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Spider Kiss

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  486 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
He claims he's not a fan of rock-and-roll, but somehow Harlan Ellison's seminal novel based on the career of Jerry Lee Lewis ended up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of the first -- and still one of the best -- dissections of the wildly destructive rock-and-roll lifestyle, Spider Kiss isn't about giant cockroaches that attack Detroit or space invaders that smell lik ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by M Press (first published January 1st 1961)
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Fiction Involving Rock/Pop Music
477th out of 625 books — 911 voters
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278th out of 531 books — 916 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 773)
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Jun 02, 2012 Marvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best novels written about Rock n' Roll. Written pre-Beatles, and one of Ellison's earlier novels, the plot centers around a Presley/Holly type performer and is full of cynical looks at the music business. The plot and theme has an eerie resemblance to the film, A Face in the Crowd which also examines much of the hype and con-artist capacities of popular artists and the music industry. Ellison seemed to have been on hyper drive while writing this and, while it is quite different from m ...more
Sep 15, 2013 Hilary rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jonas Wilson
Harlan Ellison, I have the deepest of writing crushes upon you.

Now and then one comes across a writer whose every word titillates and entices. Reading their stories, regardless of what they are, is a pleasure: even their 'just ok' writing makes you think, makes you wonder, makes you hungry for more. I've a handful of authors I can think of that do that for me.
Unquestionably, Mr. Harlan Ellison is one of them.

Spider Kiss is a rock and roll fable, effortlessly splicing together the various storie
Heather *live on coffee and flowers*
At first it seemed like I was going to like this book a lot.

It opens with a crowd of girls eager to see Stag Preston, a young crooner (it feels a little weird to call him a rocker since so much rock has happened between now and the fifties) with a lean body and fitted clothes and a sweet ass red pompadour. Oh, and it's important to note the girls are wearing tight sweaters. As they did at rock shows in the fifties.

Girls bit their fists as their eyes started from their heads. Girls spread their
David Berardelli
Oct 07, 2013 David Berardelli rated it it was amazing
This book was written half a century ago, when Harlan Ellison, a mere 27 years old, was a potentially brilliant writer who would become even better as his fiction matured. I may be prejudiced about the man's work, as he has been one of my very favorites since 1971, but the story remains one of the best examples, if not THE best, of how society treats its self-made gods. Having been in the music business myself a number of years ago, I can relate first-hand how the powers that be create their god ...more
Mar 20, 2011 Kitty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Some books introduce us to characters we come to love and adore. In our minds they transform into parents, teachers, siblings or lovers. These are the characters that grab our imagination and continue to move us through the story with a strong, swift hand. And then there are books who give us characters that we know a little too well to like, characters that are more comprised of bits and pieces of ourselves than we'd like to acknowledge. And then there are books that give us characters we hate ...more
Feb 28, 2008 James rated it it was amazing
Harlan Ellison wrote this book in the early 1960s, pre-Beatles, when Elvis was in the army, and Little Richard found Jesus, and Chuck Berry was in jail, and Buddy Holly was dead. Actually, he is still dead. And critics and reporters were saying that the music was over and were calling Rock 'n' Roll a fad. This is the only book to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It contains the decadence and wild possibilities of that era. The hippies hadn't formed yet, but rockabilly music moved the ...more
Dec 23, 2014 Jeff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cult_books
Rockabilly is a classic example of how a book can have a crime as a pivotal element in a story line, yet not be a crime novel. There are a few such books--Leave her to Heaven comes to mind. Nor is the book about the central character of the book whose downfall comes at that pivotal moment. It's about the narrator whose life is affected by the Rockabilly star who he elevates to stardom.

This is the first book I've read by Harlan Ellison and I was amazed at how much of his own ego comes through on
Phil Overeem
Feb 17, 2008 Phil Overeem rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 10, 2008 April rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Not Harlan's finest, but Harlan on an off day is better than nearly everything out there....
Randolph Carter
Dec 22, 2013 Randolph Carter rated it really liked it
Shelves: hard-boiled, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adam Wilson
Oct 25, 2011 Adam Wilson rated it it was ok
While Spider Kiss by Harlan Ellison captured my interest before I even started the book, it pretty much failed at supporting any of my expectations for it. It falls

into the category of yet another fictional novel about music that I just did not enjoy. I respect the book for being able to accurately describe some of the, for want

