Inglish’s whirlwind novel follows a washed-up rocker and a fledgling model struggling to balance the excesses of superstardom.
Kurt Franklin, the hero of Inglish’s superbly frenzied fiction set in 1980s Los Angeles and New York, has seen better days. A musician and compulsive groomer, he’s been placed on psychiatric disability by his physician, who prescribed him Mellaril, a “thought suppressant.” Even worse, Kurt’s wife, Priscilla, has announced she needs some time apart. His brother James appears with a proposition: Give up drugs and pray, and Kurt just might get his life back. Inglish then spins his narrative toward Sophie Clark, an eighth grader and an aspiring model for sleazy agency owner Giuseppe Cassavetes, who disingenuously whisks her off to his Jamaican compound for a crash course in sex and life. Meanwhile, his prayers answered almost overnight, Kurt preps his new band, Thunderstick, for skyrocketing success, with album releases, groupies and an influential management team ushering in their exploding fame. Sophie’s young life as a model becomes complicated with a rape and an STD, yet she craves stardom and will do whatever it takes to get it. After European runway work provides money, fame and drugs, she meets and begins dating Kurt’s brother, and both plots artfully converge into a blur of rock gigs, sex and expository melodrama—all depicted with pitch-perfect clarity, as if Inglish had actually lived through it all. The author expertly keeps both plots in motion, issuing a hard-knocks education for Kurt and Sophie as their stars ascend; hubris consumes them, and by decade’s end, they crash and burn but come back again as Priscilla returns with a vengeance. It’s a fun ride for them and vicariously thrilling for readers. Demonstrating a knack for authentic period detail (early in her career, Sophie poses for a photo shoot in a sleeveless neon T-shirt, fishnets and combat boots), Inglish compellingly portrays Sophie’s topsy-turvy model lifestyle and Kurt’s stressed-out rocker world, propelling the novel ever further into a cyclone of fashion and bass guitar riffs.
Evokes the heart and soul of the era with a balance of decadence and desperation.