Tacoma-based novelist and deputy prosecutor Mark Lindquist doesn't care about Seattle's epic touchiness, and he's written a novel that's not only set in the local music scene, but populated with characters from it. The story of a former musician, now a successful prosecutor looking for love, Never Mind Nirvana (oy!) is the name-droppingest book since The Andy Warhol Diaries. The protagonist, Pete Tyler, hangs out at the Cha-Cha and the Crocodile, went to high school with Kim Warnick from the Fastbacks, and has some friends at Sub Pop. The same can be said of Lindquist.
So when a subplot kicks in concerning a local band member who has been accused of date rape -- by a 19-year-old girl who went home with him after a night of drinking -- my hackles went up. The similarities are undeniable: He thinks it was consensual; she spent the night afterward; she didn't report it to the police for a couple of days. The Stranger hounds the victim for her story, even.
A familiar wound was beginning to seep, so I got on the phone and called this Lindquist guy up, out for blood and ready for a fight. We met at Sit & Spin, where his friends the Fastbacks were playing. The conversation was interesting, to say the least.
I thought the book read well, but I gotta tell you, it made me angry, and this probably isn't going to be the most flattering interview....
It should be.
I was really angry when I realized you were basing your subplot on the rape accusations that were directed at Isaac Brock last year. Everyone who reads the book who has any knowledge of the alleged incident will recognize the characters as Brock and his accuser.
Think about it for a second. When did that happen, a year ago? Think about how long it takes to write a novel. That story was submitted to my agent more than two years ago.
How can the details and circumstances be exactly the same?
It's not the same.
Aside from the accused rapist being 35, it's a hell of a lot the same.
That plot line existed before the Modest Mouse incident.
Are you sure you're not lying to me?
I wouldn't bother lying. When that story came out in The Stranger, I called up my editor and said, "You won't fucking believe this..." and we had the whole "life-imitating-art" conversation. It takes at least a year to get a book published. My first book took two years. I have a lot of friends who are novelists, and none of them have ever gotten a book out in under a year. I guess it's possible; I'm sure it happens -- if you're Stephen King they might do that for you. The book was originally set in Seattle, spring of 1997, and after my editor bought it, he said to switch it to spring 1999. I don't know all the details other than the superficial ones, but when the article came out in The Stranger, my editor and I both couldn't believe how similar the story was.
You realize that everyone in the music scene who has read the advance copies has flipped out about the similarities.
C'mon -- the character, Keith Junior, is on Sub Pop, for chrissakes.
If you've got a guy who is in a local band, you've got to put him on a local label. Keith Junior was always on Sub Pop, and there's no getting around that. In the original draft, though, it was a rape, not a date rape. And my editor said, "This is a comedic novel and a rape is too heavy for a comedic novel, so why don't you tone it down to a date rape?" That was after the Modest Mouse thing had happened, so maybe some of the circumstances of that story influenced the way I rewrote the rape.
The book is full of local characters who are all identified by their real names. I guess you can get away with that simply because you never say anything negative about anyone whose real name you used.
You know what? That wasn't really a legal thing. I didn't think that through. The Random House lawyers went through the book several times. But what is there bad to say about Kim [Warnick]? I don't recall how many people I used by their real names....
It was a lot.
So, the part where Gabe from Murder City Devils beats up Sean Nelson from Harvey Danger at the Sub Pop party -- what was that?
Well, I've been to a lot of Murder City Devils shows and seen Gabe get up and joke about this non-existent rivalry, which I think is hilarious, and I thought it would be funny to use it in the book.
So how much of Pete Tyler is you?
Not as much as people think.
So you didn't have drunken sex with Courtney Love?
No, I didn't.
Mark Lindquist reads from Never Mind Nirvana Tues May 9 at 7:30 pm at Elliott Bay Books, 101 S Main St, 624-6600; there will be a book-release party immediately following at the Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave.