A fictional tale for metal heads that offers all the simple pleasures of a real-life rock-and-roll memoir.



Vollack (The Red Staircase, 2017) offers a novel of youth, ambition, and the heavy-metal music scene of the 1980s.

“We were headbangers, and heavy metal was our theme music,” the author writes in the prologue to his raucous novel about what he calls the “soundtrack of the suburbs.” Junior high schooler Mark Magruder is an aspiring drummer in a Denver suburb who listens to the music of such acts as Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Ozzy Osbourne. Due to a misunderstanding, he and his classmate James Graves almost get into a fistfight over a girl; eventually, though, they find common ground, which leads them to form a heavy-metal band. Initially, Mark plays drums, but he’s later promoted to lead singer when another drummer and a bassist join the group; however, he notes that he “would probably have played friggin’ tambourine if it meant staying in the band.” Over the course of several years, Mark learns some important lessons about performing (“my first lesson of rock singing: Presence is everything”). Overall, this coming-of-age tale features a fair amount of drinking, band drama, and set-list discussion as well as relationship issues when Mark starts seeing a girl named Sara. Along the way, Vollack manages to successfully capture the aura of 1980s suburbia in general and its heavy-metal culture in particular as his characters go to see the band Iron Maiden in concert and have beer-keg parties; as he notes, “Headbangers need only the glorious grind of a power cord [sic] and the meaty thump of the kick-drum shaking their bones.” At times, the tone of Vollack’s prose verges on over-the-top machismo (“Singing for chicks. Hell yeah”), but this doesn’t stop it from taking readers on a nostalgia-filled trip into a bygone era, soundtrack in tow.

A fictional tale for metal heads that offers all the simple pleasures of a real-life rock-and-roll memoir.

Pub Date: March 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994232-2-6

Page Count: 426

Publisher: Anthony Shelton Publications

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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