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The Hour of the Innocents    by Robert Paston order for
Hour of the Innocents
by Robert Paston
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Will is a young college student in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania in 1968, but all he wants to do is play his guitar in a rock and roll band. At the beginning of The Hour of the Innocents he is in a new group with a drummer, another guitar player and one man on a keyboard, and they've had some gigs as lead-ins to more well-known bands. When Matty shows up and plays his guitar far better than Will has ever managed to play, Will is afraid that he'll be kicked out - especially since the other players are all in their mid-twenties and have known each other since high school, whereas Will isn't even twenty yet. The group changes, but it's the keyboardist who leaves, and The Innocents are born. They changed their name after the group evolved to three guitar players and a drummer, and they begin to improve so much that they get more and more opportunities to play for money.

Stories about fledgling rock and roll bands from the sixties and seventies are almost as numerous as those bands were, but in this case we understand their ambitions to find an escape from dead-end lives in their worn-out coal communities. As the band becomes more popular and as the country as a whole changes, we watch these young men try to hold their band together and improve, while the temptations of fame and easy drugs and sex pull them in different directions and into difficulties that Will could never have imagined. Some of the most interesting parts of the novel tell Matty's back story about his experiences in Vietnam, but the love interests of the various characters are also told with sympathy and a knowledge of what some of the freewheeling activities of those times meant for individuals who got caught up in the drug culture.

Music could have been the best escape from lives of drudgery and hopelessness, but as Will found out, there had to be enough discipline on the part of the band members to remember that learning the music and playing it well was their most important job. The groupies, easy sex, and access to numerous drugs of all kinds were even more of a problem for The Innocents than breaking into a tough music scene. They learned that just as important as playing their music well was their loyalty to each other and the band.

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