Peter and the Wolves, By Adele Bertei, 96 pgs.

At first glance, I assumed this book would be a standard rock biography (my favorite genre, of course). Instead, Peter and the Wolves is an intimate documentation of the personal and artistic relationship between the author Adele Bertei and the extremely complicated creative force known as Peter Laughner. Despite his talent, Laughner shot himself in the foot at every turn. He formed some of the best bands Cleveland has ever known (Pere Ubu, Rocket From The Tombs) but was run out before these bands reached any level of success. His substance abuse and other dangerous (or at least disruptive) behaviors were shunned by most of the artists he worked with.

Laughner was a troubled soul, no doubt. Thankfully, that factor is not exploited in this book. The focus stays on Laughner and Bertei’s relationship, which comes across as being as substantial as any love story (although it appears to be entirely non-romantic). The two were a duo not a couple, and from their initial meeting in a Cleveland bar to their relocation to New York City, their relationship was forged and thrived within stacks of records and in rehearsal rooms.

There is a noticeable poetic quality to Bertei’s writing here which comes through in only the best ways. Bertei’s passages are not vague or whimsical, but beautiful and extraordinarily concise—easy and pleasant to read. The words jump off the page, kind of like listening to a well mastered vinyl record without too much compression and with plenty of emotion—not over produced, but perfect.

There seems to be very little excess drama in Peter and the Wolves. Laughner’s problematic behaviors range from simply offensive substance-fueled antics (like jumping onstage and trying to plug in his guitar during Television’s set) to truly dangerous episodes involving loaded firearms. However, these incidents are described as examples rather than becoming the center of the narrative.

There is a substantial cameo by legendary rock journalist Lester Bangs, who was one of my favorites growing up. Although Bangs had his own share of problems, he gets through this one unscathed. In fact, Bangs comes off as a kind and gentle soul, for the most part. On the other hand, there are a few characters who the author clearly has issues with (like Crocus Behemoth aka David Thomas from RFTT and Pere Ubu). However, there is no over-the-top trash-talk going on, and this comes across as very authentic and honest. Indeed, there is an honesty factor at play throughout Peter and the Wolves; Bertei reveals so much that it is hard to believe she’s hiding anything.

Laughner may be considered an underground legend, but Adele Bertei’s story is just as meaningful, and she seems to credit Laughner for encouraging and helping her discover a strength inside of her allowing her to break out of her shell; to become an author and a professional world-renowned singer. She found a success that Laughner was unable to find. –Buddha (Smog Veil, smogveil.com)