Thirty years ago P.F. Kluge (Micronesia 1967-69) published a novel entitled Eddie and the Cruisers about a New Jersey rock band. The book was turned into a cult movie. (Kluge also wrote the WSJ article(s) that were the basis of the movie Dog Day Afternoon.)
Cruisers was (is) a terrific book, published by Viking in 1980. Now comes another ‘rock band’ novel by an RPCV! This one is the first novel by Tyler McMahon (El Salvador 1999-02) who served in Palo Grande, in the Rosario de Mora municipality, and who is now an Assistant Professor at Hawaii Pacific University. His novel, How the Mistakes Were Made, was published in October by St. Martin’s Press.
The story is about Laura Loss who comes of age in the hardcore punk scene of the 1980s, the jailbait bassist in her brother Anthony’s band. Now, a decade after tragedy destroyed Anthony and their iconic group, she finds herself serving coffee in Seattle.
While on a reluctant tour through Montana, she meets up with Sean and Nathan, two talented young musicians dying to leave their small mountain town. Nathan proves to be a charismatic songsmith. Sean has a neurological condition known as synesthesia, which makes him a genius on lead guitar. With Laura’s guidance, the three of them become the Mistakes-accidental standard-bearers for the burgeoning “Seattle Sound.”
As the band graduates from old vans and darkened bars to tour-buses and stadiums, there’s no time to wonder whether stardom is something they want-or can handle. At the height of their fame, the volatile bonds between the three explode in a toxic cloud of love and betrayal. The world blames Laura for the band’s demise. Hated by the fans she’s spent her life serving, she finally tells her side of how the Mistakes were made.
Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area., Tyler studied at the University of Virginia and Boise State, where he earned his MFA. Besides the Peace Corps he has spent time as a surfing instructor in California and a waiter in Montana. He also edited the anthologies Surfing’s Greatest Misadventures and Fishing’s Greatest Misadventures for Casagrande Press.
Of the novel, Kirkus Reviews writes, “McMahon never strains for effect or tries to sell his characters as myths, as much as they may resonate with the Kurt Cobains and Courtney Loves of the world. His female narration is so good, there is a Lorrie Moore-ness to Laura’s intelligence, self-awareness and self-deprecating wit. And the descriptions of the performances give you a feel for why fans went crazy over the Mistakes. A rock novel good enough to wish you had an accompanying soundtrack.”
RPCV novelist Tyler McMahon is the real thing. You heard it here first.