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Official Website of Author Donald Gallinger
Official Website of Author Donald Gallinger
In the summer of 1973, Peter Jameson, a buoyant, handsome, already-idolized rock wunderkind stands poised to take his band, The Master Planets, to the top. Then his mother, a suburban housewife with a flower shop, is found dead after murdering an elderly German man living in Ohio. Suddenly, past collides with present in a sequence of loss and betrayal that ends his dreams and forever changes his life.
When everything you wanted is taken away, what is left behind?
The Master Planets tells the story of Peter Jameson, an exuberant, musically gifted 19-year old in 1970s suburban New Jersey, whose life falls apart when he—and the world—learn about his mother's secret past in German-occupied Poland. After miraculously surviving a mass execution of her village, she had become a uniquely savage partisan fighter. Hundreds—guilty and innocent alike—died by her hand, while hundreds of others lived, all in a random, gruesome lottery of resistance.
Thirty years later, her actions continue to take their toll on her American family… and, finally, on the man that Peter becomes. Today’s Peter—a fabulously wealthy, unethical New York powerbroker—doesn’t need to find salvation in the woman he loves. He needs to become once again worthy of her.
Told through decade-spanning flashbacks and witty, superbly crafted prose, The Master Planets is both an action-based story and a meditation on the ultimate costs of violence and revenge. Don’t miss this compelling read, with its larger-than-life characters and powerful scenes that will linger in your mind long after the book is back on the shelf.
Ashcroft, Pennsylvania is a green, hilly place somewhere north of the Pocono Mountains. This is where the Savage Huns hold their annual biker convention. The Savage Huns are part of a loose confederation of East Coast biker gangs. Each year, they celebrate their freedom from societal norms, such as rational thought and common decency, in a lovely, green wood.
The Savage Huns agreed to pay us seven hundred and fifty dollars for a four-hour gig—a fortune in those days. I don’t remember any more how they knew us or why they wanted our band to play. It’s possible they heard about us from some befuddled gang member who got lost at the Jersey shore and saw us perform before an unarmed audience.
Our contact for the Ashcroft gig was Roger “Rap” Coutrell. Roger was an oily, acne scarred “glad-hander” who shoved four hundred dollars into our hands as we began to unpack our equipment behind the bandstand, a hastily erected lattice-work of boards, beams, and steel mesh that resembled a gallows.
“I heard good things about you little faggots,” Roger said. We stopped unloading our gear and stared at him. Roger smiled with two front teeth missing. I couldn’t tell whether he was joking or not, so I decided to smile back with my whole set of teeth.
“We’re not faggots,” Royce Hart said. He had put down his cymbals and glared at Roger. Royce was the “small” guy in the band—five ten and with a quick temper.
“When do you want us to play?” Billy asked. His voice was tight.
Roger ignored the question; he pointed to the hundreds of bikers and their girlfriends wandering through the fields in front of the bandstand. Most of them wobbled as they walked and uttered shrieks of laughter. In the darkness, they looked like wounded crows flapping damaged wings and giggling at their deformities.
“Now, you might see some strange shit tonight,” Roger informed us, “so don’t pay any attention to it. Just keep playing. We’ve got a lot of people who are going to be initiated into the Huns and there could be some things you’re not used to.”
“Like what?” I asked, still showing my full set of white teeth.
“Like mind your own fucking business and rock out,” Roger said. “That’s all you gotta do—if you want the rest of the money.” The mention of the money reminded us that we didn’t have to like Roger or the Savage Huns.
We set up our equipment, did a quick sound check, and then took our places behind the bandstand. After ten minutes or so, we peeked around the corner of the stage. Where was Roger? Wasn’t he going to introduce us?
We saw a large crowd huddled near a torch. We heard shouts and cheers and then the yellow flame flickered over a row of naked girls sitting primly in lawn chairs. Each girl had a head bobbing up and down between her spread legs.
“This is bullshit!” Billy exploded. “These assholes are eating pussy! I’m not going to sing for people who are eating pussy!”
We stared at the line of lawn chairs—the girls looked like they were giving birth to huge, rat-haired, squirming babies.
“What the hell are you guys waiting for?” Roger had suddenly appeared out of the darkness. “Rock out, man!”
I tried to be as diplomatic as possible. “Roger, people are having sex out there. They don’t want to listen to music.”
"That ain’t sex,” Roger said, “that’s guys going down on girls who are on the rag.”
