Ever Rest, by Roz Morris, tells the story of a popular rock music duo whose fame was immortalised when the lead singer fell to his death on Mount Everest. Twenty years later, those who were close to the pair at the height of their fame are still living with the issues this created.
It is common to read of badly behaved celebrities – of the drugs and casual sex that allegedly go hand in hand with the rock and roll lifestyle, and these do get a mention here. What comes across more clearly in this tale is the way successful artists are manipulated by those wishing to claim a slice of the pie for themselves. Fans, media and those operating in the wider industry feel a sense of ownership, forgetting that the stars are not just a product but also people with agency.
The musical duo called themselves the Ashbirds – a play on their names. They met as teenagers through their parents, who ran businesses in the small Shropshire town of Bonnet. Both left for London as soon as they felt able. Although friends of sorts, there was little love lost between the pair. Nevertheless, together they released songs that touched listeners at a visceral level.
Hugo was the creative talent but Ashten had the drive and charisma. When their albums started making waves and gaining airplay they acquired a team who took care of organisation and security. In the months before their attempt to climb Everest, Ashten took up with a new girlfriend, a dancer named Elza. Also in the mix was Robert, a session musician with aspirations that soared above his abilities.
Hugo was with Ashten when the latter perished on the mountain. As a result he gave up music, instead training to assist those in Nepal – climbing in an attempt to escape his demons. Elza became an artist, taking on commissions from businesses. Robert married Gina and made his living writing advertising jingles.
Over the years, as the bodies of men were discovered in the ice around Everest following thaws or avalanche, Hugo would be called to check if it was Ashten. These events pulled the survivors of Ashbirds closer together again. The old team would be brought in to provide protection from continued media interest. The fanbase would hold vigils, eager to claim a part of the musical legacy they felt belonged to them.
When Ari Markson, manager of Ashbirds, contacts Robert with the news that a backer has offered to fund a fourth album from the band, the musician is faced with a dilemma. He has over-egged his creative potential, claiming to have songs ready that he must now submit for consideration. All he has are those written decades ago with Ashten and subsequently rejected. When Hugo gets wind of what is going on, he steps in to ensure the Ashbirds name will not be tarnished by substandard output. Robert sways between the fear he is being treated as unfairly as twenty years ago and his wish to be involved in Hugo’s now much vaunted return.
Elza, meanwhile, has a new partner, Elliot, who prefers opera to pop music. Alongside the star struck fans who stoke the fires of artistic egos and those who support them, Elliot provides a reminder of how ridiculous and potentially damaging the worship of celebrity is.
There is a notable lack of trust between the characters, even the cohabiters. Those involved in creating the songs seek control, that they may reap the plaudits for themselves. It is about money but also admiration and the reflected glow of association. It is an indictment of the wider musical industry – creators and consumers.
I have detailed a few elements of plot above and always worry about spoiling a readers enjoyment turning the pages. I won’t remove anything, however, as the pleasure to be found in this book is the author’s style of storytelling. She writes with a light touch that belies the inherent skill, care and acuity. The writing flows at a comfortable pace. Tension builds to maintain engagement interspersed with well crafted character development. The human element is insightfully rendered, especially the misinterpretations of actions and intentions. The denouement provides a satisfying tying together of threads.
An enjoyable read that offers a fresh perspective on fame and those who make money from it. A reminder that a quiet life may bring more happiness than perceived success.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.