by Brian Robbins
In 2011’s Look At Flower, author Robert Dunn took us into the heart, soul, and mind of a young gal running away from “Cowtown, Oregon” during the Summer Of Love. Though the quick description sounds like an invitation to Cliché City, Dunn spun his yarn well, engaging the reader with enough tie-dyed touchstones to keep things familiar while weaving in enough surprises to keep the pages turning.
With Stations Of The Cross Dunn dons the world-weary skin of fictional 58-year-old rock ‘n’ roll legend Dyson Burnette – and pulls it off just as well as he did with a vintage hippie chick. Dunn lays his groundwork and develops his characters quickly and stealthily – you’ve done your homework on just who Burnette is early on without realizing it. It’s not too many pages into Stations Of The Cross before Burnette is headed to Los Parques – a Mexican town he last visited 40 years prior. The 18-year-old Burnette discovered love and his muse at the time: the love was lost as quickly as it was found (but never forgotten); the muse propelled Burnette through 30 years of success.
Barren of inspiration for nearly a decade, Burnette returns to Los Parques looking to rekindle something within himself. The good news is he does; the unfortunate news is it’s not without a price. Soon after his arrival in Mexico, Burnette becomes infatuated with a young school teacher. His muse is reawakened by her beauty before they ever exchange a word; the trade-off being a headful of jumbled, tumbled thoughts and memories, punctuated by long drunken nights and hungover mornings.
As Burnette begins to churn out “Stations Of The Cross” (a 13-verse Dylanesque tune that he’d given up on 40 years prior), he struggles with his attraction to the lovely Serena Rodriguez. In true junkie-of-love fashion, he grapples with the need for stronger fixes of the young woman with a desire that staggers into the shadows of something much darker. In the meantime, his record label back in the States drops him and he manages to break the heart of the woman he left behind in New York.
Here is where Dunn shows his true talent: in lesser hands, Dyson Burnette wouldn’t feel like much more than a burned-out rock-star-turned-tequila-fueled-stalker; in Stations Of The Cross, Dunn takes us far enough into Burnette’s soul to be able to understand at least some of the obsession. The completion of the song becomes as important – if not more – than the consummation of his feelings for the young school teacher.
Reality dictates that nothing good could come of all this; with Dunn at the wheel, however, you’ll find yourself rooting for Dyson Burnette – doomed as he may be.
Brian Robbins keeps a dusty bottle of tequila on the shelf over at www.brian-robbins.com