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Last year, Stark House Press reprinted Death Of A Punk, a hard boiled private eye tale set in the New York punk scene. Written in the late seventies by John P. Browner, who frequented C.B.G.B's and similar venues, and published in 1980, the book works as a crime fiction snapshot of a particular culture in a particular era. It also shows how the music and the fiction aren't too far apart.

Browner used an outsider to dive into his world with a classic set up. Lenny Hornblower , a late in middle age Korean War vet and ex cabbie, gets by as an unlicensed detective. A wealthy and sexy widow hires him to find her runaway stepson, Blinky, to give him some money and know he is okay. She gives him two leads- he frequents a club, AC-DC, and wears a clothespin through his nose.

When Lenny gets close, Blinky jumps him and takes his wallet, fearing he was sent by somebody more dangerous than his stepmom. Hornblower finds himself in a tangled grimy underworld tied to the a ring of music equipment thieves, record executives, and old guard mobsters that puts a brick of cocaine in his hands. As bodies pile up, the counter-counter culture music blaring in his ears.

The story does a great job of delivering the punk culture through Hornblower's point of view. The lead about Blinky's safety pin proves to be little help since half the punks wear one. He thinks back to his own youth when playing a horn as the rage, instead of an electric guitar. Dora, a ticket taker at AC-DC, proves to be an ally, guiding him through the venues that are little more than squats, demonstrating how to converse with the overpowering music playing. The plot even incorporates the music industry commercializing the "new wave." While it's not his taste,

Lenny expresses little hatred toward the music or its fans. He may be old, but he's a New Yorker; he's familiar with the non-conformist. The jaded detective eventually develops a connection with some of the jaded youth.

Death Of A Punk is a fun look at the music through a genre it shares commonality with. Like a Ramone's song, it's hard, fast, and doesn't give a fuck if you're offended. Both Dashiell Hammett and Richard Hell would approve.


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