DRUMBEATS on Amazon.
If you know me in real life, you know I follow news on the band Rush. Look at the sidebar, I've written a novel starring a tribute band musician named Lerxst. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I would include a review of this short, co-authored by the band's drummer and chief lyricist. In truth, I hadn't actively sought out this story because I didn't know it existed until recently.
What happened was that I was researching release information on Peart's latest travelogue, the upcoming Far and Away, when this title appeared in search. Asking around my circle of Internet friends and fellow Rush fans yielded little opinion on the story, but I did learn that this story had first appeared in an anthology of rock-themed horror called Shock Rock II, now out of print. I had not heard of the book, or it's aptly-named predecessor, but as far as I know this is the only story resurrected via digital publishing. The current buzz on Barry Eisler embracing the self-publishing bug comes as news to some people thinking he is one of the first big names to go rogue, but if you check the revised edition publishing dates on this story you'll know Anderson has him beat.
I'd heard it suggested, too, that Peart is or was embarrassed by this story. I cannot tell you if that's true, nor could I discern while reading Drumbeats how actively he participated in the writing. The short numbers about twenty-one pages, just enough to shape the story of a world-weary and renowned drummer for a popular band. When he isn't touring with his fellow musicians, he finds solace and inspiration traveling through remote area where the indigenous people aren't likely to bug him for autographs. Anybody who has read Peart's previous travel books, or at the very least reads his website journals, can plainly see the autobiographical tone of the story. The fatigue in Danny Imbro's narrative, coupled with a descriptive sense of place, sets the stage for some truly creepy juju.
No matter where he is, or what he's doing, Danny isn't far from his craft. In a village, while haggling over the price of tepid water, he hears a native beating on a drum. The sound mesmerizes, as does the drummer's rapt devotion to his instrument. When attempts to buy the drum off the skittish African fail, Danny manages to get directions to the drum's maker in another village.
What Danny finds there, aside from a crafty youngster named Anatole who seems protective of the stranger, is a chilling secret regarding the drums' true nature. Bargaining with the village chief and drum's maker lead Danny to learn the true meaning behind the term caveat emptor.
Drumbeats is short, and aptly priced at $1.99 for the eBook edition. As a horror story it does the trick in evoking discomfort and squeamishness in the reader. Some readers may argue whether or not Danny is a sympathetic enough character to deserve his fate - as the story is written in first person you don't feel as though Danny thinks he's entitled to a drum because of who he is in another society. He's just a guy in the wrong diaspora at the wrong time.
For a story written more than a decade ago, too, Drumbeats looks to have aged well. I cannot say if Anderson or Peart had revised any of the story before the re-release, but for what it is the story will appeal to fans of the music and genre. You may not look at a pair of bongos the same way again, just to warn you.
Kathryn Lively is a mystery author who doesn't play the drums.