Book Review: Goat Brothers by Larry Colton

Goat Brothers
by Larry Colton
Publisher – Doubleday
Copyright 1993
559 pages

Rating - 9/10

Summary - In 1977 Sara Davidson published a memoir titled Loose Change, which recounted the lives of Davidson and two of her sorority sisters from the University of California (Berkeley) from the early-1960s to the mid-1970s.

In 1979, Larry Colton and Steve Radich, two men who had attended Berkeley during the same period, were discussing Davidson’s book. Radich told Colton (a journalist) that he should write about some of the men who attended Berkeley at the same time. Perhaps surprisingly, Colton followed through and the result is Goat Brothers.

Review - Back in the early-1960s, five men pledged the “jock” fraternity at the University of California – Berkeley. Over the following three decades, against the backdrop of a changing America, these men found their way in the world – albeit with many wrong turns. One of them – author Larry Colton – recounts their five stories in the compelling Goat Brothers.

Who are the five “Goat Brothers?”

In their fraternity’s argot, Goat Brothers were the pledges (prospective members) who went through Hell Week together before becoming brothers (full members). The five men in Colton’s book are -

  1. Larry Colton – the author and chief protagonist. Colton was a Cal baseball star who married actress Hedy Lamarr’s beautiful daughter, Denise. Colton made it all of the way to baseball’s major leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies. But the dream was not what he’d thought it would be. Eventually, Colton landed in Portland where he lived a hand-to-mouth existence as a freelance writer and single dad. You have to give Colton credit for telling many unflattering stories about himself. (He also tells unflattering stories about his buddies and this “warts-and-all” characteristic helps make Goat Brothers very readable).
  2. Loren Hawley – a star football and rugby player at Cal – and the life of every party. At Cal and afterward, Hawley was best buddies with quarterback Craig Morton, who went on to a long NFL career. Stories of Hawley’s partying are some of the best reading in Goat Brothers. Unfortunately, Hawley was also the child of a dysfunctional family, a world-class dissembler who brought pain into his life – and the lives of many whom he touched. Hawley is the most-ambivalent character in Goat Brothers.
  3. Like Hawley, Steve Radich was also a football star and -  again like Hawley – he evokes ambivalent reactions from the reader.  Radich had many secrets, perhaps that biggest was that he had gotten a woman pregnant and “done the right thing” by marrying her before their son was born. At that point, Radich stopped doing the right thing and had nothing else to do with his wife or new son. As the years passed, Radich (who worked at his family’s successful car dealership) drifted, searching, from one thing to another while engaging in riskier and riskier behavior.
  4. Jim van Hoften – who was on the crew team at Cal, was an achiever and the most likable of the group by far. He was always an outcast in the fraternity and would later recall his four years at Cal as the worst time of his life. But after Cal he went to graduate school, became a fighter pilot, then a college professor, and later an astronaut on the Challenger space shuttle. Seemingly, van Hoften was the only one of the five to escape the 1960s without deep scars.
  5. A third football player, Ron Vaughan had the saddest story of the Goat Brothers. Unbeknownst to anyone, he was one-eighth black in a fraternity that did not admit blacks. Vaughan bore down while in school and earned a degree in architecture. But after Cal, he drifted into homelessness and mental illness, enduring several hospitalizations. Ron is likable, but he’s something of a “sad sack.” The reader wants him to stand up for himself.

How Unique?

One question that dogs the reader is how typical these five men are of their generation. Certainly, they lived dramatic lives in dramatic times. Disappointment left many of them with lingering unhappiness, particularly toward the women in their lives. But were these guys were unique? After all, most of us find that many of our youthful goals were unattainable – or not what we wanted to achieve, after all. Moreover, few of us escape love’s slings and arrows completely unscathed.

Boys versus Girls – Colton’s Goat Brothers versus Davidson’s Loose Change

Is the “sequel” (Goat Brothers) better than its original inspiration (Loose Change)? This is a difficult question. I prefer Goat Brothers, but a woman might prefer Loose Change.

In my humble opinion, Goat Brothers is superior because it follows the characters into their early-50s, while Loose Change follows its characters only into their mid-30s. The women in Loose Change were still “works in progress”at the time of its publication and it is difficult for the reader to see what they would make of their lives. A second reason that I prefer Goat Brothers is that Loose Change author Sara Davidson used pseudonyms for her sorority sisters and changed some details of their life stories. I much prefer Colton’s use of his fraternity brothers’ real names and their true (if sometimes-messy) life stories. (Goat Brothers also has photos of the characters, which Davidson obviously couldn’t include in Loose Change if she wished to protect her subjects’ privacy).

