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LOUISE WENER - Goodnight Steve McQueen   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Sunday, 17 October 2004

If you were born between about 1970 and 1980, then sometime in the mid 90’s, you probably either wanted to be, or to shag, the author of this book. Since the demise of Britpop’s underdogs Sleeper, Louise Wener seemingly disappeared from view. Instead of giving up and going back to the day job, she instead forged ahead with writing (like all debuts) a heavily-autobiographical debut novel which shows, perhaps surprisingly, that her talents are best placed as either being an author, or postergirl for 1995.

“Goodnight Steve McQueen” is no "Citizen Kane" style debut. Instead it’s a solid, sturdy entry from a talent who may very well grow into greatness. Despite being cynically marketed to the same type of audience as Mike Gayle’s insipid lovefests, and cursed with a tacky, simplistic cover, Wener’s first book shows that she could easily, and without much effort, become the female equivalent of Tony Parsons. And probably much much better.

It’s not all sweetness and light. With a strangely prosaic plot - that of late twenty-somethings final stab at the big time of rock stardom - “Goodnight Steve McQueen” suffers from the off. It has the worst opening paragraph I’ve ever read (and one that was, quite rightly, lambasted all over the internet when it first appeared), and for those of us who aren’t immersed in Pixies trivia and the back pages of the NME, it may, on occasion be difficult to get all the references.

Thankfully it’s all an improvement from there, as characters are realistically drawn, and events unfold at a natural pace. Wener also avoids a common temptation - that of characters behaving irrationally and stupidly in order to advance the plot along. The touch of realism is oddly convincing. She’s not a great writer, but a damn good one, and what she lacks in style and flair is made up for in a deceptively easy style and surprisingly successful adoption of a male lead.

Overall, the novel oddly echoes essential “High Fidelity”, even down to the supposedly-strong but ultimately weak-willed female lead who tries to impose her will upon the lead character before succumbing to another few years of poverty and memorising old vinyl catalogue numbers. That’s not giving the end away : there’s a lot lot more to it than that. Struggling musicians in back street pubs pooling their remaining cash for a pint, rock star ex-friends who turn out to be unsufferable aresholes, failing relationships, cheap drugs, battered transit vans, groupies, and the odd bit of domestic deception.

So business as usual for a rock memoir. It’s never as earth-shattering in its expose as “The Dirt” nor as personal as “High Fidelity”, instead “Goodnight Steve McQueen” straddles the middleground between genius and ambition, and promises much for it’s successor. A talent to watch


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