Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eveOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought
2.5 stars actually
Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eventual recovery.
Description: Glen Hughes joined the English rock band Deep Purple when they were at their peak. He was a highly talented singer, songwriter and bassist and had previously spent six years in the band Trapeze, but as part of Deep Purple he immediately achieved worldwide fame. After two years Deep Purple split up and Hughes then went on to make a lot of music with a string of bands and as a solo artist, in addition to being a session musician on a long list of recordings by other artists.
The book tells the story of Hughes musical career and his relationships with many people in the music industry, both famous and not so famous. It also describes in some detail the lurid lifestyles led by many successful people in the industry. But the main focus on the book is on his introduction to drugs, his subsequent addiction, his chaotic descent into a personal (and professional) hell, and his eventual return to sobriety and relative normality. He pulls no punches in describing what it is like to be a drug addict and the impact it had on himself and all those around him.
The book is liberally laced with quotes from a great range of people who have come into contact with Hughes throughout his life and career.
John’s thoughts: I loved (and still do love) a lot Deep Purple’s music, so I was a very happy camper when Shellie presented me with this book. I read with great interest the content relating to music, musicians and bands. It was interesting to read about who he interacted with and to find out more about some key people in the music scene.
What wasn’t so interesting was the drug-related content. I soon tired of reading about drug dealers, users, addicts and the impact of addiction. It is obviously important content, and telling that story is no doubt one of the big reasons why Hughes created this book, but reading about someone totally screwing up their lives and often being a jerk while doing it just isn’t a lot of fun. Plaudits to Hughes for finally getting his act together, getting clean and recreating his life, and I admire his brutal honesty in telling the tale. I just lost a bit of interest half way through the book.
It didn’t help that the autobiography wasn’t very well put together. It jumped around a lot and contained loads of snippets that just seemed to be patched together. Things didn’t really flow smoothly.
I’d recommend this book for any big fans of Deep Purple or Hughes’ other music, and it would also be a good read for anyone wanting to learn more about the perils of drug use and the travails of an addict. Unfortunately it left me a little cold. I’d rate this book 2.5 stars. ...more
A mini family epic set against the backdrop of the California Bay Area, jazz and soulThis review by John is originally published at Layers of Thought.
A mini family epic set against the backdrop of the California Bay Area, jazz and soul music, and changes in local society. The story even manages to embrace kung fu, Blaxploitation movies and the Black Panther movement!
About: Brokeland Records is a store on Telegraph Avenue on the border of Berkeley and Oakland, specializing in used vinyl and focused on jazz and soul music. Run by two long-time buddies, Nat (who is white) and Archy (who is black), the store is so much more than a record shop – it’s a multi-cultural center of gravity for many locals who gather there, chew the fat, and generally hang out. While it always totters on the edge financially, it is very much a labor of love for the music-loving Nat and Archy.
They are also bound together outside of Brokeland, as their wives are both midwives and are partners in Berkeley Birth Partners, which over the years has helped many hundreds of local women to give birth in their own homes – much to the chagrin of some local doctors who want to see all births take place within hospitals.
Now their bumpy, somewhat chaotic but somewhat steady lives are rocked on several fronts. An ex-NFL star, who is the fifth richest black man in the US, is planning on opening a megastore on Telegraph Avenue which would almost certainly mean doom for Brokeland Records; Berkeley Birth Partners is faced with legal action and professional ruin; Nat’s fragile teenage son falls in love with an itinerant black boy who turns out to be Archy’s long-lost (and never acknowledged) son; and an eccentric man, who is the closest thing to a real father that Archy ever had, unexpectedly dies. Can’t get any worse? Then Archy’s real father turns up – he’s a total deadbeat who used to be a kung fu expert and starred in third-rate Blaxploitation movies, and he’s after something.
John’s thoughts: This is a heck of a book – an interesting story, a complex many-threaded plot, many dashes of wry humor, and some well-constructed and complicated characters. The main characters are by no means perfect – they have all too many human flaws, but you can’t help liking them (mostly) and you do want things to end up well for them.
Chabon is clearly someone who knows the Berkeley/Oakland area well and has a deep affinity for it. He includes lots of local detail and color, and clearly has fears and hopes about how the area is developing. Likewise he must be a huge fan of the music that Brokeland Records sells, and the book has a multitude of musical references. Actually, I did find that sometimes the deep attachment to the location and the music got in the way a bit – as some of the references and colloquialisms were a bit lost on me.
