Drago (Winter, 2016, etc.) departs from the horror genre in this existential tale of an ex-rocker’s late-in-life coming-of-age.
Dante Rose is currently the assistant manager at grocery store Food Castle, but he still plays local solo gigs here and there. He also obsesses about his time, eight years ago, with Thorn, a rock band that almost made it big before its lead singer, Joe Mars, left to form a new group. His wife, Penny Rose, also believed in the dream of Thorn, and the couple chose not to have children in expectation of its success—a decision that’s now eating at them both in different ways. Drago painstakingly constructs his characters, revealing information during mundane events—store checkouts, employee small talk, a poker game. Several events help to define the characters and propel them toward self-discovery: Penny finds a lump in her breast; criminals pass counterfeit bills at Food Castle; Clark Gufney, one of the employees, finds his wife cheating on him; and Dante hunts down and reconnects with his former band mates. Each storyline resonates off the others like the notes of a chord. Drago generates interest through the tension of awaiting doctor appointments and test results, the camaraderie of Dante and his fellow workers, and the unraveling mystery surrounding the band’s reunion—which, in Dante’s mind, hinges on the enigmatic Thorn destroyer and possible redeemer, Joe Mars. Throughout, the book is packed with musical minutiae, from the names of famous and obscure bands, musicians, and songs to the chord structures of Dante’s songwriting. Drago also wields character names like a literary grenadier: Dante, who journeys through his own personal hell; Thorn, the memory that’s forever stuck in his side; Mars, the militaristic force that controlled the life and death of the band.
A thoughtful, elegantly written book that will particularly appeal to musicians and music fans.