The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton

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The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw
Reviewed by Chris Bradshaw
Summary: An entertaining and amusing account of an former rock star and his number one fan.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099531784

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Never meet your heroes. They'll only disappoint so the saying goes. That isn't an option for thirty-three-year-old Clive Beresford though. A failed music journalist with a dead-end job, no girlfriend and an alcohol intake verging on the problematic he still finds solace in the music of his teenage years. The main object of his obsession is a band called The Thieving Magpies. Like a supernova (but not of the champagne variety) they burst on to the scene, made it big then imploded after a disastrous festival appearance in 1995.

A chance sighting of the Magpies' lead singer Lance Webster twenty years later brings all those wonderful musical memories flooding back to Clive. Wanting the definitive answer to why the band destroyed itself, Clive, through a combination of duplicity, cheek and dedication manages to cultivate a highly unlikely friendship with the former singer. The problem is that Clive has to pretend that he's never heard of Lance or the Magpies.

Despite this, the two of them have much more in common than they realise as they're both forced to reconsider and confront periods of their lives which they both thought long forgotten. Is what happened at the Aylesbury Festival all those years ago the key to salvation for them both?

Thornton, a sometime musician himself obviously knows his subject extremely well and his passion for the music of the era shines through. The recollections and reminiscences of the early 1990s music scene (gigs, fanzines and cider and black) will strike a chord with anyone remotely familiar with the period.

Coincidence in fiction can seem laboured but Thornton keeps things just the right side of convincing. The relationship between uber loser Clive and the faded glamour of rock star Lance is nicely handled, as is the sharp contrast between Clive and his more successful friends. The dialogue is often sharp and some of the set pieces are very amusing.

The all-encompassing nature of being a true fan really shines throughout The Alternative Hero. It may be football, cooking or in this case music but Thornton shows just what the effects of an all-consuming passion can be.

Obviously fans of the music of the era will get the most out of this novel. That's not to say that it's just some kind of fictionalised history of that time. It is more impressive than that. It's about growing up, fandom and the lost promise of youth.

If you think that Ned's Atomic Dustbin is some kind of nuclear processing device or that Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine should be on the sex-offenders register then read The Alternative Hero and learn. For those that do know, get out the cider and black, put on The Wonder Stuff and enjoy this highly entertaining book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag. We also have a review of Death of an Unsigned Band by Tim Thornton.

If this book appeals then we think that you'll find much to enjoy in Hang the DJ.

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Buy The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton at


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