I live in St. Petersburg. This past Sunday, January 28th, I went downtown and walked by the State Theatre where I saw on the marquee that you had played the night before. What follows is what the sight of your name unlocked in my brain. I hadn’t listened to your music in years nor have I been to any live show in years but I let out an audible groan there on Central Avenue. I’m a longtime huge fan and had I known you were playing I would have been there. I am from Connecticut and lived in New Haven for twelve years and caught several of your incredible early nineties shows at Toad’s Place.
I was first turned on to you at an unforgettable New Year’s Eve party in New Haven on January 1st, 1990. I was talking to this couple about music and they started gushing about They Might Be Giants. I had never heard of you. She was carrying your cassette in her bag and they took me aside and played me a few tracks. The mushrooms I had eaten were in full roar and within thirty seconds my already glowing mind was bowled over and blown away. The party went long and hard and when we went to breakfast at two in the afternoon the couple gifted me their 90 minute cassette which contained They Might Be Giants, Lincoln and the amazing B-sides.
Like many human beings I have a passion for music. I played first seat of four tubas in a very serious, prize winning high school band—the conductor was an anal retentive German perfectionist and we were pucker tight. I also took up bass and played in a few bands throughout the eighties and early nineties. I am a novelist and listen to a lot of music while I write. I tend to get hooked on songs and albums and artists and play them repeatedly in the background while I focus on the words. This past Sunday I made a They Might Be Giants playlist that I have been listening to on repeat all week—eight hours last night and it’s playing right now.
Back in 1990 your cassette sparked a little friction between me and my roommate Jeffy. Jeffy was also a musician and had set up a little recording studio in our attic apartment. He turned me on to Zappa and the Kinks and in turn I turned him on to TMBG. However, Jeffy seemed to think I went overboard. When I'm into a novel I can get lost in my writing for hours at a clip every day for months. So as I was typing my fiction every day all I listened to was your cassette, flipping it every 45 minutes for hours and hours day after day and one afternoon Jeffy came to me as I was typing. ‘Cowtown’ was playing and Jeffy was very agitated. He literally jabbed me in the chest and futilely said these exact words: “They Might Be Giants are amazing but you have ruined them for me! You have got to stop playing that cassette! It’s been over two months and I can’t take it anymore! Play all the music you want just play something, anything different!”
In the mid nineties I lived in Austin for two years where I finished writing a novel called THE DEAK that I had started the year before while living in New Orleans. I watched the Gigantic documentary last night and chuckled with unbridled delight when I watched Michael McKean’s marvelous recitation of “The End of the Tour.” THE DEAK was inspired by This Is Spinal Tap and was intended to be a literary equivalent; and as such it is the absurd and comical autobiography of a rock superstar.
THE DEAK was initially conceived to be a trilogy but I finished the fourth novel last summer and I keep getting ideas and will continue dreaming up and writing about Deak’s musical escapades until I die. He’s my musical alter ego balling at rock and roll fantasy camp. I already have the opening of the fifth novel outlined, and an arc for the whole, but first I plan on finishing the novella I am working on now which is called CASA ALEGRIA.
Song lyrics and snippets are intrinsic to the Deak novels as he tells his life story by describing how the preposterous events of his life inspired his music. While living in Austin and finishing the first Deak novel I was struck with an incredible idea. Self, I said to me, you should find some bands to record the songs and arrange to release a CD tribute to Deak in conjunction with the novel. To that end I crafted and sent a detailed proposal and sample lyrics to a number of bands. including They Might Be Giants. I received only one response, from They Might Be Giants. I still have the letter, and here it is in its entirety.
HELLO CD OF THE MONTH
PO BOX 551
PALISADES, N.Y. 10964
405 E 31st St
Austin, TX 78705
Thank you for writing to They Might Be Giants and Hello. I have read your letter and the synopsis of your work in progress. I believe that the story is quite interesting and the idea to release a companion CD is a great idea. At the present time, TMBG is quite busy recording their new album as well as playing select shows around the country. If you would like to pursue your request further, you should send a proposal and any other relevant info to John McQueeny at the Hornblower Group USA (PO Box 176 Palisades, NY 10964). This company manages TMBG and would be of a greater help. I wish you luck with the completion and publishing of your book.
Hello CD of the Month
Naturally I wrote to McQueeny but received no response.
