The third installment in a 10-book rock novel series, Art Edwards’ Badge (Thirteenth Note) looks at the music scene at the start of the 21st century through the eyes of a recovering “soldier for rock music.” Title hero Badge is a guitarist getting back into recording after eight years away from the industry; he’s brought to L.A. From New Mexico to be “the new lucky bastard,” lead guitarist for a sexy punkette siren named Betty.
The singer has a voice but is also insecure fronting a band composed of older pros – which makes it Badge’s role to serve as an intermediary between her and the rest of the members of her group, No Fun Intended. As he does, a relationship inevitably sparks between the two of them.
At the same time, our hero still maintains a prickly connection to his ex-wife Molly, who he met and had a son with when he was the hard-boozing axe-man for a band called the Famous Dead. Eight years sober “because I tend to wreck things when I drink,” Badge will find his precarious recovery threatened by pressures of life on the road and his relationship with the borderline-y Betty. We know it’s only a matter of time before he relapses – and as the band grows huger so does our protagonist’s substance abuse.
Though part of a 10-novel series, Badge works as a stand-alone piece. Author Edwards captures road life as it’s experienced by a breaking band, pulling in plenty of evocative detail: even at his blurriest Badge proves an acute observer of his surroundings. The book also pays due attention to the climate of the music biz circa 2000, an era when the delivery system was on the verge of change, making a lot of professional musicians more than a little nervous.
The book is strong depicting the volatile relationships between Badge and the women in his life; it’s particularly wise charting the stages of our hero’s relapse and the ways the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle can fuel various addictive behaviors. It ain’t easy being a soldier for rock music.
Recommended reading for anyone who ever wondered why it was their favorite player in their favorite band just up and disappeared.