The Armageddon Rag (1983) by George R. R. Martin

A heartfelt ode to the 1960s in the form of a mystery novel centring on a series of murders connected to a fictional Led Zeppelin-esque rock band.

Like “Dying of the Light”, you can feel Martin’s own experiences bleed through the text. His complex, shifting thoughts and attitudes towards the cultural shift in American society across the twentieth century are filtered through a novel that is in parts road trip, thriller, journalistic odyssey, supernatural horror, and song lyrics. It’s strikingly earnest, clearly a novel from the heart, but the plot itself is compelling enough that it would have been a decent enough novel even without the intensely personal overtures. With those, however, the novel is legitimately one of Martin’s best works, and it saddens me to read that it was such a commercial dud at release.

the-armageddon-rag-by-george-rr-martin

I was born decades after the setting of the novel, and my own personal enjoyment of the sorts of bands described in the text comes devoid of the cultural context they earned their popularity in, but the earnest humanism of the protagonist, so often an avatar for Martin, is far more compelling than any “mid-life crisis” style narrative, like the novel is on a superficial level, has any right to be, but Martin’s earnestness and skill in characterisation sees that the novel transcends its premise.

It’s a delightfully unusual novel, bursting with heart, and displaying the skills in characterisation and deft handling of multiple genres that would eventually catapult Martin to legitimate celebrity. I give it four chords, and an encore.

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