The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton
“Tim Thornton’s portrait of a pop culture obsession is so convincing that one can’t help wishing that his fictional alt rock band actually existed, or suspecting that they did. The Alternative Hero is a weirdly compelling portrait of fanatic fandom which reads like High Fidelity at high volume.”
What do you do if you’re a failed music fanzine writer in your early thirties with a dead-end job, and the best moment of your life occurred when you went to your first Thieving Magpies gig as a teenager and suddenly you
belonged in a way you never had before, and the worst moment of your life occurred about six years later when Lance Webster, the Magpies’ lead singer, self-destructed on stage before your eyes—basically taking you with him—and just today you’ve discovered that Lance lives down the street from you?
If you’re Clive Beresford—the haplessly obsessed guy at the center of Tim Thornton’s wildly comic and energetic debut novel—you get remarkably drunk and write and deliver a note to your idol (the contents of which you can’t remember the next morning), which causes two very large bouncer types to appear at your door warning you to back off, which, in turn, causes you to hide your true identity when you do finally meet Lance, totally by accident (he’s come a long way since the Magpies, but he is still LANCE F**CKING WEBSTER!) . . . none of which deters you from believing—really believing—that he could still save your life if only you could get that “earth-shattering exclusive” interview with him.
With the story shifting between Clive’s life-changing Magpies past and his frantic present, we get a headlong, boisterous coming-of-age (if-not-quite-growing-up) romp and a warmhearted, hilarious view of friendship, hero worship, and the full-blast power of music to help us become, at the very least, who we would like to think we are.
Listen to a playlist inspired by the book
Tim Thornton plays the drums for the alt/blues artist Fink. The Alternative Hero is his first novel.
From our interview with the author:
What sparked the idea for this book?
The Alternative Hero actually started life as a song: I was going to do a mashup version of LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” replacing all the too-cool-for-school New York City DJ references with rainswept British indie ones, so: “I was there at the first Can show in Cologne” would become “I was there when Blur supported Ned’s Atomic Dustbin at Kilburn National,” and “I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988” would transform into “I had my first E in a clapped out Vauxhall Chevette in a traffic jam on the way back from Spike Island in 1990”— and so on. But then I happened to spy one of my favorite alternative pop stars having a pint by himself in my local pub on a Wednesday afternoon, and I started wondering what it would be like to befriend him, and to discover howunderwhelming his current lifemight be. So I decided to write a humorous novel that combines the twomusings: what happens when you try to meet one of your heroes, and what happens when you’re consumed not only with the suspicion that you might have lost your edge, but that you never really had it in the first place? It’s also an unashamed chance to reminisce like mad and slag off Oasis.
How long did it take you to write it?
I was mucking about with it for about two years, then I decided to take it seriously and it was done in about three months. Actually, “I decided” suggests a greater degree of resolve on my part—it was my agent nodding his approval that converted it from a draft of rambling bollocks into the beginnings of a book.
Read the rest.