After reading novel Boy Wonder I wanted to read more of James Robert Baker's novels and eventually managed to track down Fuel Injected Dreams. It was published in 1984 and basically does for the music what Boy Wonder did for the movies. Fuel Injected Dreams is not quite as effortlessly brilliant as Boy Wonder but it's well worth locating in second and shops or the internet. I read it in one go and not wanting to lose it, failed to return it to the library I got it from. (selfish I know, but there’s not much higher literary praise for a book than that.) The story concerns Los Angeles DJ Scott Cochran who's steeped in the musical nostalgic of the early 60s and his teenage years. His favourite record is Fuel Injected Dreams by The Stingrays which for him symbolises his first girlfriend Cheryl who disappeared in mysterious circumstances the summer of its release. The Stingrays themselves broke up in drug crazed self-destruction in 1967. And Dennis Contrelle their producer/manager retreated to his fortress-like mansion with his Sharlene, their singer and his wife. When Contrelle contacts Scott offering to share the music made secretly during his seclusion it seems like every fan’s dream come true. But 20 years of drugged isolation have made Dennis slightly more than eccentric and Cochran is soon trapped within Contrelle's dangerous delusions. Especially when he falls for Sharlene, who is the prisoner of Contrelle’s insane jealousy. Like Boy Wonder, Fuel Injected Dreams features characters that seem to based on real people in the music business. Since reading this I find it hard to read anything about Phil Spector without thinking about Dennis Contrelle (though I don't think Spector at his worst was anything as screwed-up as Contrelle.) And at its heart the book is a warning about nostalgia, as both Dennis and Scott are trapped by romanticising the past. Though Scott is eventually more succesful at escapin
g it than Dennis. The whole tale is written with a hyperactive energy and black comedy that makes you ignore the unlikely twists of the plot at the end. Baker wrote with a wild excessive style that might upset some readers (especially when the exact nature of Contrelle's "eccentricities" is revealed) but it also matches the over the top subject matter. At one point Sharlene refers to the events as Rock Gothic and that sums up the book perfectly. Despite it's cynicism over the music business, Fuel Injected Dreams is one of the few novels to show such a genuine fan’s appreciation for pop music.
A rock-and-roll anti-nostalgia novel about a reclusive sixties-era record producer.