DeadStar: Who the Hell Was Garth Tyson

by Nick Griffiths

Release date, 25 January 2022

DeadStar is fun. Lots of fun. In the opening scenes, we see the author forge an unlikely friendship with an early morning burglar. The offender (Roy Richardson), before he fell into a life of casual housebreaking, played bass in Speed of Life, a pop/punk/New Wave band. After a disastrous gig in 1985, Speed of Life front man, Garth Tyson, took off for good, leaving bandmates in the lurch, relatives bewildered, and enduring questions about his disappearance.

With Roy’s help, Griffiths tracks down the key players. A hilarious oral history follows, revealing setbacks and failures while seeking a solution to the decades-old mystery. Readers from outside the UK may need a few pages to adjust to colloquial mannerisms and turns of phrase, but will soon find the rhythm of this wild rock-n-roll ride.

As the story unfolds, interviewees are sometimes insightful, often spiteful, and always amusing. Their banter keeps the pace of this intricate story brisk and lighthearted. The mystery of Tyson’s disappearance is solved following a search which sees the author persuade reluctant friends, family, and acquaintances to dish the dirt on Speed of Life. But DeadStar’s last surprise, Griffiths, leaves to his acknowledgements.

“I penned DeadStar after reading Dylan Jones’ excellent oral history, David Bowie: A Life,” writes Griffiths, saying, “There aren’t enough music oral histories, which is why I made this one up. All the characters herein (see: Dramatis Personae) are, of course, fictional.”

A witty read with heavy doses of the original (and still the best) ‘mockumentary,’ This Is Spinal Tap, DeadStar is a novel to enjoy. And don’t forget to turn it up to eleven.

Thank you to Reedsy Discovery for an Advance Reader’s Copy of this title. First reviewed on, 25 January 2022

The Mighty Franks

By Michael Frank

A long-time book critic for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Frank begins his story not with his earliest memories but with a conversation overheard between his mother and his paternal aunt, the inimitable Auntie Hankie. A landmark in his early life, his eavesdropping confirms what he already knows: that his childless aunt adores him and wants him for her own.

Powerful autobiographies are often said to read like novels, and The Mighty Franks delivers on the promise more than most. An account of the author’s childhood in 1960-70s Laurel Canyon, steps away from pop stars and Hollywood types, Michael’s life story includes regular visits to antique shops, museums, and movie sets. Auntie Hankie and her husband, Uncle Irving, are screenwriters with a formidable list of credits, including many landmark post-war movies. More than his parents, Hankie and Irving shape young Michael’s perspective, showering him with expensive gifts (not wasted on his brothers) to cement his good taste. With a hint of the inevitable about it, the story ends with the decline of the Mighty Franks, leaving us to wonder if Auntie Hank is a hero or a villain.

Not a pleasant book in the conventional sense, The Mighty Franks is an interesting read. I expected Hollywood plot twists throughout, as if the story were unfolding moment by moment until it could take me by surprise with a screenwriter’s acumen. “Does Michael turn out to be Auntie Hank’s secret love child?” I wondered for a while. “Is Auntie Hank going to go broke by the end, alone in a retirement home for the stars?” Years of the author’s angst led to his wanderings as a troubled young man mimicking one of Auntie Hank’s soul-searching movie scripts. “How much of this is real?” I asked myself. “Is Michael a reliable narrator?”

Many memoirs provoke few questions from readers, ask little of their attention beyond the following of a basic life story. The Mighty Franks invites instead an emotional response to events misunderstood by the author until long after they had taken place. The child’s grasping, seen through the lens of his later self, is rare and honest. Frank uses all the tools in the writer’s toolbox (though he could have left some of the lofty vocab in a drawer) to create something his readers will remember.