Algie confronts 21st century rock ’n’ roll in Southeast Asia

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Jim Algie tells some harsh truths about aging and a segment of Thai culture. Supplied

“On the Night Joey Ramone Died: Tales of rock and punk from Bangkok, New York, Cambodia and Norway” is a pair of interconnected novellas set three years apart. It’s about the music industry and lifestyle, including rock, pop, and punk. Joey Ramone died before his 50th birthday and this causes the central character, Lek to reflect on his own career and mortality.
 
Ramone was Lek’s favorite singer and the two had even corresponded. Mixed into the sometimes-hazy brew is a love story with comedic moments as dark as the tar from the Black Devil clove cigarettes the long haired Lek prefers to smoke.
 
The setting is primarily Bangkok in the early years of the 21st century, with a few pit-stops as the title reveals. Music cultures get plenty of ink and airtime in this coming of middle-age tale.
 
Lek is an aging Thai rock star. He lives in a penthouse with gold records adorning the walls. He hasn’t had a hit song in several years but is still living the good life. He’s turned to producing boy bands and isn’t happy about it.
 
Lek longs to get back on stage and to have rock and roll back on the clock. The girls who work at the convenience store calling him “Uncle” get on his nerves. Lek has been through the grinder of a divorce and has a rocky relationship with his guitar-playing son Dee Dee.
 
Algie creates the Thai characters as well as he writes about Lek’s love interest from Norway. She is smart, thin, beautiful and blonde, but Barbie she is not. Edana is into heavy metal and Cambodian genocide, for starters. To complicate things, it is Dee Dee who makes the introduction.
 
Family matters crop up throughout but the core is Lek’s pursuit of a relationship in the second longer novella, with the younger Edana, which simultaneously fills Lek’s life with new found focus and fresh doubts. Edana may be the glue (or a shattered mirror) that Lek needs to patch his life back together.
 
A sampling of Lek’s mindset and Algie’s writing style:
 
“But his mind would not shut up and this was half the problem with aging: far too much reasoning and not nearly enough action. Youth act on their impulses. With age, and whatever passes for experience and wisdom, people construct reasons – or are they alibis? – for not acting on those impulses. Some even glorify the betrayal of youth and the purity of instinct as virtues like “common sense,” “moderation” and “maturity.”
 
The stories show the reader some harsh truths about aging and a segment of Thai culture that few expatriate writers would be able, or willing, to explore. It’s an insider’s look at the music business, including sex, drugs, and road trips woven into human situations and predicaments. As the author explains, “Music is such a personal and deeply emotional experience that you can only get to its essence by showing its effects on one person’s life.” The musical references range from The Ramones, Chet Baker, Hank Williams, and some memorable passages involving the Carpenters, and Cannibal Corpse.
 
If you’ve ever had a date, a day, a year, a wife or a life that didn’t go exactly as you had planned, you will enjoy the entanglements and resolutions that the characters have on the pages of On the Night Joey Ramone Died. The novella set will be enjoyed by adult English readers of all ages, with musicians, song writers, and music lovers getting extra bang for the buck. What Jim Algie has accomplished makes one anticipate his future work.
 
On the Night Joey Ramone Died By Jim Algie.
Published by Magic Bullet Press, 2016.
Available at Amazon, US$2.99 Kindle edition.

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