad SLAM sat around the house waiting for five years to get read. I wonder what ELSE I've got lying around here....

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