Between fronting local punk band King Rat and his solo project, Luke Schmaltz has penned hundreds of songs, written for Modern Drunkard and worked as a copywriter. But he hadn’t written a novel until his wife suggested he write a book about a guy who drinks beers and belches supersonic blasts and uses them to fight crime.
That was the genesis of what would become his novel The Belcher, which he was originally supposed to publish in June as a paperback thanks to help from Mutiny Information Cafe owners Jim Norris and Matt Meygasi. But with coronavirus temporarily closing many retail stores, Schmaltz and his publishing partners decided to release the project as an eBook this Friday, April 24, at 7:30 p.m. with a live-stream interview between the three of them on Grafenberg TV via YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. The book will be for sale on Mutiny's website on Friday as well.
Had Charles Bukowski teamed up with Stan Lee to collaborate on a book, minus the illustrations, they might have come up with something like the hilarious ride that is The Belcher. Earl Danners (The Belcher) and Pablo Vasquez (The Soothsayer) team up with a ragtag crew of misfits and outcasts and biologically enhanced fuckups who take on Blatherskite, the Environmental Agency of Restrictions (EAR), the Army National Guard and a sinister, stench-spewing supervillain known as The Gasser.
“He deliberately ingests things that create severe flatulence, and his farts are so bad they make people pass out so he can rob banks,” Schmaltz says.
The evil Blatherskite is a metaphor for the shady, shithead concert promoters Schmaltz has dealt with over his 25 years of playing music and the cokeheads who do too much blow and yap your ear off.
“He does a drug called MORE, which is methamphetamine, OxyContin, Ritalin and Ecstasy,” he says. “When he talks to people, they lose the will to think for themselves, because he's such a chatterbox, and then slowly warps people's mental will and mental fortitude.”
Danners, the reluctant hero of The Belcher, gets recruited by Vasquez to fight against EAR after discovering his belching prowess at a bar called the Joker, modeled after 3 Kings Tavern. The character of Vasquez was inspired by late legendary local singer Denver Joe, whom Schmaltz first befriended at Cricket on the Hill in the ’90s.
Schmaltz says the two characters have a kind of Obi Wan Kenobi/Luke Skywalker dynamic, where Vasquez teaches Danners to focus his belching power “so he doesn't have these crazy shotgun blasts just wiping everything out or just not being as effective.”
The novel plays out at various Denver landmarks, including the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the Capitol Building, and the Denver City and County Building, which get mangled in a melee.
Schmaltz admits that the premise of the novel and its characters are ridiculous, and while writing it he sometimes thought, “This is just silly. What am I fucking doing? People are going to just laugh at this and laugh at me. Yeah, that’s what I want. It’s heavy-handed humor.”
While writing The Belcher, the main thing Schmaltz wanted to do was keep perspective.
“My mom always told me to keep a healthy sense of the ridiculous,” he says. “And in the times we're living, you know, you look at the president, and you look at what's happening — this is a reflection of the ridiculous world we're living in.”
Schmaltz adds that his biggest challenge was to step back and not start taking himself too seriously, like not having to look in the mirror and say that he’s a literary person.
“Fuck that,” he says. “I'm a punk rocker who decided to write a novel. That’s what happened. So I wanted to maintain that sense of self, you know, not taking myself seriously as some dude in a scarf and a fucking newsboy hat and thick-rimmed black glasses. I don’t want to try to convince myself that I’m that guy because that’s bullshit. That’s not me.”
Schmaltz will participate in an interview about the eBook at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 24, on Grafenberg TV via YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. The book will be available through Mutiny Information Cafe.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.