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REVIEW: Richard Lewis Mater's Beat
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Tuesday, December 21, 2021

REVIEW: Richard Lewis Mater's Beat

In his debut novel, Beat, set in San Francisco in 1976, Richard Lewis Mater presents a moving exploration of the adrift lives of several characters in the aftermath of the 1960s counterculture movement.

Driving the story is a twenty-seven-year-old Billy Johnson. His daily life comprises selling drugs to friends and acquaintances, hanging out in bars with his best friend Manny, dancing at a club called "Dance Your Ass Off," and chasing women. Besides supporting himself as a small-time drug dealer, Billy is a sales clerk in a T-shirt shop called Aquarius Shirts in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. The shop attracts tourists visiting the area where some well-known hippies lived in the 1960s. When asked where he works, Billy likes to inflate his position and mentions that he is a manager rather than a salesperson at the shop. 

His means of transportation is a psychedelic-painted VW bus which he has named Kozmic. 

You get the impression that his relationships with women seem to be hinged on his ability to provide them with drugs. There was, however, T-i, who perhaps was more sincere than the others. They both agreed to have an open relationship, yet T-i seems to have wanted more from Billy. 

A brutal awakening occurs when Billy's roommate, Noel, commits suicide. Billy is shocked to discover Noel's naked body on his roommate's bed. Noel's father contacts Billy and instructs him to ship all his son's possessions. 

There is no mention of Noel's journal that Billy finds among the belongings. The writings' pretty disturbing revelations come as a shock to Billy. He never really knew Noel other than he was a writer who had some success with the publication Paris Review. 

Billy had hoped that Noel would give him some writing pointers, as he had aspirations in pursuing a career as a writer. His hope for a mentor was gone, and because Billy provided him with some drugs, he felt he was complicit in the calamity.

Manny, a savvy quick-witted rock-journalist for the magazine San Francisco Lifestyle, has minimal difficulty attracting women with his daring flirtations. Manny opens the door for Billy in entering the world of writing.

He introduces Billy to his publisher, Ed Bernstein, who agrees to give him a chance to submit an article. Billy writes an article about the dance club scene, and, perhaps you can say it was beginner's luck, hits pay dirt, and the piece is accepted. 

Quite à propos is Mater's statement on the dedication page. Here we have a tiny glimpse of what is to unfold in the story where Mater states: "This book is dedicated to a time and a place and a group of people who passed through it." And this is what he accomplishes with this richly textured, intelligent, moving portrait of a now-gone era. 

Billy and his friends' stories wind in and out, merging at times. Their themes continually recur, reflecting their carefree, non-conformist lifestyle that characterized the hippies of the 1960s. Readers are pulled in with Mater's effortless, conversational style, which is concise and direct, shifting perspectives from character to character. He pulls us in with muddled feelings as we visualize his array of colorful characters. Although, it feels depressing to read about young people that are destroying their lives hooked on narcotics, treading water and living on the ledge. 

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Richard Lewis Mater

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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