Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rock novel from Paradise writer hits all the right chords


According to an author's note, Chad Peery played "bass guitarist for John Kay & Steppenwolf, and Fleetwood Mac's Bob Welch." His rock reminiscences appear on his Web site,, and it's clear that Peery has had an exceedingly full life. Now he can add "novelist."

With a rock sensibility and unbounded imagination, Peery takes his characters into uncharted territory, and back. In "Smoking Jimi" ($14.95 in paper from CreateSpace, available locally at Lyon Books and Made In Chico) former "Jammies" 70's guitarist Brad Wilson (now a photographer) is sucked back into playing by a most bizarre offer.

It's 1999. Ex-band-manager Mitch Damian shows up with a million dollar offer to get the band back together and play for an eccentric millionaire in South America. Wilson is skeptical, since thirty years ago Damian had absconded with the money from the band's record deal. Part of the fun in the first half of the novel is how ne'er-do-well Damian, with Brad's reluctant assistance, actually gets the group together--or what's left of it. One had committed suicide (no help there); another had become a monk and a third, whacked out on drugs, had joined a survivalist compound in Colorado.

Wilson picks up a guitar: "I pressed the whammy bar to dip the pitch of the strings, and it snapped back into perfect tune, unlike my old Stratocaster. . . . What a thrill to play again, and to have a reason for playing again." Later, when the band actually makes it to Pablo Lupa's estate, the music flows (Lupa has spiked the punch), and Wilson looks for words: "How I had forgotten the magic, when your body, mind and soul become the music, flowing in a beautiful ribbon. . . . Finally, I hit one last, sustained note, and then allowed it to descend slowly like a waterfall over a bridge of rainbows."

Pablo Lupa takes "smoking Jimi" literally and all seems over for the band when Lupa's real intentions are revealed, the compound is engulfed in military conflict, and Wilson mourns a lost lover. But the story is not yet over, and Peery has produced a hilarious, improbable stew of oddball personalities enmeshed in music, madness and mystery, and love that rocks the world.

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