Espedair Street

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Publisher: Abacus (1987)

ISBN: 0 316 10214 7

Précis: 'Two days ago I decided to kill myself... Last night I changed my mind and decided to stay alive. Everything that follows is... just to try and explain.'

Daniel Weir used to be a famous - not to say infamous - rock star. Maybe still is. At thrity-one he has been both a brilliant failure and a dull success. He's made a lot of mistakes that have paid off and a lot of smart moves he'll regret forever. (However long that turns out to be.) Daniel Weir has gone from rags to riches and back, and managed to hold on to them both, though not to much else. His friends all seem to be dead, fed up with him or just disgusted - and who can blame them? And now Daniel Weir is all alone. As he contemplates his life, Daniel realises he has only two problems; the past and the future. He knows had bad the past has been. But the future - well the future is something else.

Be warned! To proceed reading below here is to risk spoilers about the story of the book. It is recommended that you proceed only after having first read the novel.

Summary: Daniel, up late one night, is living a life of seclusion from the excesses of his earlier days. Partly ashamed of his success he now spends his time travelling incognito around town with a small group of friends who don't know who he is. Mostly these nights involve getting drunk at an assortment of pubs, arguing over politics and usually doing something foolish. Into this routine comes the bad news that a band member, and friend, of Danny's has been killed.

This triggers off a period of self recrimination for Danny as he feels responsible for both this friends death, and a previous friend - both of them having died as a result of an on stage effect designed and suggested by Danny. On top of this he feels that the success of the band was less due to his talents as a songwriter and more due to good timing and several fortuitous accidents. Thus, when his ex-record manager enquires about the possibility of a future record, he stalls answering and settles into a deep gloom within the somewhat eccentric home he has chosen.

Taking stock of his life and the opportunities missed he decides that it has been worthless and that he has accomplished nothing. So he decides to kill himself, slinking off quietly to travel up-country where he can drown himself in a special symbolic place. Weary from travelling he settles into a hotel for what he feels is the last time and catches the strains of a long forgotten song he wrote that now holds special meaning for him. Re-evaluating again he now finds a reason for living and a purpose to give himself direction in life.

Thus he sets his resolutions into action and gives away the bulk of his fortune. Next he drags his notes and thoughts on music out and, refreshed by his new purpose, begins to write again. Finally he sets off in search of an old friend, whom he had long ago thought he had lost, and begins his life anew a much happier person for it.

Comments: This is an odd wee book. Iain notes in one of his interviews that he wrote this book just after 'The Bridge' and that it is partly a reaction to the complexity and byzantine nature of that book. Sure enough it is a somewhat simpler book to follow and is, in essence, a love story.

Albeit a meandering one though. A good two thirds of the story is setup work explaining the hows and whys of the character's current predicament. Still the flashing backwards and forwards, whilst not as byzantinely conplex as other novels, does distantly echo the usual complex narrative line that Iain so loves to use. And the sense of humour is there in spades.

But, in the end, like most love stories it ends up saying little and instead is content being a character piece. A fun read, but I wouldn't hunt too hard to track it down.

Philip R. Banks
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