It took me way too long to get to Dietrich Kalteis’ Zero Avenue (ECW Press) but I finally got here and I’m quite happy for that. Kalteis’ book is set in Vancouver’s punk scene in October 197 and the first thing one notices is Kalteis’ use of language, raw and unfiltered. The writing like the characters is unapologetic and doesn’t give a shit whether you get it or not: punk music, punk characters, punk writing. I was loving it immediately.
Dietrich Kalteis’ Zero Avenue opens with Frankie Del Ray heading into a Johnny Falco’s Nest, a punk bar down the street from the famed Smiling Buddha. Frankie has a lot on her mind: her band, trying to make a recod, running drugs across the border for Marty Sayles, the east-side drug lord, and a date with said drug lord later that night. The first few pages are full of Vancouver rock and roll lore from Jimi Hendrix to D.O.A as well as bringing the punk scene to life. After these few pages of staccato exposition, things blow up real fast.
A lone bulb hung from the center of the room, a dead fluorescent tube horizontal over the sink, two toilets, only one with an enclosed stall, a urinal and a plugged-up sink, soapy brown scum floating in it. Toilet paper unfurled like crime scene tape across the floor. Graffiti all over — the voice of the people.
Frankie’s eyes adjusted to the dim, a guy in a sport jacketstood pressed against the wall, his head tipped back, Adam’s apple bobbing, the guy groaning over the pounding music. A girl on her knees, giving him the business.
Money’s tight all around and Sayles hires Zeke Chamas to begin to run his drug business a bit tougher than before. Kalteis stumbled once when he had a character pay for information instead of getting it free, but the rest of the book read like sweaty power chords screaming with adrenaline and filled with characters named Stain, Monk, and Sticky. Kalteis’ Zero Avenue is a furious rush of drugs, crimes, and punk music. I’ll miss this book, but I’m listening to my old records again.