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Book Review: Garage Band by S. F. Lynch

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Know your subject and write about what you know. It’s basic Writing 101 and pounded into your brain without you realizing it. Those essays you wrote in school every September, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation,” weren’t assigned because your teachers were sadistic. Okay, maybe a little, but that’s not the point. Writing about how you spent those last three months gave the reader a window into your mind… how it worked and what your skill levels were.

And so it goes for S.F. Lynch. Having written about music for years, contributing to cold-drill, Coe Review and Thought Magazine, among others, it’s a subject he knows inside and out and the inspiration for his first book Garage Band. The plot and characters are well drawn from real life as any one that’s ever been in a band or known friends that are in one can tell you. So the rule of thumb has served him well.

The book takes place in Marin County, California, outside of San Francisco, in 1984. Its main character is gardener/harmonica player Kyle Waite. He and his friends are muddling through life, not really sure of where they’re going, what they’ll do when they get there or how. What they do know and share is the love of music. Not for the first time, they decide to put a band together.

Garage Band is a chronicle of the ups and downs, mostly downs, of the reality of the situation these regular kinda guys face in making their dreams of fame and fortune come true. Add some true love drama, a few instances of substance abuse and some less than ethical behavior and the book comes as close to echoing the lives of wanna-bes around the world as any other I’ve read.

There are a lot of things I like about this book. Lynch’s writing style is easy to read and I got sucked up into it right from the first paragraph. Having spent some time in San Francisco around that era, it was cool to see references to actual clubs like the infamous Mabuhay Gardens. Garage Band is frank in portraying its characters – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Having hung around more punk and rock garage bands than a girl without musical talent probably should, the people in the book rang true to form for me.  Despite all odds, I found myself wanting it to have a fairy tale ending, where the guy gets his girl and a recording contract.

It’s even okay that there are some things that I didn’t like about it. It’s breezy style made reading the book almost too easy, I finished it sooner than I’d have liked. It also left me wanting more.

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