We stared at each other. Finally, our bass player, Tommy Leeds, said, “Why? I mean, why?”
Roger looked exasperated. “To show commitment to the Savage Huns. To show respect for our beliefs.”
“By going down on girls having their period?” I said. “How does that show respect?”
“I’m not going to discuss our traditions with little faggot boys from Jersey,” Roger said.
“We’re not faggots,” Royce said, “and if you—”
“If you don’t play right fucking now, rock stars,” Roger said, “then about five hundred guys and their pissed-off girlfriends, some of them on the rag, are going to come up on this stage and beat the living shit out of all of you.”
I made a quick decision. “We want an extra two fifty or we don’t play at all.”
Roger narrowed his eyes. “You think you’re fucking shaking me down for more?”
“Fuckin’ A,” I said. “We’re The Master Planets. We’re the best band in Jersey.”
“No, you’re fucking not,” Roger said, “there are these guys in Asbury Park—”
“They’d charge more and they’re not here.” I said. I looked directly at Roger. “It’s up to you. What’s it going to be?”
Roger stared back at me. Then he said, “All right. But if you don’t play good, we’ll stomp the shit out of you.”
“Fuck you,” I said.
Roger looked at me again. Then he smiled. “Okay. Do you guys take breaks?”
“Ten minutes every hour,” I said. “We play for four hours.”
“Okay. Do you need anything else?”
“No, thanks,” I said.
We took our positions on the bandstand and made one last sound check. As we tuned up, Billy said, “Sometimes I can’t believe you. Where does this balls-out attitude come from?”
My B string was a little flat. I tightened it. “Roger’s not that tough. He’s dealing with the entertainment, isn’t he?”
Best-selling author Thomas Perry
“Magnificent… mysterious…. Unforgettable.”
“A sleek, absorbing narrative… An unusual plot given bravura treatment.”
“…. This intriguing tale reads like a movie in embryo.”
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Reader Reviews for "The Master Planets"
|Reviewed by Doni Tamblyn
|I just don't know where to start with this book. It's huge in scope, deep in concept, beautifully written, and an enormously FUN READ that grabs you from the first paragraph, takes you from WW II to the 1970s rock scene to the modern world of high finance, and holds you straight through to a deeply satisfying conclusion. How did Gallinger pull it off, that's what I want to know?
We start out with a tense exchange between Daniel Gilaad, an elderly Israeli ambassador, and Peter Jameson, a handsome, fabulously rich, less-than-ethical New York corporate attorney. The ambassador wants Peter to take part in an event honoring his mother, who had been a partisan fighter in WW II Poland. In the course of the conversation, we begin to see that she had been a rather unique fighter -- and that this "uniqueness" followed her into her new life as a middle-class American wife and mother. We also see glimmerings of how the attorney's own life was twisted by the events that took place many years before he was born.
In the summer of 1973, Peter, a buoyant, handsome, rock wunderkind, had already written two songs -- "The Battle of Britain" and "Oh Laurie" -- that would become rock and roll classics. His band, The Master Planets, was gaining rapt attention across the country for the newness and heat of its music. Then came the suicide of his beautiful and withdrawn mother, and, quickly following, an avalanche of bewildering information about her identity and history as a war survivor. Far from being just another of the innumerable victims of the camps, she had in fact fought with the partisans against the Germans... and exacted retributions of a barbarity rivaling the Nazis' own. She committed numerous acts of bloody revenge. She also saved scores of lives. Shaken by the truth about the woman they thought they knew, Peter's family began to disintegrate. Meanwhile, Peter's talent -- the creative force that had defined, directed, and sustained his life -- suddenly deserted him.
Today Peter Jameson reflects again on the destruction of his family and the dissolution of his dreams. Now a ruthless attorney for international consortiums tied to organized crime, he has embraced his own brand of violence against humanity. The life he lives is far from what he imagined in his exuberant youth, and leaves him with a single, burdensome question: How to reconcile an intimate knowledge of human brutality with the heart's irrational urge to believe again, to desire, to reach out once more toward possibility?
This book is at once an action-based story and a meditation on the costs of violence and revenge. When does self-defense become atrocity, the victim a perpetrator? What happens to us when we cross that line? Spanning five decades in 336 short pages, in beautiful prose that manages to read like a mystery novel, the book explores one man's struggle with a legacy of evil, the search for meaning in the midst of ugliness. It is, simply put, one of the best debut novels I have ever read. Have a look -- you will NOT be disappointed.