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Spotlight on: Retribution, Inc. (Cemetery Dance Novella Series #16) by Geoff Cooper

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Retribution, Inc. by Geoff Cooper Geoff Cooper, Retribution, Inc.
(Cemetery Dance Novella Series #16)

When their guitarist Ronnie leaves the band to go to music recording school, the two remaining members of a local rock band (the eponymously-named Retribution, Inc., are left scrambling for a new axeman in time for their highest profile concert yet: opening for Your Kid's On Fire -- an actual signed band -- at The Electra Complex. The only other guitarist they know whose playing they respect is Joey, an egotistical bastard who is in the midst of recording sessions with his own band. It looks like an open audition is the only option left.

Enter Ernie, a geek with the wrong look and the wrong guitar. But he plays their brand of angry rock with feeling and almost unbelievable skill, having learned all the lead parts in four days. Ernie's only drawbacks are his fingers: they bleed profusely whenever he plays -- but since it doesn't affect the quality, they let it go. When Joey becomes available, the two friends disagree on the correct course of action, eventually leading to tension, then violence, and an unnecessary death.

Taking place in his fictional burg of Brackard's Point, Geoff Cooper's Retribution, Inc. is a terrific portrait of a band under pressure, with all the backstabbing, manipulation, and ego-stroking that entails. Cooper is obviously familiar with rock group dynamics and he has a laidback prose style that makes for a quick, easy read. So much so, that it is relatively easy to forgive the novella's flaccid ending that seems meant only to shock, not arising organically from the plot and characters at all. Still, this is the only drawback of what is definitely the best of these three works.

The novella is the ideal format for Retribution, Inc.: it hasn't been butchered to fit a predetermined short-story length, nor have they been unnecessarily padded out to novel length. Right around 100 pages, it is ideal for finishing in a single sitting in order to fully absorb its atmosphere. Having produced sixteen offerings of this sort so far, one can assume that the Novella Series has been a success. I hope that Cemetery Dance continues to produce these quality books of a more manageable size at a (relatively speaking) reasonable price.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.

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