On the Beach
Lenny Decker is in paradise – or so he thinks. While the panoramic view of the Pacific coast is nothing less than breathtaking, Lenny spends his time on back-to-back TV shows while keeping himself well stocked with beer, Jack Daniels, and pot. If Lenny isn’t hooked up with a chick, then he joins the handful of island locals at Iggy’s bar. A cycle of booze, drugs, and sex, this is the life for Lenny in paradise – or so he thinks.
Rising author Steve Schmale spins a captivating dark comedy set within the framework of America in the mid-1990s. Schmale’s third person narrative is heavily laced with all the nostalgic trappings of a time period that was at the cusp of cell phones and the Internet. From TV shows (Mash and Happy Days) music (Nirvana and Green Day), authors (Ginsberg and Kerouac), and various items (stereo and pay phone), Schmale draws readers into a world that was still recovering from the effects of Vietnam and the Cold War and of heightened mistrust toward the U.S. government while corporations were taking off.
A key literary aspect of Schmale’s 1990s storyline is his line up of foiled characters who constantly place Lenny in a corner of self-reflection. Also key to Schmale’s plot is his use of irony, beginning with his cast. It’s a blind-leading-the-blind situation; Schmale’s supporting characters not only have their own set of personal problems, but they, too, have succumbed to booze, drugs, and sex. Yet they all have strong opinions about life with no solid solutions. Outstanding examples are Winston with his philosophical commentaries and Rex, who is nothing but a windbag. Schmale’s novel may appear depressing at times, but he keeps his narrative flowing by alternating sarcastic comedy, love scenes, and flashbacks to Lenny’s past.
With never a dull moment from beginning to end, On the Beach is both surprisingly entertaining and deeply thought provoking.
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