by Robert McCammon
Review by Mel Jacob
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596063419
Date: 31 May 2011 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Five, a tour de force by Robert McCammon, follows the careers and lives of the members of a touring rock band that lives on the edge. They hope their new video will take them to the big time and a recording contract. It does, but not in the way they imagined as a deranged Iraq vet stalks then with a sniper rifle because of that video's anti-war song.
First the band's road manager, George Emerson, and then the keyboard virtuoso, Terry Spitzenham, tell John “Nomad” Charles, the lead singer of the Five, they are leaving. To hold things together for the rest of the tour, Nomad wants the group to write a song with all the members contributing. In the past, he and Ariel Collier have written the songs including “When the Storm Breaks”, the anti-war song.
Filled with background on bands and rock and roll, the novel delves into the disparate lives of the band members. Their love of music and their desire to excel propels them forward even when success seems elusive. All loners of sorts, two are propelled primarily by rage, Nomad against his charming, but philandering father, and Berke, their lesbian drummer, against her step-father and the world in general.
When two members of the group are attacked and one killed, the others wonder who is next. After their bass player is killed and their road manager shot, the FBI becomes involved. The agent in charge plans to use the band as bait to trap the sniper and becomes their new manager. An ex-Marine, he wants to uphold the honor of the Corps. He is drawn in by the band members and finds the legend of Stone Church fascinating. His apparent acceptance of evil is at odds with his background and personality.
The language is frank and filled with the “f” word. It's a novel that some will love and others will dislike. Starting as a downer, it ends with a message of hope and optimism. Like Andrew Greeley, McCammon puts the human spirit in the line of fire between good and evil. Good is personified by a young Mexican girl they meet who offers water, blessings, and advice. She touches all the band members except Nomad who fears her. The ghosts who drive the Iraq veteran and others who seek to destroy the Five are evil. Symbols of Satanism occur along with plenty of violence.
Apache Leap is a real place, but the Stone Church appears to be the creation of McCammon. It offers a fascinating story within the novel. He has an extensive body of work including the popular Mathew Corbett historical mysteries and A Boy's Life, set in his native Alabama.