authors index

books index



The Love Parade

click to enlarge

Penguin, London, 1998
price: £6.99; 314 pages
(first published by Hamish Hamilton, 1997)

The blurb on the back:

The party’s over and Jake’s got one hell of a hangover…
Now, at 24, he’s on the media scrap-heap, chewed up and spat out by the music industry that created and packaged him as the ‘sulky one’ in a boy band. But just as Jake thinks he’s history, he meets beautiful twins Brett and River, and together the three hustlers embark on their own media scam, which takes them from the chic casinos of the French Riviera to the swinging poolside parties of LA movie directors. Brett’s a honey and Jake will do anything to play her game, even when the stakes are raised to blackmail and murder…

opening lines:
It was the day of my life when, were I F Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda would break off the engagement at the weekend.

The premise is fine: what happens to an intelligent kid who gets roped into a wildly successful boy band after his chart life expires. But – and I’m prepared to accept that this is just my personal prejudice – it’s just too damn dull. It’s one of those quasi-literary novels that come out of London publishing these days that try too hard and want to be cool and detached and it just doesn’t work. The cliché for this kind of book is that it should be about a young writer; so credit to Matthew Branton for not going down that route, but blow me, if the narrator doesn’t sound exactly like a young writer posing as a pop star.

And I worry about the level of cynicism. Here’s one of the management team explaining exactly what the strategy behind the band High 5 was:

’Five years ago. A market was identified, demand was stimulated; songs were written and tracks laid down. You were hired. You were in the right place at the right time. You were also the right race, the right colour, the right height, and the right age. Our market research required that each of you represent a different demographic, economic and geographical profile. Your character was explained to you. You were to be from Manchester. The box-room poet who ran with the street gangs.’ (p.11)

Obviously the record industry is indeed this cynical (which is why we’re all so gleeful that the whole thing is going down the pan), but the casual acceptance that it’s all going to work to plan is both depressing and inaccurate. Those of us who remember the joyous fiasco that was Naomi Campbell’s pop career are all too well aware that not even the British public can be counted on to behave like the sheep they’re assumed to be.

Anyway, I’m undoubtedly being unfair to Mr Branton with this one: I didn’t finish the book, so I shouldn’t really pass final judgement. On the other hand, I didn’t finish the book cos it wasn’t entertaining enough. Sorry.


Like this? Try this...

The Art of Falling Apart