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The King of Good Intentions Paperback – May 7, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Andrew Fredrick is the principal singer/songwriter for indie rock band The Black Watch, who in their long and illustrious career have so far released 17 albums to considerable underground acclaim. Fredrick’s first book, The Knucklehead Chronicles, a short comic novel, was published in 2008. He teaches writing at Santa Monica College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Verse Chorus Press (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891241109
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891241109
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,383,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Right up there with "Lucky Jim" and "Portnoy's Complaint" and "At-Swim Two Birds," John Andrew Frederick's indie rock/LA scene in the 90s debut novel is one of the funniest things you will ever read. The laugh-out-loud moments abound; you lose count of how many times (sometimes, admittedly, in a sort of aghast way--as in "I can't believe he said that") you titter or guffaw. The catastrophic baseball scene at the end is a classic howl. This book is about so many things as well (love, lust, hope, anger, artistic aspirations and of course as the title suggests good intentions), and the writing aspires (and succeeds, as it seems to me) to pure poetry at times. And the vernacular, the language, a sort of surf guy times a walking thesaurus, is remarkable: "Tall clouds merry far-awayly in the mid-spring, lightly smoggy, tangerine and Prussian Blue sky, and a soft, tinselly light suffuses the outfield... The infield grass blushes from the recent mowing it's had and the base-path dirt's been freshly sprinkled and looks dark pink."

Rich, bittersweet, uproarious, silly, profund--it's a wonderful book whose ending sets up a sequel. Can't wait for it!

Recommended if you like the following: J.D. Salinger, Philip Roth, David Foster Wallace, Martin Amis, David Sedaris.
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This book is at once hilarious, quirky, and gorgeously descriptive. You find yourself both rooting for and cursing the narrator, John, as he makes his way through various Los Angeles hijinks, including a hair-raising substitute teacher gig that will leave you almost simultaneously flashing back to the horrors of high school, feeling protective of John, and wiping away tears of laughter at his description of the hysterical scene.

This was one of those rare books that I didn't want to put down and found myself devouring---but as I got further into the book and more invested in the characters, I began intentionally pacing myself because I didn't want it to end. It was THAT good.
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Having spent years trafficking in tart turns of phrase and indelible melodies as a indie-pop songwriter, John Andrew Fredrick has put his prolific pen to a novel and the result is a wry but not unsentimental tale of love and music in Los Angeles in the 1990's. The book was originally to have been published over a dozen years ago, and that delay deepens the hints of nostalgia that echo throughout this tale of a young protagonist's quasi-bohemian foibles as a substitute teacher by day, struggling-musician by night. The Los Angeles in this book is recognizable both as Nathanael West's eternal Hollywood of moths seeking the flame of fame, and but more to the point, it chronicles a place that has slowly vanished over the last 20 years: imagine it! Record stores! Radio stations! Young bands enduring innumerable indignities to earn an elusive record deal! By turns scathingly funny and unpredictably poignant, this novel succeeds in doing what any good rock and roll novel should do: capturing that feeling that both music and love is all, and how hard it is, having fallen in love with that song or that girl, to get them out of your head.
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Format: Paperback
Propelled by the wry, overly clever, self-mocking, playfully second-person address (semi-fictional?) John (no surname) adopts for his picaresque tale of The King of Good Intentions (also an album title by the author's band), his energetic patter revives the early '90s.

Record stores still held trash and treasure: if you too can account for not only the Verlaines but Look Blue Go Purple or the Able Tasmans, you're matched with this novel's milieu. College rock still beckoned literate slackers in gentrifying, faux-boho Hollywood. On trendy Melrose Avenue, "shop girls" posed, "endlessly puffing accessory cigarettes and wearing looks that dared you, just dared you to enter and browse without buying".

Meanwhile, John settles (where on his ungarnished pasta budget he stays mum that it's all but impossible to find a room) in rent-controlled Santa Monica. There--departing Santa Barbara's lotus-land surfer environs, after stints exhaustively detailed in near-David Foster Wallace recall at a sports-mad prep school, but barely mentioned at an English university--John settles down near the beach. Ennui appears to account for why he left his privileged upbringing, as he chooses to hunker down beside the strung-out and bong-bemused natives, even if nobody's truly from L.A., naturally.

After seventeen albums, The Black Watch's singer-songwriter-guitarist steps aside from his Los Angeles gigs and, in what must be at least semi-autobiographical, narrates the indie-rock predicaments of a certain John, who falls for musical prodigy Jenny. It's a brisk, bittersweet novel. A Ph.D. in English from U.C.
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I am not a critic, but I am an avid reader. (I'd even like to consider myself a discerning reader, but that may just be my ego talking.) And as a mere reader, I found Frederick's book to be remarkable.
One- the aspect that others have already brilliantly stated- is that he has an ear for dialogue. Wait. That doesn't properly say what I mean. Frederick's ear for dialogue is extraordinary. It defines his voice, his style, what sets him apart from other writers. As he publishes more frequently, one will soon be able to read two sentences, sit back, and say "Ahhh, I imagine John Andrew Frederick wrote that bit."
Also remarkable is the idea of novel melding with memoir to create what is now referred to as "creative nonfiction." I can't say I know where this story falls. Is entirely true? Entirely made up? A bit of both? (I'm guessing it is the last one.)
While I don't definitively know the answer, I do know that I like the story that falls on the spectrum between fiction and nonfiction. I will get to speculate forever on what is real and what is not in Frederick's world.
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