I like the way that Chabon brings in lots of different plot elements, including local politics, cultural tensions, family/generational tensions and (even!) the Black Panther movement. These are all intertwined with the main storylines, and it gives the book an almost epic feel.
A word on the writing style – at times I found the wording and syntax tough, and had to re-read many of the sentences. This got easier as I progressed through the book, but it did slow me down and didn’t help with the pacing. Nonetheless, I’d rate this four stars and recommend it to anyone who likes to read meaty novels about complex family and social tensions, especially those with a musical and multi-cultural backdrop. ...more
An excellent read – a mashup of alternative realities, particle physics, experimental jazz music,Original review by John posted at Layers of Thought.
An excellent read – a mashup of alternative realities, particle physics, experimental jazz music, the Second World War and science fiction. How could you not like that combination?
About: It’s 1941 and Sam Dance is a an intelligent but uncoordinated jazz lover who has poor eyesight. He struggles to be accepted by the US army, but finally manages to wangle his way in, and then finds himself plucked from regular training and sent on a series of esoteric technical courses. After a passionate evening with one of the temporary lecturers, a brilliant and mysterious Eastern European physicist, the woman leaves him with a strange device, associated technical plans and scientific papers. While the device is an early prototype, she believes that once improved and if used properly, it can change the course of history for the good; it can affect the physics of consciousness and human behavior, and maybe even diminish man’s warlike tendencies. Dance is puzzled but intrigued and tries to understand some of the complex papers.
The very next day, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and Dance’s beloved elder brother is killed in the attack. He is heartbroken and the US is drawn into the Second World War.
So begins a strange tale. Dance becomes deeply involved in a program to design and deploy a top-secret radar and gun director that could help to win the war. He becomes close friends with Wink, another soldier who like him is a fanatic lover of modern jazz. They are deployed first to England and then to France and Germany, becoming ever more embroiled in the war effort and experiencing first-hand the horrors of the Nazi regime. All the while Dance remains fascinated by the device, and with Wink’s help they secretly try to create improved versions of it. Their deep understanding of jazz seems to help them make mental connections in the complex science behind the devices. Mysteriously the devices almost seem to have a mind of their own, and periodically mutate – but it’s not clear that the devices are actually doing anything. Meanwhile it is clear that the allied secret services suspect that the devices exists and want to find them.
Times move on, the Second World War ends but evolves into the Cold War, and Dance remains involved with the US armed forces, in Europe, the US and the Pacific. But strange things are happening. Times seem to be shifting, people are appearing and disappearing, and Dance becomes aware of alternative realities that seem to intertwine. He becomes drawn towards a critical historic event that appears to be the locus for those alternative realities. Can he and the mutated device affect those possible realities and prevent a grim new world from evolving?
John’s thoughts: This is a meaty, twisty, complex and thought-provoking story. At times I felt like I was just about hanging on, and found I often had to re-read sections - which isn’t intended as a criticism; this is one of those chewy stories that exercises the old grey matter in a positive way.
I like all of the detail about the Second World War, much of it (and some of the plot elements) being pulled directly from Goonan’s own father’s wartime experiences. He was actually involved in the secret radar project and was based for a time in most of the places featured in the story. I found those details really interesting, apart from which they also help to give the fantastic storyline a very grounded foundation (which I think is a definite plus in a plot that is so complicated.) I guess any story that is based around alternative realities and time travel is bound to be complicated, and this one is certainly no exception.
I really like the way that an actual historic event (the assassination of JFK) was used as the pivot for a variety of alternative futures. You can certainly see how our world might have turned out very differently if that event had never happened.
There are some really strong characters in the story – principally Sam Dance himself and the secret agent who becomes his wife. They are both conscientious and deep thinking, and strive to figure out what is right. The enigmatic Eastern European physicist too is an interesting character. She is actually a Magyar Gypsy who was heavily involved in the free-thinking European scientific community of the 1920s and 1930s, providing a nice contrast with the era of the Nazi regime that followed.
Was there anything that didn’t grab me? Well, the jazz connections with particle physics and biochemistry were interesting but at times felt just a smidgeon contrived. Clearly jazz is a big deal for Goonan, but for readers who aren’t that way inclined, the big focus on jazz in the story might get in the way a little bit.
Overall I’d rate this book 4 stars. For anyone who likes stories about alternative realities and histories this will be a great read. Also interested in the Second World War? And Jazz? Then you just have got to give this one a go. ...more