Famed author Stuart Coupe said Driving Stevie Fracasso “reads as great as the fifth Replacements album sounds”. Tim Rogers said it will be “read in between flippin’ records. Go for the ride. You’ll be spent, you’ll be grateful”.

The first novel from award‐winning journalist and author Barry Divola is full of music, intellectual commentary and endearing characters. It’s been described as a rollicking road‐trip novel about how, though we may at times lose ourselves along the way, the road always leads back to family and the things that bring us joy.

barry divola
Barry Divola. Photo credit: Neil Wallace

The novel is worth engulfing based on the writer’s past bylines alone. Barry Divola was a senior writer for Rolling Stone Australia, and writes regularly for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review and Qantas Magazine. He’s also a long‐time music critic for Who, and his work has appeared internationally in Rolling Stone, Spin, Entertainment Weekly and Monocle.

Naturally, with such a rich music-loving history, Driving Stevie Fracasso arrives today (March 3) complete with a playlist to match the storyline.

Stream the Driving Stevie Fracasso playlist:

Driving Stevie Fracasso may be Barry Divola’s first novel, but he has published eight other books: four non‐fiction books, three children’s books and a book of short fiction (Nineteen Seventysomething). Check out an excerpt from the novel below from the chapter ‘Dopey and Happy’, and then pick up a copy from for just $26.25 over at Booktopia.

EXCERPT: Driving Stevie Fracasso

Dopey and Happy 

The address Hunter had given me for Stevie was in a part of town that people probably drove through with their doors locked. By the time I arrived, it was already late, around ten o’clock, but I couldn’t face another night in a motel.

Even before I got out of the car, I could hear the noise coming from inside. It was a discordant babble, but occasionally I could make out a news anchor’s voice or a laugh track from a TV sitcom or an electric guitar.

Staked into the front lawn, which was just a square of brown, stunted grass, a plastic pink flamingo stood vigil. On either side of the front door were stone statues of a couple of the seven dwarves. I couldn’t tell which ones. I’d been more Hanna-Barbera than Disney as a kid.

As I got closer, the sound from inside the house got louder and more chaotic. How could anyone live in there? It must have been maddening.

I pressed the doorbell, half-expecting not to be heard above the din.

But a figure appeared in the doorway instantly. There were no lights on in the house, but even in the dark I could tell he was overweight, was wearing sweatpants and had a beard and matted hair hanging over his face.

‘Hi!’ I called out, trying to be heard above the noise. ‘I’m looking for Stevie? Stevie Fracasso?’

‘Uh-huh,’ said the guy.

‘Does he live here?’ ‘Sure does.’

‘Is he in?’ ‘Yeah, he’s in.’ ‘Can I see him?’

‘Yes, sir, I reckon you can.’ ‘Great. Mind if I come in?’

‘Mi casa es tu casa, amigo. Door’s unlocked.’

I followed him down a dark hallway, making my way slowly, the way lit only by the glow coming from the nests of LED lights, VU meters, screens and other electronics that crammed every room leading off it. There was no one distinct signal, just an atonal chorus that invaded your head and took up all the space there, leaving no room for thought.

When I got into the kitchen, the guy was already leaning inside the refrigerator, bending over and giving me a full view of his hairy butt crack. He was obviously not wearing any underwear.

‘Diet Coke?’ he shouted into the guts of the refrigerator. ‘No thanks, I’m fine.’

‘Where you drive from?’ he yelled over his shoulder. ‘New York.’

‘You drove all the way from New York and you don’t need a Diet Coke?’

‘Okay. Sure. Thanks.’

He closed the refrigerator door. Without the light from inside it, the kitchen went dark again and I struggled to find the hand offering me the can.

‘Thanks,’ I said, opening it and taking a gulp.

We stood there long enough for it to be awkward. ‘So, do you think you could let Stevie know I’m here?’ ‘He knows you’re here.’

‘He does?’

‘Can we quit this now, Ricky boy? Why are you talking about me in the third person?’

I almost sprayed Diet Coke through my nose.

How could this be my brother? He was overweight and he was old and he didn’t smell too good. In my head, he was still the guy in the skinny jeans, with sideburns and cheekbones and those clear blue eyes, staring out from the back cover of Future Tense.

How could this guy be that guy? Yes, it had been almost thirty years, but could time really do that to a person?

‘Hey, can we turn down the noise?’ I asked. ‘What noise?’

I motioned towards the cacophony emanating from the living room.

‘That bother you?’ he said. ‘It doesn’t bother you?’

‘I like it. Calms the nerves. Gives the mind some equilibrium.

But if it’s not your thing, I’ll shut it off.’

He walked out of the kitchen and the noise lessened bit by bit as he turned off one appliance after another.

Finally, there was only one sound remaining. I recognised it.

John Coltrane, A Love Supreme.

‘Got to keep the ’trane on,’ he said. ‘Can’t interrupt the great man halfway through. That’d be bad juju.’

‘Can we maybe have a light on?’ I asked.

‘Don’t like wasting the electricity,’ he said, and I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be funny or not. ‘Let’s head to the back porch and take in the view.’

The back porch was a crumbling wood-slatted structure with an ancient couch on it. The view was a yard overgrown with weeds, the remains of three or four cars taking up most of the area. The moon was almost full and it was a clear night. We stood there, side by side, leaning on a splintered railing.

‘Got enough parts for one good Chevy there,’ he said, pointing at the rusted hulks.

