Book Review: Merlin’s Kurse by Joe Zito

merlin's kurse

Title: Merlin’s Kurse

Author: Joe Zito

Release date: January 17th, 2022

Over the last number of year’s I’ve come to really love Joe Zito and his writing. He does slow burn horror fantastically (Now Comes the Darkness), splatter/extreme (Hell Barn) and is willing to push the envelope and try new and bold things (Your Favorite Darkness).

On my end – music has always played an integral role in my life. When I was little it was a gateway to different worlds, places larger than where I lived, and where emotions ran alongside the rumble of a bassline. I think back to different bands that really acted as these time travelers for me and I think of discovering Nazareth and Sabbath and Cooper. These early loves of mine that made me fall in love with harder music than the country and rock that I’d been exposed to.

I used to read Rolling Stone magazine like crazy. First all the back issues that my aunt still had stored at my grandparents. Then through my own subscription, that I had until the early 2000’s when rock bands kind of faded away from the spotlight in the magazine and rap and popular music took over their pages. I was a dreamer, a guy who wanted to be in a band and travel the world. I had a guitar in high school, couldn’t play it well (only ever learned an Anthrax song, a Sepultura song and a Green Day song) and struck out as a singer. In University I was a singer in a death metal band but our drummer and one guitar player loved drugs and drinking more than rehearsing and we never even played a show.

All of these was brought back when I dove into Zito’s newest, the sweet and sublime ‘Merlin’s Kurse.’

What I liked: ‘Merlin’s Kurse’ is a novelette that feels like a full length masterpiece. The story follows two brother’s; Bobby, the younger one, and Franky, the older one and the meteoric rise of Franky’s band ‘Merlin’s Kurse.’ Told through Bobby’s POV, we see how Franky gets a drum kit as a young kid, learns to master it in high school and then forms a band. Set against the backdrop of the late 60’s, we get a glimpse of how the parents want to make sure their boys grow up, get a good job with benefits and work hard. And it’s this hard work idea, drilled into them, that forms the basis of how Franky, and the band, hustle and grow.

Zito loves music, which is evident from his online social media accounts, but also from the heart and soul that he has put into this slab of nostalgic beauty. I read this in about forty minutes or so, but within that forty minutes, I was transported. I was with Merlin’s Kurse as they played their first show. I was back in my childhood bedroom, listening to ‘This Flight Tonight’ and flipping through an Easy Rider magazine. I was with Merlin’s Kurse as they got a flat tire, but still made their show. I was in my room again, discovering that Black Sabbath had some belters even without Ozzy. Zito poured every ounce of ‘chasing the dream’ into this and it shows. This is pristine and easily the best thing he’s produced.

The ending of course, is bittersweet. I won’t discuss why the band ends, only to reform for a reunion show thirty years later, but I understood. Not personally, but close. When I was in University, two co-workers of mine at the pizza place I worked at had started a band. They had a minor hit with a song called “The Gap (Between the Rich and the Poor)” and they toured North America and Europe a bunch. Then it all came crashing down at a homecoming show in Vancouver. I remember hearing the news the next day and just feeling so very sorry that it happened. Zito handles it with composure and gives it that extra emotional depth that made it feel so real.

What I didn’t like: Zito has done such a fine job of capturing not only the time period but the realities of being a band coming up, that I wished we have got a little bit about what the members had been up to since the last show and the reunion show. We hear that Bobby and Franky are both grandparents now, but that’s about it.

Why you should buy this: This is a must read for fans of 70’s rock, music, Rolling Stone magazine, ‘Almost Famous’ etc etc. It’ll transport you back to a time in your life you’ve likely forgotten about and leave you with a smile on your face. Zito has done such a spot on job of creating an emotional attachment to this band in such a short time, it really is stunning.

Well done, Joe. Keep grinding and I’d love to see more people grab this and give it a spin.


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