Novel #4

All right, now we are past the crap of initial works. So a few ground rules will apply from here on in. First, from now on novels are works of more than 40,000 words. While this is a little low in the general scheme of things, it is what I was told back in the late 1980s was novel-length, and duotrope (the writer’s best friend!) seems to think that’s about right as well. Also, with the advent of e-publishing, this seems to be a common demarkation point. There are many novellas I have written that fill in the gaps here, and if any bear mentioning, I will do so, but otherwise, they will be safely ignored as being in that untidy etherworld of too long for a short story and too short for a novel. In general, the novella form is from 15,000-40,000 words, though I have seen a starting point as high as 25,000 words (with 10-15k a ‘novelette’, whatever the hell that is), and as low as 10,000 words. Second, novels are single stories, not books or collections of essays or things like ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style stories that I have also tried my hand at. And, finally, no matter how bad they are, I have vowed to myself that I will expose all my novels here

Apologies for that last one in advance.

So, onto the fourth novel. Music Man was written at the end of 1988, though the idea and story were both started in 1987, but they took a back seat when Into The Crystal really took off in my mind. And at 44,400 words, it was, to me, a huge achievement, because it was the longest thing I’d ever written to that point. However, I did revert to using a friend in a role – the singer Eric was so obviously based on some one I knew that he was a little offended by it. None of the other characters were based on real people, though – it was just when I started to write the story, “Eric” was pretty prominent in my life.

So first, some back story. In the middle of 1987 I was infatuated with a girl. One night at a party I was talking to her and things were getting rather heavy when the radio started playing a song that felt like it was exactly what I was thinking. And later on that night it happened again, and then again the next day when we were saying our goodbyes. Sure, it was just coincidence, but it got me thinking – what if there was some one for whom the radio was their innermost thoughts?

So we come to Music Man. Keith is a guitarist in a mildly successful band, who gets a job at a radio station. That is when things start to get weird as he finds the radio playing songs that mirror his thoughts. And then the station starts to take over his life and Keith starts to do things to people that are not good, and starts to act out of character, until, finally, he rebels…

Lots of death and killings written in a fantastic, clichéd style. It is a story based on song lyrics, and as such, it will never be published. I would hate to be the legal guy set the task of getting permission for the 50-odd songs used in this piece. Some can be easily replaced, some not so much. Now, the story itself: what can I say? It is clearly a step down from Into The Crystal, it has no chapters, and it meanders badly in the middle third. None of the characters are particularly likeable. Not my finest hour, that is for sure. But it was an interesting piece to write at the time.

Excerpt:

Almost eleven o’clock. Five hours in that hole had been way too many. He was sure the drinks, expensive as they were, had been watered down and that band was rubbish. The crowd virtually ignored them and their wall-paper music. Then again, the stuff they had played wasn’t what Brett referred to as ‘real music’; two synthesisers, a guy scratching records and spouting beat poetry every so often, a drum machine and a singer who (very badly) played the guitar were all the band comprised of. He needed some real music and 5BW supplied that tonight; he switched on in time to catch the opening words to The Beach Boys’ ‘Rock And Roll To The Rescue’.

Yep, that’s what this was. A great rescue (he hoped) from the clutches of that rubbishy synthesised crap.

Bob Seger followed this with ‘Old Time Rock And Roll’.

Exactly what he needed right now to soothe him, especially with Belinda away. What he felt for that girl!

‘When A Man loves a Woman’ from Percy Sledge was next on the play-list.

Tired and almost asleep behind the wheel, he turned down his street.

“Better be home soon,” were the last words, as sung by Neil Finn, the radio played. He parked next to his father’s BMW and climbed awkwardly out. Boy, how many coincidental songs had he heard on the way home tonight? He didn’t know, and at the moment, he didn’t really care either. Within minutes, he was upstairs asleep in his bed, dreaming erotic dreams of Belinda.

Sorry about that. It’s bad, but finding a “good” excerpt was almost impossible. This is one story I can’t even read with detachment. It’s that bad. But it is a part of my literary journey, so here it is.

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