There are probably a lot of ways to read the novel, depending on what you bring to it. I, for one, was surprised to find myself reading a riff on The Maltese Falcon. But maybe any book with a McGuffin that's the stuff of dreams would seem that way to me.
The first-person narrator is Frank Ridgeway, who for one year at the tail end of the '50s was a member of a band called Eddie and the Parkway Cruisers. His nickname was Wordman because he did a good bit of the songwriting, a big help to Eddie, who wanted to stop doing covers and do original songs. The band has a few minor hits and an album before Eddie dies in a car crash.
Twenty years later, Wordman is a high school teacher with a failed marriage when the album is re-released and becomes a big hit. A man calling himself a rock journalist interviews Wordman, who decides to take the summer off and see what happened to the Cruisers, and incidentally to find out for himself if Eddie really did make some tapes during a secret retreat with some of the kings of rock 'n' roll. Before long he's involved in deception, harassment, and maybe even murder. Lots of people want those tapes, if they exist. Who's behind things? The band's ex-manager, one of the band members, the supposed journalist, or Eddie himself, still alive, after all?
And what does the Wordman want? Like any good detective, he tells us that he wants to know what happened. "Money wasn't the point, or fame, or music. The truth was all." His quest isn't just for the truth, though. He's after something even more elusive: the past. He wants what he had when he was young, the feeling of being really alive with the future all ahead of him. Talk about the stuff of dreams! Fitzgerald had something to say about that, I believe.
There's a lot of good stuff in Eddie and the Cruisers about the power of music in the '50s, about ambition, about boats against the current. Check it out.