The Last Days of the Midnight Ramblers
Grade : C+

The Last Days of the Midnight Ramblers suffers by comparison with the flood of other rock and roll novels clogging the market. While it gets points for making its characters flawed and realistic – and keeps things engaging – it doesn’t stand apart enough in a field clogged with these sorts of stories in a post-Daisy Jones and the Six world.

The titular Midnight Ramblers are an iconic rock quartet that combines the romantic drama of Fleetwood Mac, the Teutonic European stock of ABBA and the dramatic member deaths of The Rolling Stones. Mari Hawthorn – a journalist and daughter of a failed, alcoholic rock promoter – is looking to make a living by ghostwriting a biography of the band. Along the way, she learns truths about herself - and finds herself learning the truth about what happened to a member of the Midnight Ramblers one unfortunate night.

Anke Berben, a one-time high fashion model, groupie and icon of the sixties and current style legend, holds the key to the truth but has long remained silent about it – however, now that she’s dying, it’s time to tell her story. After the death of her previous ghostwriter, she hires Mari. Another good reason for the book’s existence – the band’s American chauffer, Syd, cashed in big time on a memoir he wrote, which resulted in a movie about the dead lead singer featuring Jude Law.

Part of Anke’s truth includes an examination about her three-way affair with the members of The Midnight Ramblers. There’s long-dead wildman leader Mal Walker, the band’s genius epicenter/songwriter and Anke’s husband, (whom she knew and loved before either of them was famous), mysteriously and inexplicably drowned in the pool of his rented LA home (how Brian Jones!), who also left behind a pregnant girlfriend named Nancy. There’s lead guitarist Dante Ashcombe, whom Anke turned to in her grief after Mal died, the apparent father of her son Odin, and Jack, the band’s flamboyant lead singer, whom Anke lived with for five years.

As a ghostwriter, Mari must provide balance to the story while trying to tell the truth. That means interviewing Dante and Jack, trying to get past the band’s ‘fixer’ of a manager, Sigrid, and figuring out if volcanic Mal died accidentally, via drug overdose – or if he was murdered.

The Last Days of the Midnight Ramblers benefits from Sarah Tomlinson’s actual experience as a ghostwriter; the mood and tone feel just right. But unlike books like Daisy Jones – where you know you’re looking at fictionalized versions of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, yet the added diversions, changes to the story and new characters work so well that you don’t really care – here the layers are a little thinner. This feels like the story of Anita Pallenberg – right down to the near-disastrous heroin addiction and the odd, rumor-laden pool-based death of Mal/Jones. There are so many echoes here it’s very distracting. Yet I liked Anke and Mari and Dante and Odin, all of whom are imperfect but interesting characters.

I liked Mari, too, but lord what a fool she has to be for the narrative to work! The mystery here is solved through Ebert's Law of Conservation; if you’re wondering why that character is hanging around even though they should just be popping in and out of the narrative but Mari spends an awful lot of time being curious about them – well, now you know. But doing it the same way three times feels a little like (hah!) overkill.

The good parts of The Last Ride of The Midnight Ramblers involve Mari trying to forge relationships outside of her usual sphere, and these characters taking her warmly to their bosom over time. The conclusion to the mystery feels a little foregone, and is ultimately preposterous. Ultimately, it’s a painless way to spend a morning, but not much more than that.

Note: the story includes discussion of the rape of a minor character, and multiple on-page overdoses as well as a lot of drug-talk.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes
Grade : C+
Book Type: Women's Fiction

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : February 16, 2024

Publication Date: 02/2024

Review Tags: 

Recent Comments …

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

20 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
20
0
What's your opinion?x
()
x