Heather Haley returns to punk past with The Town Slut’s Daughter
The Town Slut’s Daughter
By Heather Haley. Howe Sound Publishing, 314 pp, softcover
A girl walks into a bar. Eventually, she gets out alive. This is the story of Fiona Larochelle, an emotionally abused teenager and runaway whose lost weekend begins in a filthy washroom in a Vancouver nightclub and ends years later on a Los Angeles freeway. Although the book is a work of fiction, the bit players are very real. When Fiona forms an all-female punk band, the Virgin Marries, she and her bandmates occupy the same historical space as D.O.A. and the Dishrags. It is the late 1970s. The Clash is coming to town. Everyone is spitting on one another.
Fiona and her friends look for independence in all the wrong places. Their world is violent and ignorant and they are handicapped further by drugs and exploitative sex. It is experimentation run amok and told in graphic detail. Everybody’s talking. They play music and argue politics. They play music and discuss art. They play music and talk dirty.
Author Heather Haley, a well-regarded poet, filmmaker, and former editor at LA Weekly, was in real life a musician and member of the Zellots, a groundbreaking Vancouver women’s punk band. Knowing she survived those difficult and dangerous times, it’s hard to resist making Fiona her avatar. The Town Slut’s Daughter reads (to me) as a recollection, as if Fiona is skimming over her life, trying to get it down before it is forgotten, trying to remember every single thing. There are images, lengthy diatribes, and famous people coming and going. We follow Fiona to New York, Las Vegas, and finally Los Angeles. She is running and constantly transforming.
When Fiona finally succumbs, a deeper story begins and Haley’s writing is powerful. Her depictions of Fiona’s drug-saturated sexual and emotional abuse and her final battle out of darkness are as disturbing and realistic as anything in a Marianne Faithfull autobiography.