YOUNG AMERICANS by Josh Stallings
I remember way back in 2002, reading a review of the film Narc, there was a line that described Jason Patric’s character I’ve always remembered. It said he looked like he crawled out from under a pile of Allman Brothers records. That always stuck with me. I remembered it while reading YOUNG AMERICANS by Josh Stallings because this book crawled out from under a pile of albums, but not necessarily the Allman Brothers. And when I say albums, I mean fucking Vinyl records, that mono sound with the hisses and cracks. The sound of this book is not re-mastered for iTunes. You need big speakers.
YOUNG AMERICANS is set in Northern California 1976 and you can smell the weed and hear the music from the opening page. That’s something very important with this book: the music. 1976 was a musical crossroad specifically when punk, disco, and glam emerged or collided depending on your perspective. You hear the music in the proper context. It fits. Yes I am emphasizing this point because this book couldn’t exist without the sound. As I read, I need to stop to listen to songs I knew and look up ones I didn’t and it made the entire experience all the better.
When I read about this book and reached out for a copy, I didn’t have any idea what it was about. I didn’t care either. There was a new Josh Stallings book, enough said. I knew the title. That was is. So I get the book and it has a pink cover with a disco ball. No synopsis on the back either. Only pull quotes from writers I dig and words jumped out at me….. freaks/heist/drugs/sex/guns/glam/tough/original/sweet…… One thing I was certain of is in all of Stalling’s work there is a level of heart that is palpable. You care about the characters.
Sam is a stripper dancing for the farmers and freaks of Humboldt, County California. She comes from a family of old school thieves and knows the art of cracking a safe. She is young but with an old soul. Side note….. Sam is the most well written female character I’ve read in forever. She falls for the man she knows she shouldn’t fall for. And this sets the tale in motion.
So I just decided I’m not telling you anymore. My reason for this is I went into this book like I went into some of my all time favorite music albums before I knew they were going to be just that. I saw the cover and thought to myself I want to know what this is. So you just push play and fall in. Go where it takes you.
Take this trip. It’s lonely but heartfelt. It’s late night music on a fast highway.
Stallings has a powerful but subtle voice. He reminds me of the late great Eddie Little minus the nihilism. Yes there is a looming presence of menace. I couldn’t have got behind this book if that wasn’t clearly stated.