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West of Babylon Kindle Edition

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Length: 405 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Newsday:
"The book is big-hearted, perceptive and hilarious, and it doesn't inspire much confidence in the publishing business that nobody thought they could sell it."
newsday.com/entertainment/books/ted-heller-talks-west-of-babylon-long-island-rock-stars-1.5978748
The Guardian:
"In short, this is one of the best books I've read this year."
guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jul/24/self-publishing-showcase-ted-heller

From the Author

Newsday 8/30/13
Although the first three novels by Ted Heller received plenty of critical acclaim, he never had a runaway success in terms of sales. When it was time to shop around "West of Babylon" ($12.99 paper) all the major publishing houses took a pass. Wounded but unbowed, Heller decided to self-publish. Good thing he did. The book is big-hearted, perceptive and hilarious, and it doesn't inspire much confidence in the publishing business that nobody thought they could sell it.
Why did you decide to make your characters hail from Long Island?
I could have had my fictitious band come from anywhere in the United States, but Long Island has a reputation for, well, for not having a reputation, and that's why I chose it. Throughout the book, when the band is interviewed by radio DJs or journalists or when they have records reviewed, the fact that they hail from L.I. is held against them, and they have a tremendous chip on their shoulder. I liked that chip being there. It's like John Wayne holding his injured arm in "The Searchers." You never do know how his arm got hurt.
A wise man once said that writing about music was like dancing about architecture. What does it take to make a novel about music work, as you've done here?
Well, you're talking to someone who has danced about and around and inside of architecture many times. "West of Babylon," though, is more a book about people who make music than it is about music. I would never want to write a book about anything other than people (and how they interact and about their innermost thoughts), and I purposely limited my research so that the human element would shine through. I can't stand it when I'm reading a book and the author constantly bombards the reader with how much he or she knows about a subject. Usually when that happens you lose all interest in the characters and story. My book is about four aging rock musicians, but they really could have had any job.
You wrote an article for Salon in which you laid out the challenges of being a one-man publishing house. Were there any advantages?
The one big plus is that I had nobody suggesting (and when I say suggesting, I mean demanding) major overhauls in the novel. With "Pocket Kings," even though my editor did a wonderful job, there were still things that were taken out which I wish were still in there, and it stings. But having published three books before "West of Babylon," I feel as though I have an imaginary little devil/angel editor hovering over my shoulder, annoying the daylights out of me and telling me what should stay and what should go. The big negative is that I had no marketing or publicity department other than myself. Sending email out to newspapers and magazines and sending copies of the book out and then never hearing a word back from most of them -- going through that was a lot harder than writing the book.
The book is often laugh-out-loud funny but rarely strays too far from realism. Do you consider this satire?
I definitely do not consider this satire. I think in some places it's so real that it hurts; although, if you're familiar with "Pocket Kings," "Slab Rat" and "Funnymen," satire can be pretty painful, too. But there's nothing in "West of Babylon," I believe, that couldn't happen in real life or that's exaggerated or absurd. In "Pocket Kings" my author/narrator mentions how his first books were satires and how "Satire is what closes on Saturday night" (according to George S. Kaufman) -- so he writes a book that is not a satire and can't get it published. That is exactly what happened with me and "West of Babylon"!
If traditional publishers come crawling back to publish your next book, what will you say to them?
The sick, insane, desperate, needy part of me still hopes some publisher will come crawling to me to publish "West of Babylon"! Ideally, I'd love to tell them to go to hell, but I'd have to suck it up and take their filthy lucre. Hopefully, a publisher will want the next one. I just hope there is a next one.

Product Details

  • File Size: 565 KB
  • Print Length: 405 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1484857585
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publication Date: May 2, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CMVCEFY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,080 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Hey, Reader, before you get to all the biodegradable biographical data below, let me tell you that as of May 2, 2013, I will have a new book out. It's called West of Babylon and it's being published by none other than me. I've got no publisher, no publicist, no marketing department, no regional sales manager. It's just me. (Although my wife DID design the cover, for which she got a $50 Gap gift card.)

West of Babylon is about a once successful rock & roll band that's been together for almost forty years, through thick and thin. (Lately, though, there's been a lot more of the thin.) One of the band members has fallen seriously ill, another wants to break up the group for good, and they decide to take to the road one more time. I think West of Babylon will make you howl and cry at the same time. That's what I was doing as I was writing it.

I hope you will buy, read, enjoy, and then spread the word about West of Babylon. YOU are my advertisers!

And now back to my regularly scheduled bio:

* * * * * * *


Ted Heller: born in, raised in, beaten up in, arrested in, still lives in New York City. I've had three books published: Slab Rat, Funnymen, Pocket Kings. The exact number of books I have written which have NOT been published is known only to God: I myself lost track about twenty novels ago. Or maybe it was twenty-four.

According to the latest data on Amazon, 79.2% of my readers love my books, 10.3% don't, and the remainder really wants to kill me. Oh well. You can't win them all.

I have held many jobs in my life but being an author is my favorite. You get to make your own hours, begin and end when you want, be alone and snap at anybody who interrupts your writing or your napping, and after about thirty years of this you are immune to rejection, bad reviews and lousy sales. WHAT A LIFE!

