A rocky encounter with a rock icon changes a filmmaker’s life in Squires’ (Along the Watchtower, 2011) heartfelt novel.
Ray Wheeler is down on his luck thanks to bad judgment on his last documentary: he kept filming while a man was shot and wounded; now Ray is saddled with both guilt and a lawsuit. Ray accepts a gig to document the comeback of Lena Wells, a 1970s country-rock superstar whose music he never cared for. A Western visionary and one-time glamour figure who seems a cross between Stevie Nicks and Lucinda Williams, Lena has a past shrouded in mystery. Her relationship with her guitarist, Cy, is intense but ambiguous, and her son, Gram, has never learned who his own father is. The more Ray investigates her life the messier things get, as he develops sexual chemistry both with Lena and with Gram’s wife, Jettie. As Lena’s comeback show in her Oklahoma hometown of Medicine Park draws closer, it gets more likely that either the event or Ray will fall apart. Rock aficionados will appreciate references to cult heroes Los Lobos and Gram Parsons, and the lyrics Squires provides for Lena’s songs are good enough to pass as genuine '70s rock artifacts. Squires gets it right on both sides, making Lena a convincingly grizzled rock & roll survivor while giving resonance to Ray’s journey to personal redemption.
You don’t need to be a rock fan to appreciate this rite-of-passage story, but Squires’ fellow rockers will also appreciate her attention to details.