Still, you can’t go wrong with either book. (My 2012 review of Loose Change is here – http://mobilemojoman.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/book-review-loose-change-three-women-of-the-sixties/).

SummaryColton’s Moment

In Goat Brothers Larry Colton recounts his long career as a writer, with its many ups and downs. I believe that – when it’s all said and done – Goat Brothers will stand as Colton’s “moment” as a writer. He makes you care about these guys – warts and all – for 560 pages. He also makes you reflect on the long, winding path that your acquaintances and you are taking through this world.

Reading Goat Brothers is a big investment of your time, but Colton makes it a rewarding experience. (Twenty years after initial publication, readers will want an update on these five; a few updates are available on the ‘net).

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Book Review: Deadly Weekend by John Dillmann

Deadly Weekend – A True Story of Obsession and Murder
by John Dilmann
Publisher – Berkely
Copyright 1991
256 pages

Rating - 8/10

Summary - The murder of a wealthy physician (who was also a closet homosexual) in one of the world’s most exotic cities sounds like the plot of a detective show. Sadly, it actually happened in New Orleans in January 1978. The detective on the case, John Dillmann, recounts the story in the good true crime book Deadly Weekend.

Review - A common plot in literature is the person who is – in some way – out of place. John Dillmann’s Deadly Weekend recounts a real-life tragedy that follows this storyline. In the 1970s Dr. Mark Sheppard was a successful anesthesiologist in St. Petersburg, Florida. However, unbeknownst to most people, Sheppard was a closeted gay who frequently traveled to New Orleans where he spent his time amongst the black “hustlers” of the gay community.

While in New Orleans, Sheppard constantly tempted fate, exploring the seediest corners of the Crescent City with some of its most-disreputable characters. Sadly, this would lead to tragedy as Dr. Smith became a murder victim. The case fell to Detective John Dillmann who later became a successful author by recounting some of his more-notable cases in four true crime books.

John Dillmann

The case soon bogged down and Dillmann found himself traveling to St. Petersburg to look for clues. As Dillmann’s investigation proceeded, he uncovered more of the details of Sheppard’s secret life. These revelations give Deadly Weekend a voyeuristic quality that makes the reader feel (slightly) guilty about reading the book. Given that Sheppard worked so hard to cover up his secret life, it is a bitter irony that his secrets were blown into the open by his murder.

New Orleans

New Orleans is one of my favorite places and my love for it led me to read Deadly Weekend. Indeed, The Crescent City plays a co-starring role in all of Dillmann’s books. Those who have visited “NOLA” will recognize many of the City’s landmarks. But Deadly Weekend exposes the seamy backwaters that don’t make the tourist brochures. The reader enjoys the armchair travel.

No Guarantees

One of the best things about the Dillmann books is that they present police work and the legal process, as they are – and not as we would like them to be. Dillmann and his colleagues on the New Orleans Police Department constantly had to “make do” with inadequate funding and low salaries that required them to spend much of their time “moonlighting.”

Moreover, when the cases moved to trial, there were no guarantees that justice would be served. This uncertainty helps build the suspense in Deadly Weekend and the other four books. It must also be said, unfortunately, that the four books lose a lot of their momentum when the cases come to trial; Dillmann cannot maintain Deadly Weekend’s momentum when the lawyers take charge of the proceedings.

Motivation

In Deadly Weekend, Dillmann writes in a straightforward style. He spends relatively little time ruminating on the victims, the crimes, and the criminals who commit them. This can be good in that Dillmann doesn’t tell the reader what to think. At the same time, the reader wants to know why a successful person such as Dr. Sheppard  behaved in a way that could only end badly for him. There are no answers in the pages of Deadly Weekend – you have to speculate as to what drove Sheppard.

Summary

The Reed Business review on Amazon.com -

(link – http://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Weekend-John-Dillman/dp/042513072X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1388592602&sr=1-1&keywords=deadly+weekend%2C+john+dillman

- states that Deadly Weekend isn’t up to the level of Dillmann’s earlier efforts (Unholy Matrimony & The French Quarter Killers). I disagree. Granted, Unholy Matrimony is difficult to beat, but Deadly Weekend is at least its equal and is considerably better than The French Quarter Killers (and the fourth book in the series, Blood Warning). Having said that, all four books will appeal to true crime fans who want to read about New Orleans’ underworld. For those interested in Dillmann’s books, Deadly Weekend is a great place to start.

