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Fuel-Injected Dreams

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New American Library, New York, 1986
(price: $3.95; 326 pages)

The blurb on the back:

The Beat is Rock - The Throb is Love

James Robert Baker, a brilliant new voice in American fiction, has written an exuberant, breathtakingly original novel that is at once a love story, an expose of celebrity, a black comedy, a thriller and a tribute to young passion - in the wild, surreal world of Los Angeles rock 'n' roll in the 1960s.
Rock's hottest deejay is Scott Cochrane, L.A.'s midnight king of the airwaves.
Rock's greatest legend is Dennis Contrelle, once the greatest composer-producer of all time.
Rock's sweetest songbird is Sharlene Contrelle, imprisoned in a cage of silence by the man who created her and then broke her heart. Now she's willing to do anything to escape from a teen dream of love turned into a nightmare of adult perversion.
Dazzling and extraordinary,
Fuel-Injected Dreams evokes all the sweet heartbreaks of yesterday and all the relentless rhythms of today.

"Terrific...remarkably imaginative!" - Los Angeles Times Book Review

So there's this record producer who was huge in the early-1960s, creating epic trash masterpieces from girl groups and surf bands, a veritable Wagner of pop, but he retired at the end of the decade and disappeared into his mansion of tack somewhere in LA. He's still there, still married to the singer with his biggest group, a woman effectively held prisoner by the drug-damaged Svengali who can't let her go...

So you think you know what this is all about, and then you see the Publisher's Note at the front: 'This novel is a work of fiction... any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.'

It is?

Oh, okay. Then I must have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick altogether. Cos I thought I recognized someone in there. Sorry.

Now that we've got that sorted, we can accept that this is a damn fine rock novel. Our narrator is a hip late-night DJ, who grew up on the music of Dennis Contrelle (that's the entirely fictitious producer, who bears no resemblance to any person living or dead), fancied the hell out of Sharlene (the entirely fictitious singer, ditto) and now finds himself drawn into their strange little relationship. It's one of the few novels that actually feels like it's bred out of classic rock & roll, rather than the sad little High Fidelity nonsenses. It's the textual equivalent of that moment when the New York Dolls quote the Shangri-Las' 'When I say I'm in love, you best believe I mean love, L-U-V!' Check out, for example, this description of the imaginary Sharlene:

Now, here was a girl you could be proud to be ashamed of, a tough little dolled-up working-class slut, libidinous jailbait with an evil streak, a juvenile offender with a cherry-red mouth, with Cadillac chrome-bumper breasts you would mow down a crippled nun to get to. Here was a girl who got down, put out, got knocked up and had to leave school, a girl who got drunk but didn't puke out your car window, who didn't have to be in by eleven, who didn't wear little white gloves, who wasn't in love with her horse, who didn't drive a T-bird but took the bus, who popped pills and wouldn't think you were sick if you went down on her, who wouldn't make a face if you suggested she go down on you. She was a cheap brunette angel, the stuff of dirty jack-off dreams, not one of the refined blond girls you were supposed to marry. But she never understood this. (pp.12-13)

The sounds you can hear are Kim Fowley orgasming, Wendy James gnashing her teeth as she reflects on missed opportunities, and Tony Parsons spontaneously combusting in envy.

James Robert Baker
James Robert Baker


see the British edition
from the maker of...

Boy Wonder

Tim and Pete

visit James Robert Baker's website
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