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Time Won't Let Me    by Bill Scheft order for
Time Won't Let Me
by Bill Scheft
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2005 (2005)

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*   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Is this for real, I ask myself as I begin to read Time Won't Let Me? Who is Bill Scheft? What's his gig? I read the book, making sense of a good portion, and deciding that I just may not be hip (or is that hep) enough, even though I am a rock and roll fan. Scheft is the author of The Ringer, soon to be a major motion picture, and The Best of The Show: A Classic Collection of Wit and Wisdom. He spent eleven years as head monologue writer for David Letterman and is a columnist for Sports Illustrated.

His latest book is about five guys - once fellow students at Chase Academy prep school in 1967 - reaching fifty. They accidentally came together as a garage band when assigned to detention in the school's Music Room. They never really liked each other, and named their band the Truants, playing at school mixers (when students from a nearby girls' school are invited to the boys' school). Out of Site is the one album they burned on the market, not that it went very far in sales. Actually, it ended up in front of a band member's dorm room, bearing a sign FREE ALBUMS, which soon translated into TRASH DISCARD. So that is what the superintendent did, after confiscating one album for his thirteen-year-old daughter.

Thirty years later the five find out that a rare copy of the disk is being sold to a collectah from Germany for the goodly amount of $10,000. It made the headlines in the Phoenix free newspaper - 'Where Are the Truants, and What are they Doing That's Worth $10G?' All the wheeling-dealing is due to the efforts of a character (and I mean character) named Dino Paradise, a connoisseur of music from the era. The band form the central cast members: Richie Lyman is a divorce lawyer who seduces his female clients with karaoke; John Thiel is a dermatologist; Tim Schlesinger's wife doesn't know about his hidden drum set; Brian Brock has been writing a thesis for the past twenty-five years, while dorm-sitting and part-time teaching at his alma mater; and Jerry is a gambler addicted to Equal (the sweetener), who goes into rehab for same, and also travels to the Cayman Islands on delivery errands (with mucho money attached to his legs). Assisting Jerry is another, delightfully funny character, Pressure Chef.

The group's album actually consisted of about a dozen songs like Get Psyched - 'I know you itchin' / To get psyched / You may be sleeping, in the night, / You may keeping, it in tight, ... I know you hear me - / Get psyched!' The final cut combined some of their own work with songs by other artists such as Michael Row The Boat Ashore, and the underrated flip side to the Outsiders' giant hit, Time Won't let Me. Getting back to the sale of the rare album, it involves one mate getting in touch with all the others to bring them together for rehearsal, in order to play at the upcoming alma mater's class reunion, in the process revealing all the tribulations of each ex-classmate.

Somewhere in Scheft's book there is a story ... promise. It just takes a reader's patience. It has the flavor of a tongue in cheek, rock 'n roll parody. The author's humor shows in comments like: 'Looking to start a band for the love of Christ, make sure you have an odd number of guys for voting purposes. If you put things to as many votes as you're going to have to, it's like buying no-tie insurance.' Scheft includes a serious side of the five guys as they go through failed and failing marriages. They discover that one of them is gay, and one meets his son for the first time since the kid was two years old. Scheft relays their human side very well, and that's the part I enjoyed, as well as the mention of famed musicians/singers, rock 'n rollers, such as the great James Brown, Bo Diddley, The Rascals, The Beatles, Buddy Holly and the Crickets (super!), The Highwaymen, and Johnny Rivers - to name a few.

All in all, Scheft's Time Won't Let Me covers an era in music history, with 'dark humor and daffy scenarios', in a manner that seemed like trains slipping tracks, headed toward each other, though somehow never colliding.

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