“Look at her pictures…Anna in that slinky green dress, with her wild bangs, dangly blue earrings, with her cat’s eyes and pouty pink lips, radiating the absolute certainty that she can see just what you want—and show you how to get it,” the author writes.
Larry “Dink” Stephenson, the novel’s narrator, and Michelle “Princess” Diamond are songwriters for the Annas, a singing group in the early ’60s. Dink falls for Anna the first time he sees her sing at a talent show with her sister and cousin. Two years later when Punky Solomon is looking for a girl group to record Dink and Princess’s songs, he has Anna and her cousin and sister audition, renaming them the Annas after their lead singer. From then on, like the title of the Annas’ final recording written by Dink and Princess, “Love Cuts Like a Knife” for Dink because while he is drawn to Anna, so are rock icons like John Lennon. Dink believes he doesn’t stand a chance.
Just three months after the 1966 recording session for “Love Cuts Like a Knife” ends, so does Anna’s life, supposedly from an overdose of drugs and booze. And Love falls to the British Invasion until thirty years later when it soars to popularity, receiving playtime in movies and TV.
Dink sues producer, Punky Solomon, and backer, Manny Gold, for the credit and royalties to the song, and in the process is thrown into a reprise of the past, turning up facts and bitter truths—of why Anna held back her answer to Dink’s marriage proposal on a New York rooftop—and what really killed her.
The author, a musician who teaches fiction writing at the New School in New York City, calls his books “Musical Novels,” that highlight the glory days of rock and roll. This novel is the fourth in a series that includes Pink Cadillac and Soul Calvacade.
Even though this is a musical novel, too much of a good thing in terms of the history of the industry unnecessarily slows the pace, especially in the first third of the book. And while this may be a musical novel, the way Anna and the Annas shape and influence Dink’s life—from the moment he meets Anna in his early twenties through the lawsuit and events shortly after when he is in his fifties—make this a story of unrequited love.