5 Questions with Calgary author Glenn Dixon about his new novel Bootleg Stardust

Calgary author and musician Glenn Dixon is getting set to celebrate the release of his debut novel Bootleg Stardust (Simon & Schuster, 304 pgs.). Described as “Daisy Jones & the Six meets Nick Hornby,” the book is released April 6 and will be marked by a free Wordfest conversation with the author online April 8 at 7 p.m.

Before its release, theSCENE caught up with Dixon to ask him a quick 5 Questions.

Q: What’s the elevator (masks on, of course) pitch for Bootleg Stardust?

A: It’s 1974 and a young musician from nowhere is suddenly catapulted in the wild world of rock and roll stardom – where nothing is at it seems.

Q: What was the initial inspiration for the story?

A: It was the music of that era of course. I know everyone treasures the music of their youth but there really was something special going on in the late ’60s and into the early ’70s. Starting with maybe Sgt. Peppers and going on up to about Bohemian Rhapsody, musicians were pushing at the boundaries as they never had before (and perhaps haven’t since). It was a golden era and I guess now it’s really coming home because we’re seeing some of them pass on – John Lennon’s tragic death still gets me, but the last few years, with David Bowie, Eddie Van Halen, Tom Petty, Prince and Leonard Cohen all shuffling off their mortal coils, well, it gets to you, you know.

Q: At what point did you know it was a novel and not a song?

A: It was always going to be a novel. Life has thrown me this curve ball where I’ve become a writer. It’s not at all what I expected. When I was much younger I just wanted to be a rock star. And so, the magic of this book is that I could return to music. In real life I’d recently found myself playing again in a band, in fact, by far the best band I’ve ever played in. There are three songwriters and three lead vocalists, and we talked about it and realized that we could really make the songs of this fictional band. In the end, every chapter in the book is a song title – a real song, and all but one of them are originals. They’re all up on Spotify for anyone to listen to. Just look for Downtown Exit. 

Q: On a scale from 1-5: How rock and roll is it?

A: Well, the book itself is an 11, if you know what I mean. Things get way out of hand really quickly. A young guy named Levi Jaxon is the main character. He joins the band Downtown Exit after they’ve already put out their debut album. That first album was a huge smash hit and they’re desperately trying to put together a followup album. It’s not going well, to say the least. They’re in Europe now, on tour, and they’re fighting on stage and burning down hotel rooms. And things just get worse and worse. Their first album had been a straight ahead rocker but Levi – the new guy — is more of a singer-songwriter and that changes everything. I’ve heard people say his songs sound more like early David Bowie and the book’s title, Bootleg Stardust, is of course a little nod to Ziggy Stardust.

Q: What’s the perfect album, yours or another artist’s, to listen to while reading?

A: Interesting question. My perfect album side is Side 2 of Abbey Road. The trouble is it’s so great, I wouldn’t be able to keep reading by the time they got to She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. Keeping with the time period I’d say I could happily read along to Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (which I was surprised to learn was also recorded at Abbey Road Studios). There’s something magical about that place and, not that this answers the question, but I have to say my biggest thrill in this whole project was that we actually took five of our songs to Abbey Road just before the pandemic hit. And Holy jeez (as one of my characters always says), it was a dream come true to walk across that cross walk and actually go up the stairs and in through the doors of Abbey Road. I’m hoping you can hear a bit of that magic in the songs themselves and in the book itself. I really did try to sprinkle everything with the dust of those golden times.

Wordfest celebrates the release of Bootleg Stardust with a free online conversation April 8 at 7 p.m. The book is available from Calgary booksellers Shelf Life, Pages and Owl’s Nest.
Glenn Dixon is the No. 1 bestselling author of the memoir Juliet’s Answer. He has played in bands all his life, traveled through more than 75 countries, and written for National Geographic, the New York Post, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, and Psychology Today. Before becoming a full-time writer, he taught high school English for 20 years. He lives in Calgary with his girlfriend. Follow him on Twitter @Glenn_Dixon.