The Black Watch are one of the great Los Angeles bands of the past 15 years, even if they have remained something of a well-kept secret. Their most recent release was in 2011, and boasted one of the best titles ever, Led Zeppelin Five. The album was a brilliant example of what they do, and I had hoped that it might have broken them to a larger audience. The music business is a fickle beast though, and that is one of the subtexts of the new book The King of Good Intentions, by John Andrew Fredrick.
Fredrick is the principal singer and songwriter of The Black Watch, and The King of Good Intentions appears to be semi-autobiographical. The book chronicles the life of a young Los Angeles indie band in the early 1990s. There is a love story of sorts that plays out in the band, between singer/guitarists John and Jenny. The arc of the tale follows the band through the various ups and downs of “making it” in L.A. at that time, leading up to their first big break. John’s day job just happens to be as a substitute teacher in the always exciting L.A. school district.
What I found most enjoyable about the book are the details of that music scene some 20 years ago. That L.A. music world is practically unrecognizable from what it was in the early ‘90s, and it is clear that Fredrick knows of what he speaks. He is not one of your typical Sunset Strip “wasted musicians” either. Fredrick has a PhD in English, and currently teaches at Santa Monica College.
The King of Good Intentions is filled with vivid descriptions of the Los Angeles music scene of the time, as well as some very intriguing characters. If I have one complaint, it is that the author’s writing style is at times almost too descriptive, but that is a minor quibble. Overall, Fredrick has delivered a highly engaging first novel. Not only does it tell a compelling story, but it takes place in a milieu that I found to be very interesting. This is a book that should appeal to fans of both the band, and of the period in which the narrative takes place. Well done.