I have worked at the New York Times as a menial copy boy, in the clothing business, been a messenger, worked in the magazine business (Spy Magazine, Nickelodeon Magazine). I often tell people I was a towel boy at Plato's Retreat in the Seventies but this is not true.

Many of the things I write about are the result of either personal experience or serious daydreaming. Readers and reviewers often say that I make them laugh out loud. I love hearing that! But sometimes the stuff that I write that makes you laugh out loud is stuff that actually happened to me that wasn't so funny at the time. But I guess this is what the creative experience is all about. Maybe. What do I know. I also sometimes hear that characters I've created that are based on me are not likable. My wife and child, though, seem to love me and so do my friends and strangers on the street. So this confuses me.

I invite you, the potential reader, to hop aboard the accident-waiting-to-happen that is my literature. Thank you for coming and please sit back and enjoy the ride.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donald Capone VINE VOICE on May 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
It's hard to watch our rock stars get old, because that means that we, too, are older. We'd like to remember Paul as the cute Beatle, Mick before all the wrinkles, and Gregg with his original liver. At least we can take comfort in the fact that they're all still out there rocking, living the rock n' roll lifestyle, earning millions. But what about the middle-of-the-road guys, the ones who didn't sustain that level of success? Whatever became of them? Well, they're still there, you just have to look. WEST OF BABYLON, Ted Heller's fourth novel, takes a look at one of these types of bands, the fictitious Long Island-based The Furious Overfalls.

The Furious Overfalls consist of founder and singer/guitarist Danny, skirt-chasing lead guitarist Jules, the OCD-afflicted bassist Howie, and clueless drummer Joey. The four musicians are now playing small clubs for little money, selling CDs by hand for ten bucks, and doubling up in crappy hotel rooms. The days of road crews, fancy hotels, and air travel are now just a memory. And health insurance, what's that? When drummer Joey gets sick, the band faces a crossroads they've been avoiding for a while: continue as a band or finally pack it in. But first they embark on one final national tour. Can they bring Joey back alive, as Danny promises Joey's wife? And even if they do, what then? This is the only life they've even known.

The novel covers the arc of the band from their beginning up to the present day. The reader is plopped into their world, where we meet the myriad supporting cast of groupies, hangers-on, and producers, and where we experience the high and the lows of an aging group of musicians on the road for over 30 years. And don't forget the music--which I could practically hear, it was described so well.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. J Spina on May 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Looking to build a library centered on great rock novels? That shelf has long been bare. Many have tried and ALL have failed miserably. Even the sometimes great like Don DeLillo with Great Jones Street just don't GET IT. You need to nail the names, the scenario, the sadness, the fame, the inane and, most importantly, the grim grind of it all. All that said, West of Babylon nails it totally. Heller is the ultimate observer with just the right pocketful of rock minutia to make it work. I spent a heap of my career writing about rock and roll but in all of that time no master came my way with a fictional edition of my addiction. The prose pusher finally arrives. Heller gets it. You should.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By reverb600 on May 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Heller is too good and too original a writer to not have had huge success by now. West Of Babylon is possibly his richest book -- a thoughtful, wise account of aging and dealing with lost dreams and disappointment, as well as a riotous look at a certain angle of the rock world that has rarely been explored before. A truly great and touching read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Yes THAT Dave on May 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
WEST OF BABYLON is funny, touching, and eminently readable. Artfully moving between the present and the past, Ted Heller creates rich, interesting, appealing characters. And while telling a compelling story, Heller makes us think about the difficulties of putting up with our fellow humans -- and the impossibility of getting along without them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tick Pyne on May 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here is your big summer read. If you're a dedicated reader of all of Heller's work (and why wouldn't you be? They're superb), you'll be thrilled to pieces with his latest, an homage to aging, rockers--and irony. Read two pages and you'll instantly read at least 200 more. It's addictive, about people you'll care about. How this guy, Heller, manages to keep so many balls in the air at once is a testament to his imagination, limber language, and elegant prose. As always, I can't wait to see what Heller writes next.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Munshower on June 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Ted Heller's not a mushy kind of guy so, as expected, his new novel is dry and witty, its words carved in ice with scalpel-like precision. But the emotions run like a strong current just beneath the surface of this story of a rock band growing old and perhaps stale, making it not only a tale that made me laugh out loud many times but also perhaps his warmest novel to date. Just buy it.And enjoy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sunny in bklyn on June 23, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a coming of age story. The flawed heroes just don't get around to it until retirement age. They are driven equally by their need to play music they love and by self destructive urges they can't confront. A few brief moments of glory are followed by a long slide and the hard slog and regular mishaps of life on the road. Unable to overcome their weaknesses they struggle to keep playing as they wreak havoc upon themselves, one another and those who love them. Disparate and ridiculous they keep doing what they do. Don't we all wish we could do it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Genzale on October 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is fantastic. So well written, with a story line rarely, if ever covered. A real joy to read.
One must wonder how a previously publised, talanted author like Mr. Heller, couldn't get a major publishing house to publish this fine work and give it the wide market support that it truly deserves.
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