of a better word, drama that follows a star in the music industry, especially the part dedicated to more obnoxious and aggresive types of music. Despite this, the book
Dec 25, 2012 Evan rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Greil Marcus or some other big-deal rock critic once named this one of the best rock novels ever, so, as a fan of both rock novels and Harlan Ellison, I felt like I had to track it down. I suspect it was a disappointment for the same reason Richard Price's "The Wanderers" was a disappointment: either it couldn't have lived up to its advance billing, or I faulted it for not "accurately" depicting a reality that I couldn't honestly gauge the accuracy of. The novel is ostensibly about the rise and ...more
Rebecca McNutt
A nightmarish allegorical story about what happens when fame and fortune come to people, Spider Kiss drags its readers into a fictional world possessed by rock n' roll, pop culture and danger. The main character is an unlikely one, an average kid from Kentucky who finds his way to success, but soon he finds it eating him alive and he has to find a way out.
Joe Ohlenbusch
May 17, 2011 Joe Ohlenbusch rated it really liked it
For being written in 1961, or somewhere close to that, this is a mean novel. It doesn't hold back like I thought it would just because it's from 50 years ago. The language, the sex, the violence, the drugs, this holds nothing back. It is called the baddest rock novels of all time and I'd have to agree. This is in the Rock and Roll hall of fame and, now that I have completed it, I can see why. Reading the description of the book doesn't tell a person anything about the story, just what to expect ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I went on a fierce reading jag of Ellison, pretty much gobbling up everything I can get my hands on. Although this isn't my favorite of his works (I prefer the short stories) he does demonstrate his versatility.
May 04, 2011 Quill rated it it was amazing
When I first picked this book up, I had read a bit of Ellison's work here and there. Short stories mostly, as that is typically what he writes. I didn't know at all what to expect from this book, but I was very pleasantly surprised. If you're a fan of the behind-the-scenes of the lives of notorious celebrities, the idea that fame given to the wrong person can become catastrophic, then this book will appeal to you. It takes that concept and blows it up into something really menacing and fascinati ...more
J Higgins
Dec 29, 2008 J Higgins rated it it was amazing
Harlan Ellison has always been ahead of his time. This book, originally written more than 30 years ago, was possibly one of the first serious criticisms of the fledging music industry.

The story focuses on the rise and fall of industry constructed musician Stag Preston. He's the creation of The Colonel, a record company owner, and Shelly Morganstern, master of payola and general fixer of Preston's screw-ups. That's an over simplification, because Ellison's writing is completely gorgeous and time
Joanne Ballard States
Mar 07, 2014 Joanne Ballard States rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed it thoroughly!
Jul 06, 2012 Luciano rated it really liked it
Although there are dozens of books on the rock and roll lifestyle, Ellison 's book is the granddaddy of them all. Although it's supposedly basic on the life of Jerry Lee Lewis, there are aspects of others as well, particularly Elvis Presley. Ellison does an amazing job creating characters that you both loath and care about; sometimes simultaneously. There is a depth to even the most peripheral characters. A great read with depth . There is a reason why it's the only book of it's kind in the Rock ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Ravena rated it really liked it
Harlan Ellison retains his conjurer's ability to place you right inside the mood and minds of his characters. Although I don't necessarily identify with these characters, I certainly cared about their fates, and I definitely appreciate the seamless, smokeless way in which Ellison reveals entire psyches of his characters. He continues to be one of my all time favorite authors, and this epic story of rock-and-roll stardom is no exception.
Sep 16, 2013 Jeff rated it really liked it
I couldn't believe this was written in 1961, the year I was born.
It seemed like it could have been written yesterday.
Sheldon Morgenstern who works for Colonel Jack Freeport gets a little more than he bargained for when he discovers Luther Sellers when all he was looking for was a friendly poker game. It turns out that Luther can sing but he turns into a monster when he becomes Stag Preston and starts to hit the big time.
Patrick Wensink
Feb 12, 2010 Patrick Wensink rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A post-Elvis, pre-Beatles rock novel that is blacker than tar. This is not the usual up from the ashes to superstardom rock story. Things go from bad to worse for Stag Preston and you can't stop watching his plane crash land.
David Allen
Published in 1961, this is an early rock 'n' roll novel, about a rockabilly singer's rise and fall and the conflicted conscience of the PR man who covers up his bad behavior. Like the music, raw and energetic.
Michael Edwards
Apr 13, 2009 Michael Edwards rated it really liked it
Amazingly vivid detail is what Ellison uses to make this simplistic plot of an egotistical up and coming rock star's rise and fall, a truely enjoyable experience(in the most eerie way)
L Greyfort
Jul 20, 2011 L Greyfort rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
One of Ellison's few forays into the novel form; one of the few times he does not come up to his own high standard. Clearly the man is the Grand Master of the short story form.
May 05, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, prophetic, insightful novel; follows the rise of a rock star in the early days of rock and roll. Accurate and entertaining. Best book on rock + marketing.
Holly Neal
Apr 27, 2008 Holly Neal is currently reading it
So far it makes me just as happy as any of the other Ellison work I've read....
Clifford Novey
Dec 06, 2010 Clifford Novey rated it really liked it
Great story of rags to riches- anonymity to stardom.
Oct 23, 2008 Mel added it
The book on rock-n-roll that I wish I'd written.
Matt Miklos
Aug 17, 2008 Matt Miklos rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The man can write.
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Harlan Jay Ellison is a prolific American writer of short stories, novellas, teleplays, essays, and criticism.

His literary and television work has received many awards. He wrote for the original series of both The Outer Limits and Star Trek as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; edited the multiple-award-winning short story anthology series Dangerous Visions; and served as creative consultant/write
More about Harlan Ellison...

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