Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Book Review - 'Life and How To Live it' by Daniel Mayhew

Writing successful novels about music or bands is a notoriously difficult thing to do, and something that rarely succeeds. Step forward Daniel Mayhew to prove the exception to the rule with his debut, which tells the tale of Serpico, the band formed by flatmates, Reilly and Jacob, and the adventure that ensues when Reilly takes a week off work sick, and binging on cheap alcohol, writes what could just turn out to be the best album of all time.

Giving the demo cassette of recordings to Jacob, the scene is set for a wild ride. Reilly is an often angry, often hilarious, musical snob who wants no part in the music industry. Modestly, Reilly wants to do nothing more than write the perfect record. Jacob is more pragmatic and the flip side to Reilly, offering organisation and leadership to the pervading madness, not least when trying to keep the increasingly erratic Reilly in line. At its heart, this is book is a black comedy and a worthy examination of male friendship. Mayhew certainly knows how to mix humour and angst as the band embark on their mission to raise enough money to record the album properly and daydream about escaping the day to day drudgery of their regular jobs. Throw in Jacob’s ex-girlfriend and a Liam Gallagher wannabe capable of pressing both Reilly and Jacob’s buttons, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fast-paced read that has you rooting for the good guys as their hour of reckoning approaches.

The highest praise that can be paid to Mayhew is that it would have been easy to simply write a book that would only satisfy music fans with its myriad of cool references, and while it will certainly resonate with anybody who’s been in or close to a band, the humour and the well drawn characters neatly help to side step any suggestion of musical snobbery. White Horse Publications is a new York-based enterprise and if this, their second release, is anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more from both them and Daniel Mayhew in the future. A triumphant start.

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