Friday, September 20, 2019

Zero Avenue by Dietrich Kalteis

This post is what you might call, coming late to the party.

Most already know what a terrific writer Canadian Dietrich Kalteis is, but I’ve just got to heap on a little more praise.

My introduction to Mr. Kalteis was his 2017 novel, Zero Avenue.

Set in Vancouver’s punk rock scene of the late 1970s, the book is a kick-ass crime story.

A singer and guitarist, a punk-rock club manager, and a drug-dealing gangster all have great ambitions to get ahead.

Frankie, a young woman with an electric guitar, a decent voice, and a don’t-mess-with-me attitude, leads her own band. But the group struggles to get noticed and to get paying gigs. She makes ends meet by making deliveries for Marty, the local drug kingpin.

Marty’s business is expanding almost as fast as his own drug habit and he now allows his crazy right-hand man to handle things he used to take care of himself.

Johnny owns a grubby little club and is always in the red. His biggest headache is his landlord – Marty.

Part of Marty’s business is muscling farmers outside the city into allowing him to grow pot in the middle of their corn fields. He has a couple of dim guys with guns stationed at the farm to protect his crop.

The book’s title comes from the name of a street on the Canadian-U.S. border where the farm is located.

Frankie has a thing going with Marty until she catches him being serviced by a woman in the grungy, grotesque restroom of Johnny’s club. The woman takes issue with Frankie’s attitude only to have Frankie beat the crap out of her and leave her bloodied on the floor.

In need of money, Johnny hits on the insane idea of ripping off Marty to pay Marty.

Frankie and her band members wind up in the middle of the mess.

Kalteis remembers and recreates the era and has a ball naming the fictional bands and songs. But, readers do not have to be into punk to appreciate the rip-roaring story.

Zero Avenue is written in an edgy, staccato style that warns: Better keep up, ’cause this author ain’t waiting for you.

(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)

(And please check out my crime novel, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)