Last One to Die: By Michael Essington, 204 pgs. By Jimmy

It sometimes amuses me that so many books have been written about punk’s heroes—the bands, the artists, the zines, the films, and the history of its myriad scenes—and so few are written about the punters. For a scene that purportedly disdained “rock stars” and sought to level the playing field between band and fan, so little attention has been given to chronicling the latter, the gaggles of punkers and punkettes who bought the records, attended shows, and were the lifeblood of “the scene.”

Presented here are snippets of the life of one such fan. Essentially a collection of essays originally written for a short-lived 2010 reboot of Flipside fanzine, Sparkplug magazine, and his own Strange Reaction website, Essington muses on the bits of life that make the man—family, friends, relationships, the high and low points of a generally normal life—the allure of the music, memories of key gigs he attended both in the ‘80s and in the present era, and ends things in conversation with punker folks who’ve influenced and/or inspired him.

There is little direct discussion about punk music for a large chunk of the book, but it’s there, pulsing behind a profile—not of a doped-out, pink-haired fuck up raping and pillaging the town in the name of “hardcore”—but rather of an otherwise “good” kid who ultimately finds he had much more in common with those who fit the more stereotypical punker profile than he previously thought, as well as a vivid portrait of 1980s life in the San Fernando Valley.

There are a few problems with the book’s structure—there are quite a few spelling and syntax errors, and adherence to a more concrete timeline would’ve eliminated the occasional redundant bit—that could’ve been smoothed out with the help of a good editor. That said, Essington’s a damned good storyteller with a strong voice that doesn’t mince words, yet maintains a sensitivity that allows for meaningful introspection. An ability to spin a good yarn is surprisingly one of the tougher bits about writing that is too often lacking from too many books, but he does it with what seems like an inherent ease that yields a good read, that makes otherwise pedestrian situations profound, and keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end with his tale of one punk fan’s life. –Jimmy Alvarado (lastonetodie.strangereaction.com)