Monday, June 14, 2021

Dr. Wesley Britton Reviews "A novel about the Beatles (Subtitle)!"

Title: The Boys Next Door

Subtitle:  A novel about the Beatles 

Author: Dan Greenberger

Publisher: Appian Way Press (July 18, 2020)

ISBN: 979-865570

ASIN: B08D7YMWVP

Available on Amazon 

 

 

Reviewed by: Dr. Wesley Britton

 

It’s been a very long time since I’ve had so much fun reading a book, and this time around that happened for a variety of reasons.

 

First was the setting of Hamburg, Germany in 1960  when the Beatles—then John, Paul, George, Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best—were in residence at Bruno Koschmider’s rough and hard-edged nightclub, the Kaiserkeller. Any Beatle fan will recognize the cornucopia of the details of Beatle lore Greenberger incorporates into his fictional autobiography of Columbia University student and poet Alan Levy after he takes up quarters in the room next to the Beatles above the gritty Bambi Kino theatre.


Dr. Wesley Britton Reviews "A novel about the Beatles

 

At first, Levy dislikes the musicians next door as they are loud and keep him awake while he is a guest student at a Hamburg university.  He doesn’t like rock and roll. He’s an intellectual snob who becomes beguiled by photographer Astrid Kirchherr who slowly draws Levy into the Beatles orbit as he fantasizes about her while she is moving closer and closer to a relationship with Stuart Sutcliffe, much to Levy’s distress.

 

The main storyline of the tale is Levy’s journey of self-discovery in a city that gives his New York innocence a serious trouncing. The seedy Reeperbahn is a lively district largely populated by Strippers, transvestites, prostitutes, thugs, and a few arty types like Astrid Kirchherr. One of the strengths of the book is Greenberger’s gift for description as he vividly takes readers to the city and the KaiserKeller while painting the spirit of the times and the flavor of the distinctive Reeperbahn.

 

Another entertaining element to The Boys Next Door is Greenberger’s clever slices of humor that will get you laughing out loud. Two examples: early on, Levey spends time in a library where he finds the sounds of popping gum from someone in the next cubicle a welcome relief from hours of listening to the Beatles pounding out “Money.” Later on, he masturbates to a photo of himself taken by Kirchherr. Throughout, we get tiny bits of Beatle humor when Greenberger tosses in little bits like a refrain of “You have found her, now go and get her,” referring to the alluring photographer but all readers are likely to know how that line would later play in Beatle history.  Or when Levy takes up the guitar and jams with the group on a rooftop which ends with Levy saying, “I hope I passed the audition.” Again, what Beatle fan wouldn’t know how this foreshadows the rooftop concert in Let It Be.

 

Yes, we get enough character development of each of the Beatles to see them as the historical figures we all know and love.  We meet the musicians just as Levy does through the interactions between Levy and the band members which are doled out in bits and pieces as the story progresses, layering in the group, their live performances, their Hamburg circle, their changing relationships, especially regarding Sutcliffe and Best, and more and more, the cranky neighbor living next door.  

 

Putting the band aside, the transformation of Alan Levy takes many surprising twists and turns and makes this more than a typical coming-of-age tale.  To say more would verge on providing spoilers; suffice it to say, you won’t expect what happens and, for the most part, you’ll be happy to see a would-be poet’s growing depth as a person and an artist.

 

In short, you don’t have to be a Beatle fan to enjoy The Boys Next Door and might find yourself hoping Greenberger will provide us further adventures of Alan Levy, Beatles in his future or no.   I give this book six stars out of five . . .


MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Dr. Wesley Britton is a frequent review for #TheNewBookReview and #BookPleasures as well as an author of genre fiction in his own right. See his other reviews on this blog by using the convenient search engine in the left column. 

 

 


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