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Cole Whitman, straddles his uptown literary world and the budding Lower Manhattan punk scene. When an apartment in his building at 340 East 11th Street opens up, musician Slater Martin moves in, sweeping Cole along into his CBGBs world. Also moving into 340 is Cole's elegant and mysterious literary editor pal Emily Prosser, whom Cole desires unrequitedly.
Cole needs a girlfriend, Slater needs a new band, Emily needs a new life. Together the three of them, along with a fiery female drummer called Sailor and a dweeby bassist, Wendell Walter, get a new punk group going, named, by Cole, Savage Joy.
What follows among the five of them is both joyful and savage, a feast of love, music, sex, violence, blood, and madness.