Lazy Fascist Press, 120 pages, paperback, $10.95
You’ve heard the story before: a great editor who thinks he can write somehow manages to publish a novel that’s painfully awful. Well, Ross E. Lockhart is not that guy. Known as an author, editor, and anthologist, Lockhart published a debut novel that’s packed with great prose and pregnant with the promise of more amazing books to come. Lockhart has two outstanding Lovecraftian anthologies under his belt, The Book of Cthulhu and The Book of Cthulhu II, and has edited several popular novels in a plethora of genres. Now Chick Bassist, his rock-and-roll debut novel from Lazy Fascist Press, puts him right under the spotlight, and his writing might just be even better than his stellar editing.
Chick Bassist is literature with a rock and roll attitude and healthy doses of truth, sex, and drugs. Told from multiple viewpoints, the narrative follows members of a band as they deal with the rock lifestyle on the wrong side of success. Erin Locke, the Queen of Rock, is the leader of Heroes for Goats, a band that has a record out and, like many others, dreams of a brighter future and lots of airtime. Sadly, things go wrong and a violent outburst from Robbie, the junkie bass player who Erin was sleeping with at the time, leads to more violence and the band begins to crumble. Erin knows there are better opportunities out there, so she packs everything she owns into a VW van and takes off to play bass for a more successful band. The trip to a better gig is not an easy one, and Erin will learn that almost as soon as she sets out. Despite the challenges, there are always bright moments, are those are enough to keep the dream alive.
Lockhart writes with authority about the vast underbelly of the rock scene, the meager existence that 99% of all bands eke out in dirty, cheap rooms and dilapidated vans, while dealing with money-hungry suits dying to make a deal. However, Chick Bassist shines for two other reasons. The first is the prose. Somewhere between pure poetry and gritty realism, the writing here deals with music and ambition as much as it does with pain, both spiritual and physical, and disappointment. The second is the style. The narrative constantly switches character perspectives (even pulling the reader into the shoes of a character a few times) and pulls off an even bigger stunt: changing between first, second, and third person points of view without it feeling like a mistake.
While stories about bands are a dime a dozen, Chick Bassist is unique. Instead of clichéd dialogue, it offers readers great conversations that feel real and entertain. Also, instead of delivering the same characters almost every music novel packs, the characters are as interesting as the writing. Between a transvestite reminiscing about her childhood, a trio discussing Jesus Christ Superstar while getting high, and a Marxist porn star, there are plenty of rich personalities and character-centric situations to keep the story flowing. Also, these individuals allow Lockhart to explore sexuality, loss, love, addiction, and ambition without slowing down.
There is a lot of ugliness in this story, but music and hope are more than enough to neutralize it. Lockhart loves music, and that is obvious in his work:
“Distant dreaming drums in the darkness. Savage, martial, ritual. Far enough to be the whispered beat beneath the ocean’s sanguine roar, the gasping inhalations and exhalations of a dying world.”
Between the things mentioned above and the passages in which Lockhart lets his love of music take over, Chick Bassist is the kind of novel that needs to be read by fans of good literature as well as music lovers. Crank the volume up and read it now.
Gabino Iglesias is writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.