“Nomad decided he would have to kill the waitress.”
In the last twenty years, Robert McCammon has mostly been writing for his Matthew Corbett series, and given that there’s eight of those and they probably average 500 pages each, I’ve been waiting to start them. This book is one of the few book he’s written in that time period that are not from that series. Here, it’s 2008, and we begin with a small tier touring band three years into their existence. The novel opens on an increasingly uncomfortable meal in which first one, then another, of the bandmates declares their intention to leave. This is only somewhat mitigates by the fact that each wants to quit touring music altogether and not leave for a different band. The band decides to finish the tour and reassess from there. Later, they stop in a small town and there’s a strange moment where the bassist sees a young girl giving out water in the town, and this inspires or sparks or even creates in him an idea that the band should write one last song together, each contributing to the lyrics. This yields mixed results.
A secondary storyline opens up at this point when an Iraqi war veteran finds his way to the band’s website and sees their new music video, which is sharply critical of the war and moreover the military. This enrages the the veteran, who is also going through some kind of break where his former gunnery sergeant appears as a voice in his head. For the most of the book this seems like a mental illness, but later on it moves in the direction of something bigger happening to him. Regardless, he decides he’s going to kill everyone in the band. Outside of a gas station, he ambushes the band, killing the bassist and setting off the rest of the novel. The band, thinking the murder, is random or even an accident decides to keep touring.
This novel comes across as a kind of labor of love. I can’t say it’s hugely successful, but it’s clear that this was not meant to be a short thriller about a band that pisses off a veteran. Instead, the novel lingers and meanders through what is actually a pretty long book. There’s more to the story than initially clear and McCammon takes his time building up the world in this one. I’ve read books of his that felt too short for the scope they were trying to create, and longer novels that spend some time developing. It’s not the best of his books, but I appreciate the time he decides to take with the story.