Author Marc Spitz, senior writer at Spin magazine, displays expertise of punk rock history in his second novel, TOO MUCH, TOO LATE, in which he tells the story of a '90s rock band through the voice of drummer Sandy Klein. In the year following their breakup, Sandy writes the story of the Jane Ashers --- in part to understand and in part to justify. It all begins in a small Ohio town called Dean in the summer of 1990.
Together with guitarist Rudy Tunick, the only other Jewish boy in Dean, and Harry Vance, a brilliant vocalist, Sandy jams in his garage at the end of his high school days. His sole ambition is to become a rock star. Keith Richards, Winona Ryder, David Bowie and Davy Jones are rockers whom Sandy and his friends idolize. Realizing they need a fourth participant, an ad is placed for a bass player. Archie Funk --- Ritalin addict at 24, bass musician and owner of a gray 1969 VW bus --- rounds out the group. The second order of business is to find a name, one that can elicit idolatry and gain them immediate attention. Following an exhausting list of choices comes the final selection, Jane Ashers. Jane Asher is the English actress who inspired Paul McCartney to write "Here, There and Everywhere" and, more importantly, dated him. Sandy's band is christened the Jane Ashers, and they get to work on becoming a success.
Harry is the song-writing genius who inspires them with new stuff to practice and perfect. But his human side goes sideways when he meets and dates his inspiration, Debbie Andrews. The love of his life, she both motivates and seduces him. He writes "Let's Go Steady, Debbie" out of this infatuation. The lovebirds become a couple and Debbie involves herself with publicity for the band. From their performance at a backyard gig comes the possibility of opening for an established star, Liz Phair, in Cleveland. This could be their big chance, and they are ready to take it. A pregnant Debbie becomes the gigantic boulder in their road to stardom.
Fast-forward about 15 years to the Jane Ashers now blown about in the wind to varied career paths. Harry is part-owner of a hardware store. Rudy and Sandy have had odd-jobs for years and Archie dies of an overdose. Providence comes to Sandy in the person of a 16-year old punk rock enthusiast named Natalie Levine, who calls herself Motorrrju. She's a blogger who's infatuated with the now-defunct Jane Ashers. A revival of "Debbie" restarts their popularity on a grandiose scale.
Sandy's memories of the Jane Ashers' rise to success, failure and then success again is written best by the rocker himself. Spitz uses the vehicle of his drummer to brilliant advantage in the telling. Laced with true stores of real stars, Spitz's words are truth of his experience in the world of rock writing. While not everyone's genre, TOO MUCH, TOO LATE is a personal story relevant to success and failure in any business venture. Less impressed with the "star" personas depicted than their deeply personal issues, I read the novel with thirst for the unfolding drama of the Jane Ashers' rocky road to fame.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 23, 2011
Too Much, Too Late