The Armageddon Rag

The Armageddon Rag - George R.R. Martin

'The Armageddon Rag: Or, Old Man Martin Yells at Those Kids to Get Off His Lawn' is a pretty good book once you get past the bitter, out-of-touch quality the narrator and hero brings to the story. I'm all for celebrating the 60s, but when your former radical journalist everyman starts sincerely grumbling about the "green-haired teenyboppers" running around these days there's a huge problem. At times the whole book threatens to be subsumed by musty waves of regressive sentiment.

Sandy Blair gets a call from his former friend/colleague who still edits 'The Hedgehog', an alternative magazine that's not 'Rolling Stone', that is now a "Lifestyles" journal. It turns out a famous rock promoter has been ritually killed up in Maine and Blair is just the guy to write up the story.

Once up there, Blair finds evidence of a connection between the man's death and the end of a famous seminal hard rock group, Nazgûl, not Led Zeppelin, whose lead singer had been assassinated onstage ten years before and whose death symbolized the death of the sixties. His investigation leads him to revisit his past exploits in the "underground" in memory and in visiting his friends from those days as the mystery gets stranger and darker.

George R.R. Martin is kind of a big deal these days, what with the success of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' and the 'Game of Thrones' series. I've read quite a bit of his other work so I was glad to come across this in a used bookstore. Martin's a good writer but I can see why 'The Armageddon Rag' wasn't a huge success when they reissued it to capitalize on Martin's resurgence in popularity. Martin sometimes creates a great atmosphere with real events and his imagined history, but its constantly undermined by reliance on stereotypical characters and cheap nostalgia. Blair is kind of a big idiot, prone to badly written sexual episodes and taking an awfully long time to figure out what to do at the end.

I wouldn't discourage anyone reading this book, Martin is a professional and the novel works on a couple levels, but it didn't take off the way I hoped it would.