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Headline, London, 1988
(price: 3.99; 570 pages)

dedication: To J.M.C. After twenty-five years

The blurb on the back:

Liverpool, 1963. The year of Beatlemania, mop-tops and mini-skirts, when Merseyside suddenly becomes the centre of the universe. Three young people meet in the smoky darkness of the Cavern Club and embark on a triangular relationship of rivalry, dependence, trickery and love.
Grant's reserve masks a streak of ruthless ambition that will lead him to the top of the entertainment business - but as a manager, not as the star he longs to be.
Tom's feckless Irish charm will always get in the way of his talent, but so what? As long as he's got a drink in his hand and a girl in his bed, life can't be all bad.
Carly is torn between the two. At first sight a typical dolly bird with her long, long hair and her short, short skirt, Carly has more talent than meets the eye, but who is right for her?
Merseyside is in their blood, but each must leave the city to make it in the wide world of pop records and rock musicals, a journey which takes them from Liverpool to LA, from the West End to Broadway - as three young people, their friends and hangers-on, discover how to survive in the most ruthless and rewarding of worlds.

opening lines:
It was an indication of how far he had travelled that he now thought of the city as 'Liverpool, England' and simply as 'the Pool'. But he had come back, an exile who had never quite been able to escape the grip of the place.

If you don't listen to Radio Four, you're probably not too familiar with Nigel Rees; if you are, then you'll be more than aware of Quote Unquote, which seems to last half the year and goes out in the slot that should really be reserved for I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. In either case, there's really not much point in me elaborating on his work.

Suffice to say that a little-known bit of that career was his attempt to be a blockbusting novelist in the 1980s. This one wasn't much of a hit, but it's not too bad, as it happens. Drawing on Mr Rees' upbringing in Liverpool, it tells the story of a 1960s rock impresario riding high on the Merseybeat boom (think: Robert Stigwood), counterposed - since this is supposed to be a blockbuster - with the story of a less successful contemporary, in this instance a poet/songwriter. The two men, inevitably, share an obsession with the same woman.

So none of it's too original, indeed it's all entirely predictable, but it's not badly written, and the account of the music industry isn't embarrassing. It's just all a bit lifeless: an unexpected angle, a real spark of something, an insight or two, and it might have made it. Oh, and it's about 400 pages too long, as is the way of these things.

'Nigel' 'Rees'
Nigel Rees

Like this? Try this...

Larry Kirwan
Liverpool Fantasy


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