Start out with the country music industry, add a dash of murder, a pinch of drugs and a dab of backstabbing and youíve got Fender Benders, the new novel by Bill Fitzhugh (author of Pest Control). Eddie Long is a singer/songwriter destined for stardom. Jimmy Rogers is a reporter who thinks heís finally found his big story in Eddieís rise to fame. Megan is Jimmyís girlfriend who has her eyes on Jimmyís bright future (and the way his butt looks in Wranglers). Franklin Peavy and Big Bill Herron are record producers hungry for the next country star to make them rich. Add a host of other colorful characters, an in-depth look at the country music industry and some razor-sharp dialogue and youíve got a satirical, smart and funny novel.
Fender Benders is not only the story of the price of fame. Itís also the story of one man trying to keep his morals, another man losing all of his, and plenty of people who lost theirs long ago. The characters interact with each other and with the plot in ways that the reader wonít fully understand until the last pages. Eddie Longís rise to fame affects every character in the book, no matter how indirectly. Fitzhugh is talented in showing how the events of one manís life can have dramatic effects on others -- even if they donít know him.
Fender Benders succeeds in a number of areas. Fitzhugh obviously did his research when it comes to the country music industry, and it certainly shows in the book. He gives an in-depth look at how records are made, how songwriters are treated, and a number of other areas that intrigue the reader and add credibility to the book. Fitzhugh is also successful in creating a proper atmosphere in which most of the characters can flourish (or crash and burn, depending on who they are).
Fitzhugh only falters in a couple ways. The first is his character development. The vast majority of the characters are shallow and self-serving (without the reader ever really knowing why) and are difficult to like or relate to. The one character with redeeming qualities, Jimmy Rogers, doesnít get as much page time as he should if we are to really relate to him. The other area that doesnít work is the book's ending. Mysteries that are intertwined with the story are never solved, intentions never revealed, and the reader feels left hanging. Fitzhugh could easily write a sequel to Fender Benders, but if thatís not his intention, then this book should have been wrapped up better.
Despite these drawbacks, Fender Benders is an enjoyable and spirited romp through the country music world that fans and non-fans alike will have fun with. After basing novels on homicidal insects (Pest Control), the organ transplant business (Organ Grinders) and now country music, one wonders what Bill Fitzhugh will come up with next.