The following article appeared in Maine Sunday Telegram on July 27, 2003. It's a review for the novel Liverpool Fantasy by Larry Kirwan. This review was written by John Dolen.
The year is 1962. The red-hot Liverpool band is on the move, ready to take off. But a rancorous collision between John Lennon and Brian Epstein, with Paul McCartney desperately trying to sway the uncompromising Lennon, ends in disaster for the young group.
Three of the Beatles-John, George and Ringo-refuse to record "Till There Was You." Lennon, who is pushing "Please Please Me," tells Epstein, "When are you going to get it into your thick head that you're managing the Beatles, not bloody Acker Bilk."
So begins the fantasy, which in the inventive hands of first-time novelist-and longtime musician and playwright-Larry Kirwan, feels as real as the gritty streets of Liverpool that he evokes.
As Lennon walks out, a tour and a record deal are off. So is the familiar history we all know.
The year is 1987.
A morose and bitter Lennon is on the dole; his wife, Cynthia, has left him.
George Harrison has become a priest, but a broken-down one, brittle, nearly lost.
Ringo Starkey is still very much Ringo, still with his woman, Maureen, and they inhabit a dim and dreary, Dickensian Liverpool. It's a place where Lennon gets beaten in the welfare lines over an autograph; where the fascist National Fronters own the street.
But there is some light, including the lovely China, Lennon's young long-suffering girlfriend. And there is the refuge for the lads, a club where China tends bar, where Ringo and John are known to show up, while Gerry Marsden (say Gerry and the Pacemakers) still plays the old songs on a Sunday night.
And there's the hope in an upcoming reunion. The successful Paul Montana (his name has gone as American as his career) is returning straight from Vegas after 25 years, accompanied by his gal-pal Luanne.
Everyone finds their way into this charged gathering at Lennon's shack, including Julian, John's estranged son. The shaven-headed Julian reflects the pale ghost of this world, not the brighter universe that should have been, with the happy Beatles legacy. He's become a young leader in the Front, who bash "Pakis" and other non-white Britons with glee.
Kirwan's edgy storytelling is by turns meticulous, raw, bawdy and heart-rending.
And it all builds toward the volatile reunion, with all thoughts of betrayal, of who sold out and who couldn't get it together, of wives and ex-wives, of hangers-on and true loves. Yet is there one last ember in the musical marriage of Lennon-McCartney?
The on-again, off-again chemistry of a rock band and the technical breakdown of pop music riffs are subjects Kirwan handles brilliantly. After all, he is eminently familiar with them, having for 10 albums fronted the creatively rich but far under-heard Irish-American band, Black 47.
Yet within the covers of albums such as "Fire of Freedom" and "Home of the Brave," in songs such as "The Big Fallah," "Blood Wedding" and "Living in America," are the seeds of the descriptive fire we see in Liverpool Fantasy.
The four lads that most of teh world knows through their music, TV appearances and movies such as "Hard Day's Night" are all fully alive here-sans Aquarian Age trappings-fairly raging in Kirwan's alternative working class history.
This history is so real, that by the end of this novel, you may have nearly forgotten the other.
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