I could tell they’d been sitting there for years, and that one good car was not going to emerge from those dead lumps of metal any time in the future. But there was no point in saying that. So I just nodded and sipped my drink as the two of us looked out into the yard.

‘Were you expecting me, Stevie?’

‘One day, yeah. I thought you might show up.’

‘But, I mean, the guy from Turntable Press. He called you, right? About the road trip. About me interviewing you for the book.’

‘Oh, yeah, that guy. Hunter. Real nice guy.’ ‘Yeah. He is.’

‘I decided against that, though.’

I turned to face him, but he kept looking out over the yard. ‘Decided against what?’

‘That whole book thing.’ ‘And you told Hunter that?’

‘Not yet. But I decided. Today, actually. Not particularly interested in that.’

‘But that’s why I’m here, Stevie. ’

‘That’s a real shame, then. But it’s a nice drive from New York. You stop in Memphis?’

‘I drove for three days and stayed in a couple of the shittiest motels on earth to come and see you, pick you up, then drive back to New York with you. So we can talk. So I can write this book. It’s a done deal.’

‘No done deal if the deal ain’t done, though, right? Seems to me you’re the Evil Knievel of jumping to conclusions, Ricky boy. You got to understand. Timing’s not right for me.’

‘Timing’s not right?’ ‘Yeah, you understand.’

‘No, Stevie, I don’t understand. Timing’s not right because of what exactly? Far as I can tell, you’ve got nothing at all going on right now, and you haven’t had anything going on for quite some time.’

‘Well, I don’t know how you’d know that, little brother, since you haven’t seen me for … what, thirty years, give or take?’

Driving Stevie Fracasso -cover
Driving Stevie Fracasso cover artwork

‘Stop fucking with me. What else have you got going on, Stevie?’

‘What do you mean, Rick?’

‘Seriously, what else have you got going on in your life that you can’t do this?’

I was trying to keep my voice measured, but I wanted to scream at him.

‘I got stuff. Projects. Responsibilities. Got to keep my routine. And who’d look after my place?’

I looked out into the yard at the rusted car skeletons. There was nothing here that needed looking after.

‘Look,’ I said, changing tack. ‘Help me out here.’ ‘You need help?’

‘Yeah, I do. I’m kind of at a loose end here. Things aren’t great back in New York.’

‘How so?’

‘Well, for a start, my girlfriend and I just broke up.’ ‘What’s your girlfriend’s name?’

‘Ex-girlfriend. Jane.’

‘How long were you together?’ ‘Seven years.’

‘Oh yeah, that old chestnut.’

‘What do you mean “that old chestnut”?’

‘Seven years. That’s how long a man and a woman are meant to be together. I read about it on the internet. See, it goes back to caveman days. The caveman and the cavewoman get together and get it on, right? And sometime in that first year she gets knocked up, and nine months later she has a kid. The caveman needs to hang around long enough to kill mastodon or whatever and provide for the family, but then the kid gets to around five, six years old, and the caveman wants to shack up with some other cavewoman, so he moves on. We’re just cavemen and cavewomen, see?’

‘No, I don’t see. I didn’t leave her. She left me. And we don’t have a kid. The point is that I lost my girlfriend, she kicked me out of the apartment, and I lost my only writing gig. So … you know.’

‘I know what?’

‘Jesus, Stevie, you need me to spell it out? I need you to come with me to New York so I can talk to you and write this book.’

‘So that’s the only reason you’re here after all these years?’ ‘Look, Stevie. What can I say? You disappeared off the face

of the earth and I never heard from you again. I was just a kid, for Christ’s sake. You could’ve tried to find me if you really wanted to. Give me a fucking break!’

I flung my arm back and threw the can with all the force   I could muster. It hit one of the cars, but the sound was disappointingly puny, a tinny, ineffective clink. I stormed back into the house, red spots in my peripheral vision as I fumbled my way through the dark to the front screen door.

I pushed my way through it and slammed it shut behind me. I looked down and, saw the stone dwarves, which inexplicably made me angrier. I bent to pick one up so I could hurl it against something. But it was ridiculously heavy. I strained to get it off the ground, and could only throw it a few feet, so it simply rolled on the lawn and then landed perfectly on its base, smiling at me from its new position. I slumped down onto the front step and stared at the dwarf. It seemed smug, like that was exactly where it had wanted to be moved.

What now? I’d driven more than 1700 miles for this? And I’d already called Hunter from a payphone in Baltimore on the first day on the road to accept the book deal. He’d wired me 500 bucks already. Now I was in the hole for that too.

There was nothing for me here in Austin. There was nothing for me back in New York. At least my life was consistent, no matter where I happened to be.

I laughed out loud. The ridiculousness of my situation was so apparent at that moment that the only thing left to do was find it blackly humorous.

‘What’s so funny?’

——————

It was Stevie. He was standing behind me in the doorway, but I didn’t turn around.

‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing is funny.’ ‘That your car?’

‘My girlfriend’s.’ ‘Your ex-girlfriend’s.’

‘Okay. My ex-girlfriend’s.’ ‘That is one shitty automobile.’

‘It sure is. But it got me from New York to here, and now it’s going to get me back.’

‘You sure it’ll take two people?’

It took a couple of seconds for his words to sink in. ‘Depends. How much are you bringing?’

‘Oh, I got a lot of baggage, Ricky boy. But you’re going to be carrying most of it, so it won’t be too bad.’

I kept my eyes on the stone dwarf throughout this whole conversation. I think it was either Dopey or Happy. They both looked the same to me.