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Necrotrivia vs Skull

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Fourth Estate, London, 1989
(price: 4.95)

dedication: to Shell Scott - Clown Prince of the LCD Private Dicks

copy available to buy

The blurb on the back:

It's late twentieth-century USA, and two marketing moghuls have the commercial life of the nation by the throat: Mr Rock of Necrotrivia, a psychotic blue-collar fascist, and SKULL supremo Sandy Silence, born-again Christian and Ivy League smoothie. Between them they are greedily exploiting Mr and Mrs America's insatiable appetite for junk.
Meanwhile an extra-terrestrial intelligence operative, lately a convict, has materialised in up-state New York. His knowledge of the ways of men comes entirely from a Dictionary of American Slang and TV transmissions which take ten years to reach his home planet. None of this has prepared him for the hotwire effect of nicotine, fast food and soda pop on his alien metabolism, and soon he is wanted for a series of mindless shootings, Only his ability to change his appearance at will saves him from arrest.
But he's an adaptable kind of guy, and after a couple of goggle-eyed trips to the local hypermart and a week spent holed up in the Siesta Motel watching TV game shows and gorging himself on Pop Tarts, he reckons he's got the measure of Planet Earth - hell, he's even getting to
enjoy himself. He applies for a harmless copywriting job and winds up in the crazed corridors of Necrotrivia, where sedative gases seep through the air-conditioning. Soon he's Rock's pet employee, and he's handed the greatest marketing challenge of the century: SMACK, a revolutionary narcotic breakfast cereal. But SKULL is also after the SMACK account, and when Sandy Silence teams up with TV evangelist Dales Junior, it looks like the end of the line for Necrotrivia.
Written in the wise-cracking style of a pulp detective novel,
Necrotrivia vs Skull is a deranged satire that gleefully derides the violence, greed and stupidity of the Western world.

This one's particularly difficult for me. Back in the early-1980s when live music was really, really rubbish, there were very few bands regularly gigging in London you could guarantee would provide you with a decent night out. In fact, there were probably just the three: there were The Birthday Party, there was Robyn Hitchcock (with and without The Soft Boys), and there were The Barracudas. The latter were a damn good 60s-revival band. Which bit of the 1960s? Pretty much all of it - they started with surf and moved on to folk-rock, garage-rock, psychedelia, the whole damn thing, all delivered with a definite and defiant punk attitude. Their role models were The Flamin' Groovies, the most terminally unpopular band in pre-punk rock, and eventually - having added ex-Groovie Chris Wilson to the line-up - the Barracudas finally got to be cults in the same way as their heroes.

The relevant bit of all this is that the founding 'Cuda was lead singer and Canadian ex-pat, Jeremy Gluck. Technically he wasn't the world's greatest vocalist - hell, as a singer, he wasn't even in the top 50 of the '80s - but he was a nice guy, he cared about music and he had integrity. Above all else, he was a damn good live performer. Then, after a few excellent but ignored albums, when it became clear that the 'Cudas had achieved their goal of becoming the most unsuccessful band in the country, Gluck reverted to his given name Jeremy Clarke (why he'd chosen to be called Gluck in the first place is uncertain), got into a bit of rock journalism and ended up writing this novel.

It may seem like I'm playing for time a bit here. That's because I am. The truth is that Clarke/Gluck ain't much of a novelist. Sorry, Jeremy, but there it is. This just tries too hard to be free-wheeling and satirical and hip and it doesn't come off. I mean, it's better than Nick Cave's novel - obviously - but it's not as good as it thinks it is.

That said, there are some nice touches. Being a rock lyricist, Gluck (sorry, I still can't think of him as Clarke) can at least knock out a convincing parody of a rock song, as in this extract from Little Joe's hit 'Hitler Was A Pal O' Mine':

    Although South America is home to me
    Seems things ain't what they used to be
    Israel knows where I'll be
    It's up to them to front the speaker's fee

Mostly, it's a period piece. Bit like The Barracudas, then, but nowhere near as much fun.

Jeremy Clarke
Jeremy Clarke
(aka Jeremy Gluck)

visit Jeremy's site for the Spiritech Virtual Foundation