Print Reviews

Small Town Punk

by John L. Sheppard

Writers Club Press / iUniverse

“stp”

I distinctly remember that the main reason I requested a promotional copy of John L. Sheppard’s Small Town Punk was that the publicity information I received made me think of Sean Carswell’s excellent novel Drinks For the Little Guy, transplanted to a West Central Florida setting. Drinks takes place in my current home of Melbourne, FL, but I grew up in Tampa, and spent plenty of time in Small Town’s primary setting, Sarasota. Despite my interest, though, I didn’t expect to find something as good as what I got.

Small Town Punk is brutal, honest, funny, and acerbic. It’s also (save for one fairly major geographical inconsistency) pretty dead-on accurate about what life in Central Florida for disaffected, low-to-middle class outcast teens was like. While Sheppard has about seven years on me, things didn’t change all that much from the time of the semi-autobiographical book (set in 1982) to the teen years I spent stomping around the area, and Sheppard has captured it in harrowing detail.

Of course, this made it very easy to identify with his characters, especially the book’s protagonist, “Buzz” Pepper. If Buzz doesn’t remind you of a low-income, modern day Holden Caulfield, you haven’t read Catcher in the Rye. Despite the updated setting and financial differences (Holden’s family had money; Buzz’s family is near dirt-poor), disaffected teens – and those of us who once were disaffected teens – should identify as closely with Buzz as they have with Holden. It’s a lofty comparison, to be sure, and I’m by no means saying that Small Town Punk is the timeless classic that Salinger’s best-known work is, but the similarities are undeniable.

That said, Small Town Punk in no way feels like a rehash or a rip off of Catcher – it has its own compelling story to tell. The story can be bleak – even the characters know how bad things are – but it’s absorbing and enthralling nonetheless. Part of this comes from Buzz’s acerbic sense of humor, of course, but it’s also about getting to know these characters and their daily way of life. Rather than getting absorbed in a simplistic plot, the story flows in a more stream-of-consciousness fashion, ala Jack Kerouac, and you get to know the characters – especially Buzz – as real people rather than as figures set up to drive the plot.

For me, that made the book compelling enough that I finished it in one night, after picking it up planning to just read a chapter or two before bed. That hasn’t happened to me since Alex Robinson’s brilliant graphic novel, Box Office Poison, and I’d put Small Town Punk in the same ballpark with that great book (and in fact, fans of the one may appreciate the other). Others might feel that there’s not enough plot and that the book is about some _Seinfeld_ian “nothing.” Those people have missed the point.

Again, I’m throwing around a lot of lofty praise here, and I don’t want to falsely inflate people’s expectations of the book. But if you were ever one of the “outcasts,” if you didn’t fit in with the preppy overlords of your high school, or if you grew up poor and punk, this is a book you should really enjoy. And if you happened to do all that in West Central Florida, Small Town Punk is absolutely essential.

http://www.iuniverse.comhttp://home.earthlink.net/~shepdog/index.html


Recently on Ink 19...

Porn and Ice Cream

Porn and Ice Cream

Screen Reviews

Three aimless misfits find themselves a purpose when they unwittingly start a band. It’s not your typical rock story, as Ian Koss explains.

Fire and Iceland

Fire and Iceland

Interviews

New York filmmaker April Anderson talks with Bob Pomeroy about volcanoes, horses, and making documentaries in Iceland.

Best of Film 2022

Best of Film 2022

Screen Reviews

With a year of festival and microcinema screenings behind them, Lily and Generoso select and review their ten favorite films, six supplemental features, and one exceptional repertory release of 2022.

Laura Citarella

Laura Citarella

Interviews

Director Laura Citarella, of the famed filmmaking collective El Pampero Cine, has created with her newest feature Trenque Lauquen a provocative transformation of her protagonist Laura (Laura Parades), whom Citarella first introduced in her 2011 film Ostende. Lily and Generoso enjoyed an in-depth conversation with Citarella about Trenque Lauquen when it screened at AFI Fest 2022.

New Music Now 009: Sleepyhead

New Music Now 009: Sleepyhead

Features

Join us for a new edition of New Music Now, with our special musical guest, Sleepyhead. All three members of the band are school teachers, so you didn’t hear it from us, but there might be a pop quiz about their album New Alchemy after the show.

Joana Pimenta

Joana Pimenta

Interviews

Back in 2018, Lily and Generoso selected Adirley Queirós’s Once There Was Brasilia as a top ten film. That feature’s cinematographer, Joana Pimenta, has now co-directed with Queirós one of the most expansive political films we’ve seen this year, Dry Ground Burning. Lily and Generoso interviewed Pimenta at AFI Fest earlier this month.

%d bloggers like this: