by Robert McCammon
Subterranean Press, out now
A rock group on the verge of splitting up – unlikely figures to become caught in an age-old conflict…
If you love music – listening to it, performing it, letting it become part of you – then you’re likely to enjoy Robert McCammon’s latest novel. Acclaimed by Stephen King as McCammon’s finest work yet, on one level, it charts the final days of a band who become the target of a misplaced attack by a mentally ill veteran; on another, it deals with the fundamentals of life – predestination or free will, is there something beyond our comprehension guiding our actions, and so much more.
Each of the bandmembers is depicted with their strengths and weaknesses clear – not always necessarily to them, but to other observers. Even those who become part of their world, such as a middle-aged FBI agent whose job it is to find the sniper trying to kill them, are painted clearly, and there are wonderful homages to some of the legends of the rock world.
McCammon hasn’t lost his ability to shock with the power of his writing: the notional bad guy is all the more unsettling because part of him knows that what he’s doing isn’t quite right. There’s a scene in an interrogation room that will send shivers up your spine, and another tale recounted from the end of the 19th Century that will equally chill.
That’s not to say that it’s a depressing book. People die, some of them horribly, it’s true, but I defy anyone to read the epilogue and not finish the tale with a smile as the power of music touches someone else in a way that its creators could not possibly have imagined.
If you’ve not read any Robert McCammon before, then you should seek out his back catalogue: the author himself has almost disowned his earlier horror novels like They Thirst and The Night Boat, but they are still streets ahead of so much of the rubbish that is rushed into print so often. If you only know him for his historical thrillers featuring Matthew Corbett, prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Verdict: Stephen King nailed it. Robert McCammon’s finest book, and one of the best novels I’ve read this year. 9/10