The Deak novels incorporate real world musical stars into Deak’s wacky fictional realm and there are stories about Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Led Zeppelin, The Smiths, Morrissey solo, Brian Wilson, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, NWA, Paul and Linda McCartney, Elvis, James Brown, Prince, Anthony Kiedis and Flea and others. Frank Zappa is Deak’s Laurel Canyon neighbor so Frank and his family and band members make periodic appearances in the novels. Deak meets Adrian Belew at Frank’s house one afternoon in chapter 1 of novel 4 and they end up on a train full of animals riding circles around the giraffes at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
Having said all that, I now have several fresh Deak ideas in mind. First, get They Might Be Giants to take up and consider my proposal, which one of your own people has already stated is a great idea. The mutual benefits would be many. I may be wrong but I don’t think anyone has ever done anything quite like what I have in mind. If you were to express interest it would immediately benefit to me to be able to mention your name in my ongoing search for agents and editors. I already know the names of the editors who publish musical books and novels, and with your name attached to the pitch it would be very easy for me to find editors to give the books and CD proposal a serious review. The benefit to you would be that you would be part of a uniquely awesome literary project which will expose your music to potential new listeners while adding something totally different to your collected works. How many bands do you know who have recorded the soundtrack for a novel? And I don’t know if you’ve seen book advances lately, but I recently tried and failed to finish reading an absolutely vapid, crappy novel published in 2016 called SWEETBITTER, which Random House bought for $750,000 in November 2014. I have completed 17 book length fiction manuscripts, 13 of which are novels.
At this point an homage to They Might Be Giants in the fifth Deak novel is inevitable. I’m planning to off and replace a main character in the first chapter. Jonesy is Deak’s long time collaborator and keyboardist, and while I’ve written tremendous stories about Jonesy I’ve grown bored with him and need new blood in the next novel. Jonesy is going to be having a grand piano hoisted into the second floor of his LA mansion when the ropes break, the piano smashes onto the ground and Jonesy perishes when a flying F# key pierces his left eye from about twenty feet away.
Deak was born in 1960 and the fifth novel starts on June 12th, 1987 in Berlin. That is the day Ronald Reagan delivered his famously idiotic ‘tear down this wall’ speech. Deak and his band had sold out a large venue show that night in Berlin and a paranoid Reagan was fearful Deak would respond to his afternoon speech with very public mockery that night so he invited Deak to perform at a presidential luncheon before the speech. Deak agreed to the performance so he could denounce Reagan to his face but it was a trap! The Secret Service locked Deak and the band in a very comfortable, well provisioned and very secure secret room in the American Embassy in Berlin, where they sit awaiting me to breathe them back to life. I’m thinking I can have them fly into JFK, see a sign in New York for Dial a Song which leads to Deak meeting the two Johns and you replace Jonesy in the band at least for the next album and the first few chapters. Or, if you have any specific ideas about how you’d like to be portrayed in Spinal Tap the novel, I’m all ears. I could also refer to the stick and the fez and the crazy things in your videos.
In addition to the four Deak novels I have nine other novels and four collections of stories and novellas complete, edited, locked and loaded. It’s a thirty year backlog. You can check them out on my website writerbob.com. There is no filler. I have put a few on Amazon where they languish in obscurity. I have been told time and again that my work and my ideas are great, as you just read. Here is one more endorsement. Substitute TMBG for my name and John could be describing you.
In the late 90s and early 2000s I used the pseudonym of a literary agent to represent myself and a couple of clients to the major publishers. In 2001 I submitted LORENZO’S FAT HEAD to a senior editor at Warner Books named John Aherne. This is Mr. Aherne’s rejection letter: “I must admit that this is one of the most unusual novels that I’ve ever read. Robert Charest has got an impressively vivid imagination, and from page one I was hooked by his off-the-wall sense of humor. Howard is a terrific character, and the lengths he goes to get his hits of nose candy are absolutely wild. Though I responded to this novel on a personal level…I’m sorry I must pass, but am genuinely glad I got to read LORENZO’S FAT HEAD. I wish you and the author much luck with it.”
I called John the next day and thinking he was speaking to my agent Stephen his first breathless words were: “Man, that guy’s a great writer!”
If you’ve made it this far thanks for all the magical music and I hope I’ve piqued you. I see you’re well booked up touring for the next few months but if you are interested I’ll be happy to send you any of the novels to look over. Even if I sold the novels to a publisher tomorrow it would still be another year before they would be released. I have written a detailed explanation and synopsis of the Deak novels here: http://deaknovels.blogspot.com/
I love every word of Deak, but if you want to read a sample I would recommend the opening three chapters of the third novel, which exploit the long whispered rumors that Jagger and Bowie were occasionally more intimate than friends. That is here: http://deaknovels.blogspot.com/2016/01/deak-third-opening-3-chapters-rolling.html