by wlancehunt in

Hunt, in his first novel, tells the story of two musicians trying to make it in the late-1980s Chicago scene.

Jonathan Starks and Scott Marshall were only supposed to come to Chicago for a party, but when the opportunity to rent a rehearsal space presents itself, the Columbus musicians jump at the chance to start fresh in the big city in 1988. Jonathan sings, plays keyboard, and gets all the attention, even if he thinks the comparisons that he gets to the late Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis are facile. He feels guilty about leaving his girlfriend, Amy, behind in Ohio—she’s done so much to help him grow as a person, after all—but the Windy City has no shortage of beautiful women to inspire his songwriting. Scott’s personal darkness is rooted in the death of his childhood friend, Sammy, who met a violent end years ago. He’s afraid of being abandoned again, and of getting taken for granted. It becomes clear that ambition can bring people together, but it can also serve as a wedge between old friends. Jonathan and Scott change their sound to fit in with the local craze for a new genre of music: “It’s music for your body to move to,” says Jonathan. “Electronic body music.” They recruit new members and are reborn as a group called Mercurial Visions. They find success, but not so much that the failures of their pasts don’t catch up with them, with some deadly consequences. Hunt writes in a dense, passionate prose that strives to enliven everything it touches. His description of a photographer could easily describe himself as an author: “His eyes seek; they’re always hunting, locking onto things for a moment….He’s like a hawk scanning the ground for something small and hard to see to swoop down upon and catch.” The intensity of the language, though, grows somewhat exhausting over the book’s 400-plus pages, particularly when combined with the obsessiveness of the main characters. That said, Hunt successfully conjures the story’s time and a place in masterful detail. Jonathan and Scott are not quite likable, but they are recognizable as the kind of ruthlessly creative types who find success only when they can keep their demons in check.

An expansive historical novel that ably evokes its time and place.

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