One-Hit Willie: A Classic Rock Novel is the debut novel from longtime performing arts and newspaper columnist, William Westhoven. While the author successfully avoids most of the criticism leveled at many “first books” – style consistency, pacing, character development – One-Hit Willie is a bit choppy and rough in a few spots. But overall, Westhoven’s feature writing acumen and mastery of his writing craft have resulted in the creation of an appealing and intriguing read. This should be especially so for post-40s, rock/pop music buffs and those interested in the social influences of music during the last half of the century, as well as those drawn to the eternal flame of Las Vegas/organized crime legend and lore.
The story of One-Hit Willie takes the reader on a spirited, top down road trip through five decades of music history. After Westhoven’s intriguing prologue and luscious word portrait of Willie’s mother in Chapter One, you hop in just as a young Willie Taylor is readied by his mother to embark on a successful career as a 1950s child radio performer. The next stop on the trip is the tale of Willie and his older brother Bobby, The Taylor Brothers, appearing every weekend in their hometown, Las Vegas, at the Full House Casino Regal Lounge. After this almost quaint portrayal of Americana, Westhoven suddenly sends the story barreling down the road like a hotrod Lincoln.
What unfolds in the remainder of the book is often unpredictable, unexpected, inexplicable, and on occasion, implausible. I noted that the pacing of the story waned in places, and on a few occasions, I sensed that the author had displaced his new novelist voice with his honed and comfortable columnist voice. But that aside, I found One-Hit Willie: A Classic Rock Novel to always be mesmerizing, fascinating, and entertaining.