Veteran Vancouver punk scribe, memoirist and novelist Chris Walter has written four band bios now, of Personality Crisis, the Dayglo Abortions, SNFU, and the Real McKenzies. They sell well and win him new readers who might not otherwise have rushed out to read about the struggling junkies, hookers, binners, and random lowlifes that make up the majority of Walter's fiction. If he had his way, however, he'd just as soon stick to novels.
"I've said before, it's like getting paid to lie, even if I wish it was more," he chuckles, speaking to the Straight from his apartment off Commercial Drive. Novels are also less of a commitment: he interviewed dozens of people for the Real McKenzies book and put in "way too fuckin' much time" on the project. "I wrote, like, 200,000 words, and I ended up cutting 50,000, because there simply wasn't enough room," he grouses. "It took me a whole year."
Under the Kilt: The Real McKenzies Exposed was actually a first for Walter, in that it took him back to the very dawn of the Vancouver punk scene, to Paul McKenzie's time playing the Smilin' Buddha with the Wankers. Given that the author—a native of the Winnipeg scene—has made his home in Vancouver for some time, one might wonder if that was by design, if he put off tackling Vancouver's history, preferring instead to deal with bands whose early years were spent in Winnipeg, Calgary, and Victoria.
"No, actually. If the Dayglos or SNFU had been from Vancouver originally, then I would have got to it sooner," he says. But he enjoyed the homework, he adds. "There was some cool stuff I didn't know. It was fun."
Walter is still happy to have been able to take a break with a fast and dirty return to fiction. His new novel is called Richie Dagger: Life & Times, and it debuts with a reading at Storm Crow Tavern (1305 Commercial) on Tuesday (August 25) at 7 p.m.
"The novel came quickly," he says, "because after doing four music biographies, the book kind of wrote itself. It's about a touring punk band, so I just took a little bit from this band, a little bit from that, and bang, slap, dash, it was done. The characters are an amalgamation of various punk musicians I've interviewed."
Astute punk musicologists will recognize a reference to the Germs' song "Richie Dagger's Crime" in the title. This comes about in the novel when an American label owner assigns punk names for the members of the band, Triple Negative, on the back of their first album. Richard Horowitz becomes Richie Dagger, in homage to notorious L.A. punk singer Darby Crash, who self-destructed in 1980.
Walter will be reading from the novel with help from three local notables, Billy Hopeless (aka Billy Bonito) of the Black Halos and the Bonitos, Siobhan Duvall of Duvallstar, and Sean Cranbury, the host of many fine literary events in Vancouver. Each will be reading different character parts, with Walter playing the humble narrator.
"The event will be like a play, but shorter and more fun," Walter explains. "The various members will play characters from the book, but those who want to know which ones must attend the launch."
The event—which promises to be quite a departure from the standard Chris Walter booklaunch—is free to attend, though buying books from his extensive back catalogue is also encouraged. All are reasonably priced, and Walter is generally happy to inscribe them.
Fans of Walter's band bios can take heart, meanwhile. Walter is neck-deep in interviews with Randy Rampage for a planned expose of his tempestuous times in D.O.A.
"Randy knows where the bodies are buried, and he'll be digging with a big shovel," says Walter. "This one will be fast and wild."
More info at www.punkbooks.com