Cal Baker is a lifelong rocker who had a number one hit in 1979. Since then, he's managed to barely cling to a career by chasing every musical trend that looked promising. Along the way, he was married and divorced a dozen times. Now, he's sixty-two and his thirteenth wife informs him that she wants a divorce, threatening to make it a baker's dozen of divorces. On top of that, the timing couldn't be worse, as he has a new record coming out soon.
This news sends Cal on a quest to discover why this keeps happening to him. He reaches out to all of his ex-wives, searching for the answer that will help him save his marriage, so he won't have to get... A Baker's Divorce.
A Baker's Divorce is Frank Scalise's latest non-mystery-non-crime offering. Mr Scalise is probably better known as Frank Zafiro, author of 30 odd crime fiction novels, published both singly and collaboratively with the likes of Colin Conway, Eric Beetner and Lawrence Kelter, to name drop a few.
ABD concerns Cal Baker, an aging musician whose 13th wife has just imparted the bombshell news that she wants a divorce. Deja-vous really, as Cal has been down this path a time or two before. He's stunned, but probably shouldn't be.
The novel, which is very funny in places, has Cal seeking answers to the why his life and loves keep going sideways. It's interesting in seeing the portrayal of a character, so oblivious to his own shortcomings, failings and faults. On the surface Cal is the kind of guy you ought to hate. He's vain, self-centred, unaware of the needs of others in any kind of relationship with him, immune to criticism, as well as having a short temper and a tendency to overindulge with alcohol. He's a proper man-child. Not so much that he can't learn from his mistakes; it's more a - 'what mistake?' attitude, but he's really, really likable. I don't know how Scalise had him not coming off as a total douchebag, but he pulled it off.
With wakeup call #13 on the horizon, Cal slowly starts listening instead of the just 'in one ear - out the other' kind of hearing he’s mastered over 40 plus years. A head can be extracted from an ass. Lessons can be learned. Bridges can be built, fences mended etc etc.
We re-visit all the old wives - the surviving ones at least, juggling them with interviews for the new album. We see Cal from the perspective of his wives, his manager, one of his semi-estranged children (the others are more permanently out of his life), and people that report on the industry.
Musically, he's always been a step or two behind the trends, always chasing instead of blazing a trail. The author has fun at the expense of this has-been/almost never-was. He’s a figure of fun for most of the hipster DJs and journos that he encounters. There’s a sadness to it though in the dismissal of his talent and success (or relative lack of) and his longevity. There’s something uncomfortable in witnessing others triumphal with their belittling of Cal.
As the novel progresses, Cal spends time with his teenage son, Kyle and tries to connect, imparting some fatherly advice, when he’s managed to skip the father role for 17 years. There’s a somewhat graphic and hilarious anecdote of a sexual encounter included. He’s sneaks a look at the ex-wives and manager Facebook group, where he is surprised to discover what the exes think of him and that maybe, just maybe the world does not revolve around Cal Baker.
Frank Zafiro writes a mean crime novel. Frank Scalise also writes a mean non-crime novel.
4.5 from 5
Read - June, 2022
Published - 2022
Page count - 196
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle