British rock critic Hoskyns (Waiting for the Sun, 1996, etc.) dashes off a breezy "pop romance" that begins as a portrait of the critic as young hack and turns into a much darker comment on decadent rock culture.
In this easy-reading, somewhat predictable little debut novel, a middle-class nebbish from the provinces goes to London, eventually becomes a rock critic, but ends up as an obsessed fan. The object of Kip Wilson's obsession is Mina, an Austrian chanteuse who combines the vocal and visual styles of Dietrich, Piaf, and Marianne Faithful, all of which she "deconstructs" with the help of her back-up band. A dropout from the polytechnic, Kip flops in a London squat, trying to overcome his boring middle-class background. He also begins to write short reviews for a London rock mag. His career takes a turn for the better when he happens upon Mina's first British appearance; her confrontational cabaret act dazzles the young critic. He parlays his initial rave into a series of interviews, reviews of her recordings, and a long article about her tour of the USeach piece reflecting his increasing infatuation with the tough-talking German girl, who reveals a previous life as an abused child and prostitute. Dazzled by her depravity, Kip discovers the depths of her problems on the American tour, where she shoots up constantly and eventually seduces him with coke and emasculating sex. Back in England, Kip's last article proves too wacky for even an alternative magazine, and he spends days in bed brooding over Mina, until news of her drug detox and spiritual conversion sends him over the edge. The novel shifts gears as Kip acts out his confusion over Mina's born-again persona.
A transparent narrative that defines all its characters by their musical tastes (with appropriate dress) and perfectly reproduces the clichés of rock journalism, sometimes as parody, sometimes quite seriously. Still, a quick and enjoyable read.