Poor Ghost

On a September afternoon in Santa Barbara, a private jet carrying the members of Poor Ghost — one of America’s most storied rock bands — plunges into the backyard of Caleb Crane, a retired insurance salesman. Still mourning his wife’s death from Covid, Caleb finds himself navigating trauma, grief, and loss, all while his quiet neighborhood is invaded by pushy reporters and rabid Poor Ghost fans.

For fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six and its fictional documentary structure, Poor Ghost moves back and forth between the impact of the plane crash on Caleb’s life and an oral history of Poor Ghost — from its beginnings as a working-class punk band to rock icons. As the twisting and turning strands of the plot converge, readers are shown what happens when different worlds (literally) collide with one another, and how we view, negotiate, argue with, and aid those who are unlike us.

The first novel by acclaimed poet David Starkey, Poor Ghost is published by Keylight Books/Turner Publishing Company (March 2024).

“As you read David Starkey’s Poor Ghost, you’ll be thinking deeply about how we got from Boston to QAnon, from Casey Kasem to Kyle Rittenhouse: what it all means to you, and what it says about us. But you won’t notice you’re thinking, because you’ll be laughing too hard as Stacey the retired librarian knocks out knife-wielding Álvaro de Campos with a jug of rosé to keep him from killing you in your own backyard while other Halloween-costumed fans of the aging rock band whose plane crashed there a while back livestream the fracas. By the time you realize how involved you are in the deepening mystery, it will be too late to get out.” 

—H. L. Hix, author of Legible Heavens and The Death of H. L. Hix

Poor Ghost opens with a bang and a fire that chars a shattered Cessna and a towering pine tree. It ends with another bang from an exploding brushfire that consumes a massive 70 acres…In between, this highly original novel—unlike any I’ve ever read—shifts among second-person revelations, text exchanges, rock magazine interviews, news articles, and government reports, exploring the ghosts of those departed and those about to be. There’s an invasion of groupies, lunatic murderers, a missing dog, and the mystery of what caused the plane crash. David Starkey makes it all meaningful, bringing the dead to life and offering rich, inventive entertainment.” 

—Walter Cummins, author of Where We Live and Seeking Authenticity

Poor Ghost is an examination of how we deal with loss and change and a tribute to the best band that never was, set in the confusing time of COVID lockdown. I appreciate David Starkey’s improvisations on rock history, but I am most touched by his portrayal of the slow dance of grief.” 

—Glen Phillips, Singer/Songwriter (Toad the Wet Sprocket)

“From its riveting opening through the wonderfully imaginative unfolding of its narrative, Poor Ghost is a lively hopscotch of a novel, compelling, deep and powerful.”

—T.C. Boyle, author of Blue Skies

Poor Ghost is straight-up beautiful. The daily chaos of the twenty-first century collides with the narrator’s dark and private emptiness, and somehow Starkey does all of this without a trace of irony or cynicism. I’ll say it again: beautiful. I bloody loved it.” 

—Craig Clevenger, author of The Contortionist’s Handbook and Mother Howl

“What makes a band great? Dying in a fiery plane crash? Legions of fans who just won’t let them go? Poor Ghost is all this and more. [The book is] a story of deep human connections, of music and love and loss. From the first blast of power chords to its heart-wrenching finale, this is the great rock and roll novel you’ve been waiting for.” 

—Glenn Dixon, author of Bootleg Stardust

“An inventive and ethereal mystery… Poor Ghost is whip-smart and authentic about how we manufacture sentimentality in our artificial, internet lives.… The church of the weird has rarely been written about with more pathos and indeed gallows humor.” 

—Craig Campbell, Louder Than War