Editors’ Note: Anthony Perconti lives and works in the hinterlands of New Jersey with his wife and kids. He enjoys well-crafted and engaging stories across a variety of genres and mediums. His articles have appeared in several online venues and can be found on Twitter at @AnthonyPerconti.
To me, the name Ford Fairlane was always associated with the 1990 Renny Harlin cult film, starring Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay and the actor who played Nightmare on Elm Street’s uber-villain, Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund. That is until now. I had the opportunity to read Rex Weiner’s The (Original) Adventures of Ford Fairlane and I was in for very a pleasant surprise. This slim volume, published by Rare Bird Books, collects the two Fairlane shorts that were serialized in The New York Rocker and LA Weekly, respectively. The two tales fall squarely in the Black Mask school of crime fiction, in which private investigator, Ford Fairlane works cases pertaining to the music industry. To be a bit more specific, Fairlane’s beat is the world of Rock & Roll music.
The stories are broken down by cities. The first, “New York”, involves The Rock & Roll Detective working a case involving a rare, stolen Link Wray Danelectro guitar. He is hired to locate and retrieve it by its (famous) owner, when following a lead; Fairlane is set up for the murder of the lead singer of a German ‘computer band’, The Argumentative Types. As these things go in this style of fiction, the protagonist is on the run from the cops, trying to solve the murder, clear his good name and get the stolen guitar back. Along the way, he tangles with Shirley from Cincinnati, an attractive red, white and blue Mohawked punk rocker. The villains of the piece are the knife wielding henchman, Pointy who is in the employ of the neo-Nazi, Sphinx. Sphinx and his band The Fourth Reich, has a sonic super-weapon up his sleeve, the Orpheus Scale, that allows for supposed mind control. His plan is to use the Scale to take over the music scene, where electronic music will reign supreme. Muwahahaha!
“Los Angeles” concerns Fairlane on bodyguard detail of the lead singer Wanda, from the rockabilly outfit, Wanda and the Whips. Things go pear shaped when Wanda is abducted and her manager is murdered. Throw in Wanda’s Glenn Frey wannabe boyfriend, Strat Kaster, a brewing turf war between LA skinheads and South Bay punks and (of course) the police and you’ve got a breakneck little story that leaves the reader wondering who’s scamming who.
Rex Weiner is a talented hard boiled fiction writer who knows how to spin an entertaining yarn. Given the fact that these tales were originally serialized, he exhibits a mastery of the cliffhanger ending at the conclusion of each short chapter. Like Hammett and Chandler before him, Weiner uses locations and places to give his fiction a veneer of verisimilitude; locales such as The Mudd Club, CBGB’s, St. Marks Bar & Grill anchor these stories in a specific time and place. Granted, the world that is presented in The (Original) Adventures is mostly gone now, due to changing times and re-gentrification. This collection clocks in at a slim one hundred and thirty pages, much of which is dedicated to a lengthy introduction by Weiner himself, along with interviews with Andy Schwartz, publisher of The New York Rocker and Jay Levin editor in chief of LA Weekly. Veteran Hollywood filmmaker, Floyd Mutrux, who was attached to the initial iteration of the Fairlane film project back in the early ‘80’s, is interviewed as well.
It should be stated that the production values that Rare Bird Books put into this collection is exemplary. The paper stock is of a heavier gauge than most paperbacks, along with that too cool for school cover with Rex Weiner front and center, photographed as a young man, as the stand in for The Rock & Roll Detective, with flashing bold, neon green lettering. I’m glad I gave this book a chance. Now if only Netflix would re-boot (and re-cast) the Fairlane film using these stories as a template, you would have a compelling, gritty period piece set in the heyday of Punk Rock.
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