Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, By Franz Nicolay, 248 pgs.

Band people: you know that one coworker who refuses to believe that you’re not trashing hotel rooms and getting laid every night on tour? Give them a copy of Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Franz Nicolay’s fast-paced novel about the drudgery of touring life. It’ll shut ’em right up. Nicolay chips away at the romance of the open road, one weak cup of coffee at a time, while painting a pitch-perfect portrait of a musician’s lonely, prolonged adolescence.

Punky singer-songwriter Rudy Pauver is rolling his eyes through yet another diminishing returns tour when adult life finally catches up with him and his converted pickup truck. Through the blur of indifferent audiences and counterfeit drink tickets, Rudy becomes the de facto guardian of his crust punk niece and is forced to reckon with his broken relationship with a famous former protégé—a career-defining falling out where the holier-than-thou Pauver has always cast himself as the victim, though the truth is far more muddy.

Author Franz Nicolay is an indie rock vet who was in The Hold Steady and The World Inferno Friendship Society, and has a few solo albums and a travel book about punk touring on his merch table as well. In Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Nicolay draws from his own life on the road to load this novel with sage truisms about art and aging that send this tale of crestfallen man-children right toward the gut. As Pauver shrugs a series of albums into the world, Nicolay muses that, “Each… was a little disappointment, a snapshot of the moment the thing passed from pure, perfect potential to imperfect existence.”

Someone Should Pay is bookended by Pauver’s moribund tour, but the bulk of this quick and detail-laden novel traces the earlier stages of his career: playing second fiddle to a manipulative idealist in a Gainesville punk band, self-sabotaging while opening for his Bright Eyes-esque protégé, and reaching the age where “being a musician… is mostly keeping track of who’s quit drinking.”

Pauver seems to have been born jaded and directionless, but Nicolay’s pitch-perfect observations make his story intriguing and all too true, zooming by like trees on the side of the highway. If the most specific things are the most relatable, then this carefully orchestrated takedown of musician life and will hit home with anyone who is reckoning with the bleary truths of a self-righteous life, from either side of forty. –Chris Terry (Gibson House)