You've got to give a round of applause to 55-year-old former Kinks frontman Ray Davies for trying his hand at serious fiction instead of farming himself out on the '60 oldies circuit. Alas, his creation—aging British rocker Lester Mulligan, the tortured but sensitive antihero of this collection of interconnected short stories—hasn't been so lucky. Reduced to doing nostalgia pieces for VH-1, he's stumbling around in life, looking for a comeback.
It's a grim, gray world Mulligan inhabits. His girlfriend disappears; his mother and manager die. So it comes as a relief when the author allows his own sly humor to poke through, as it does in the character simply named English, an American rocker so desperate to be taken for a Brit that he mimics Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent from Mary Poppins. Woven in are Kinks song lyrics—such as "Rock and Roll Fantasy" and "Misfits"—that inspired some of these stories. Check them out: Poetic and soaring, they're a wonderful counterpoint to Davies's drum-tight, often airless prose. (Hyperion, $22.95)
Bottom Line: Downbeat but intelligent effort by a former rock icon