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Bookends: The Death Tour of the Band called The Five December 30, 2018

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends, mystery, thriller, Whitehorse Star.
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Bookends: The Death Tour of the Band called The Five

By Dan Davidson

April 18, 2018

– 955 words –


The Five

The Five

By Robert McCammon

TOR Books

500 pages



The Five are a travelling rock band, a lower echelon group with a name as unimaginative as the name of the folk group I was a member of in high school. We used to practice in a Grade 5 classroom and there were five of us, so guess what we called ourselves. When we added a sixth member, we became the Grade 5 +1.

This band is fronted by lead singer and guitarist John Charles, stage name Nomad, a veteran of many touring bands ever since his high school days, following in the footsteps, or perhaps frets, of his father, who had a similar career.

Then there’s Ariel, a somewhat ethereal second on lead vocals and guitar. With Nomad, she writes most of the songs. She’s unsure of herself, but thinks of the group as her family.

Terry is a whiz on every sort of keyboard. Mike is a super bassist, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but a solid player. Berke is a bit of an oddball, a lesbian drummer with a touch of genius.

Then there’s George, their manager, and often the driver of their van, the Scumbucket, which is actually his van. He’s a hard worker.

Their latest single, and video, is an anti-war commentary called “When the Storm Breaks”. It’s getting some airplay, stimulating some interviews and social media attention, and getting them some sales of their latest CD.

The first 70 or so pages of this book are about the rather depressing life of the band, and I have to admit that I really wasn’t getting into this story, having expected it to be a bit more like George R.R. Martin’s The Armageddon Rag. McCammon is, after all, known for his horror/fantasy writing.

I put it aside, read about 20 other books, and picked it up again one evening. I had to flip through the first chapter to remind myself who was who, but then I got to chapter two.

Chapter two introduced another character, Jeremy Pett, a former US Special Forces sniper who is on the verge of committing a PTSD fueled suicide when he has a vision. The Five’s video in on his crappy television when he is called out of his bloodstained bathtub by a compelling voice that offers him a mission, something that he has been sadly lacking since his honourable discharge.

His mission: stalk and kill the members of The Five.

It’s never clear just where that mission came from, but later in the book we are told of at least two other guys who get the same message by different means and make their own attempts on the band. Can’t just be an association of music critics, but one has to wonder what’s going on.

By that time, George has announced that this is his last go round and he’s heading home to join the family business. Terry also plans to quit. His love is keyboards and he plans to open a vintage keyboard repair and creation shop, while doing some music on the side. Basically, they’re burned out on the touring life.

Nomad suggests they should all collaborate on one last song to be sung at their last gig together in a few weeks. Berke derides this as a Kumbaya maneuver, but Mike, who has never written anything, is inspired by a migrant worker girl they meet and writes down some of the positive words she spoke to them. He hands them to Berke at their next gas stop, and then dies in front of her when a high powered slug explodes his head.

He is the first. Days later Berke thinks she feels a bullet whiz by her head while she’s jogging. She’s not quite sure, so she doesn’t tell anyone, but when George takes two in the chest a day or so later, after an evening’s performance, everyone, including the FBI, knows there’s a killer on the road (to borrow a phrase from the Doors).

While Nomad is the character whose point of view we follow the most, all of the other members of the group, as well as their nemesis, get their pages.

We also spend time with fiftyish FBI Agent Truitt Allen, who is put in charge of the group assigned to guard the group as they finish their tour in the hope that having them out there as live bait will enable the FBI to capture Pett.

Allen, usually called True from that point on, becomes the group’s acting manager and usual driver (George is recovering in a hospital), while also coordinating their defense with his team of four other agents, at least until head office decides that this whole operation is costing too much money and forces him to scale back.

You can probably tell that my interest in the book increased a lot after Pett entered the plot, and that’s kind of ironic because the group’s sales and reputation skyrocket as it becomes clear to the media that this is a most unusual tour.

McCammon was a big name in the horror genre until the early 1990s, when he retired from the mainstream for 10 years over a dispute with his publisher. The Five marked his return to the shelves with a modern day setting in 2011. Most of his other work since the early 2000s has been horror fiction set in the 17th to 19th centuries, much of it featuring a character named Matthew Corbett.

He has been a winner of the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker (3 times) awards, and nominated for others.