Visit from the Goon Squad follows the life of sleazy record producer Bennie Salazar and the actions he takes to make it to the top of the industry. Bennie Salazar is a record producer in Los Angeles. The story covers forty years of Bernie's life as well as that of Sasha, his assistant. The majority of the book takes place during Bernie's music industry career.
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The story begins with Bernie Salazar, the former owner of Sow's Ears Records, being faced with a mid-life crisis. Bernie had sold off his company and later finds himself being fired. Bennie is divorced with one child. Bernie, in keeping with kooky California tradition, ingests gold flakes on a regular basis in an attempt to quash his rapidly worsening anxiety attacks. Additionally, Bennie believes that he is in love with his assistant, Sasha.
The story flashes back to Bennie's youth. In 1979, Bennie hooks up with Alice, Jocelyn, Scotty, and Rhea. They form a San Francisco punk band. The genre is just getting a stronghold in San Francisco and the group believes it has a real chance of success.
Jocelyn is a frequent hitchhiker. One day while hitchhiking Jocelyn meets Lou Kline. Lou is much older than Jocelyn. He is a sleazy man who also happens to be a record producer. Lou is immediately attracted to Jocelyn and invites her to indulge in sex, drugs and alcohol. Jocelyn accepts. Even when Jocelyn finds out that Lou is divorced with six kids, she manages to fall in love with the man. Jocelyn doesn't seem to mind that Lou is always on the lookout for the next best thing, particularly if that thing has breasts. Jocelyn becomes hooked on drugs.
Despite Lou's downfalls he offers the punk group a real chance. Bennie eschews the drug and party scene and spends as much time as possible in Lou's home studio. Bennie is determined to make it in any way he can, even if it means not living out his dream of being a musician.
The story is not written in strict chronological order. It skips around from character to character.
Sasha, Bennie's assistant, has always spurned his advances. Sasha knows more about Bennie than anyone yet she sticks with him. Bennie needs Sasha. Sasha makes all of Bennie's arrangements and basically runs his life.
Sasha was in s bad place when she found Bennie. Sasha had been a runaway in her youth. She did drugs and lived on the streets for a time. Sasha cut off all communication from her family and moved to Italy. Eventually, Sasha's uncle found her in Naples and persuaded her to come home.
Sasha worked hard to turn her life around. She landed a job with Bennie and tried to make a decent life. The one thing that held Sasha back was that she was a shameless kleptomaniac. As Sasha's addiction to stealing worsens, she takes more risks, many of them fraught with danger. The story reveals the details of one encounter when Sasha meets a man, takes him back to her apartment for sex, and then steals his wallet.
Bennie becomes a show business icon. One person that can stand toe to toe with Bennie is La Doll, a noted publicist. La Doll also happens to be the boss of Bennie's ex-wife, Stephanie. Like Bennie La Doll is ruthless. No one dares to cross her. La Doll gets her comeuppance when she organizes a party at which a guest is horribly injured. La Doll gets sued and loses everything. She decides to quit the business and open a small boutique. La Doll also decides to devote herself to doing good and giving up on her dreams of maintaining a life filled with fame and fortune.
The five friends from San Francisco have long since gone their separate ways. They are reunited when each is summoned by Lou Kline. Lou has had two strokes and knows he will not live much longer. Lou is thrilled when each of the band members shows up to express their concern and love for the man who got them started. Perhaps the most affected by Lou's illness is Jocelyn. Jocelyn, who had long since left Lou, still feels love for him. Lou and his protégés spend an afternoon together at his mansion in LA, reminiscing about old times. Lou says those times where the best in his life.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the story because it showed the inner workings of the music industry from the 1970s into modern times. It also reflected on how social media had begun to change the industry.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Lou is reunited with the five members of the band he launched in the 1970s. The scene is bittersweet due to the long awaited reunion and Lou's impending death.
Opinion about the main character:
The thing I dislike the most about Bennie Salazar is that no matter what happens, he is more concerned with his own welfare, even above the welfare of his son.