BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Never mind that his name alone practically screams intellectual intent, John Andrew Fredrick has established himself as perhaps the most literate indie rocker plying his trade in the merciless maelstrom that is the music scene today. The sole constant in the California based band The Black Watch, Fredrick has managed to maintain creative credence in the face of near total indifference, while plying his literary endeavours as an English professor at Santa Monica College. Given his background, it would seem this first novel is long overdue, and given its survey of hapless musicians following their muse in hopes of garnering some measure of appreciation, its belated appearance becomes all the more confounding. The plot is set in the early ‘90s after all, some twenty years prior, which also gives Fredrick a good out when it comes to detailing the foibles of what is presumably his own uncertain youth.
Likewise, the fact that the tellingly titled The King of Good Intentions also tends to ramble and frequently digress gives credence to its characters’ slacker mentality. It’s a credit to Fredrick’s ability to straddle two worlds, that of a knowing narrator as well one inhabited by a street savvy participant. The world he describes — a habitat for wannabes, weirdos, manic musicians, psycho neighbors, unrepentant bitches and people both pompous and pretentious, is inbred in L.A., but probably familiar to most, especially those whose dreams of glory are barely beyond the initial nightmare stages.
Indeed, Fredrick’s prose suits those circumstances well. His frequent vents often drift off course, but at the same time, strike a relatable tone, giving the impression he’s abandoning the plot to speak directly to the reader instead. It’s a form of subliminal eye contact, one that makes the reader feel a part of the discourse, and like a confidant, as if tagging along with the adventure in very real time. Even so, Fredrick’s non sequiturs tend to be off-kilter and distracting. Take for example his merciless description of a band mate’s girlfriend:
“What she went by most oft, as far as I could tell, was Natasha: short for nauseous, basically. Which is what she made anyone with any taste, I thought. I mean, not being able to specify what you’re supposed to be called or anything? What’s up with that? To be less than terrifically particular about what your particular nomenclature or even cognomen fucking is, as long as it starts with an “N” sounds and ends in something mushy and faintly-fairly Russianish? I mean, come on.”
Yes, Fredrick can be harsh and unsparing… indirectly — or directly — on those attempting to follow a meandering plot while wading through a frequently self-indulgent text. Yet the fact that these tales are obviously drawn from firsthand experience makes them wholly relatable, giving Fredrick license to bare his embarrassments and vent well beyond reason.
Ah, but there’s a limit. When he insists the Smithereens suck, well, it’s hard to avoid the impression that maybe he’s simply jealous.
As for the rest of this diatribe, it’s simply a hoot. A hoot that’s well worth any indulgence.