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Book Review: Working for the Man (Hardman #7) by Ralph Dennis

Working for the Man (Hardman #7)
by Ralph Dennis
Publisher – Popular Library
Copyright 1974
176 pages

Rating - 6.5/10

Summary - Ralph Dennis’ Hardman is back in Working for The Man. Someone is trying to extort money from The Man (the head of Atlanta’s underworld). Hardman and his best friend Hump Evans try to find out who is behind the plan. Working for the Man is enjoyable, fast-paced fiction.

Review - Back in the early-1970s an obscure Atlanta writer named Ralph Dennis churned out twelve novels featuring Jim Hardman, a disgraced Atlanta cop turned “unlicensed private investigator.” The novels aren’t fine literature, but they are a lot of fun. Over the holidays I decided to read the seventh entry in the series, Working for the Man.

Who is the Man?

In the Hardman series, The Man is an ex-pimp, who controls Atlanta’s black underworld.  The Man frequently interacts with Hardman and Hardman’s friend, Hump Evans. Evans is a black former football player who has hit the skids and often works with Hardman on various shady “jobs.”

At the beginning of Hardman #7, The Man tells Hardman that one of Hardman’s old buddies, an ex-boxer turned gambler named Ronny Gellin has been tortured and murdered. It turns out that back in the 1950s, Gellin helped Hardman avoid getting “taken” by some card cheats. Moreoever, at the time of Gellin’s death, he was helping keep The Man’s books. The people who murdered Gellin decide to blackmail The Man using the ledgers that they took from Gellin.

Atmosphere

The above paragraphs are about all that one needs to know about the plot. Dennis’ plots are good enough to keep you interested in how the story ends. But the real fun of the Hardman books is the journey, not the destination. Dennis gives readers a nice tour of Atlanta’s 1970s-era gutters, with references to real places. It’s a nice portrait of a vanished world.

The novels also have some other nice “hooks” to keep the pages turning. Hardman’s relationship with Hump is a good “buddy” story (and it helps to remember that the “black best friend” was not yet a cliche when Dennis wrote these novels). Hardman also has a girlfriend named Marcy who helps steer him away from his worst vices. Another recurring character is Hardman’s former colleague on the Atlanta Police Department, Art Maloney, who tries to keep Hardman out of trouble with the police. All three characters are prominent in Working for the Man.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Dennis actually was a good writer. Hardman is something of a gourmet and Dennis paints detailed portraits of Jim’s food and drink. Also, Dennis had a talent for making natural settings come alive through vivid descriptions. Consider this from the beginning of Working for the Man -

What had been a slow winter rain turned in to an ice storm when the temperature dropped after dark. The trees became coated with sheets of ice and when the wind blew through the limbs they creaked, and now and then there was a popping explosion when a tree split somewhere off in the distance. A couple of times during the night I awakened to a blue-red flash on the skyline that meant that a transformer had gone up. (page 5).

Quickies

While I’m obviously a fan of the Hardman novels, I have to acknowledge that there are drawbacks. Dennis wrote them in a hurry, publishing the first seven novels in the series in 1974 (which makes Working for the Man, the last of the seven 1974 novels to appear). At times, Dennis’ haste is obvious. The actions scenes in Working for the Man can be uninspired and difficult to follow. Also, there is a point in the novel where The Man agrees to make a payment to the extortionists. I don’t want to include a spoiler, but a halfway-alert reader will recognize it makes no sense for The Man to agree to pay the money.

Summary

With the end of Working for the Man, I’ve now read seventh of the twelve Hardman novels. It’s a little sad to think that I don’t have many left to enjoy.

The Hardman books are what my high school English teacher used to call “literary junk food.” Clearly, she didn’t mean that as a compliment. But like all good junk food, the Hardman books are very enjoyable. (Dennis’ novel Deadman’s Game, which features an assassin named Kane, is also good). Working for the Man is typical of the series – fairly well-written popular fiction that won’t disappoint those looking for a diversion.

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Book Review: I Did It My Way by Bud Grant

I Did It My Way: A Remarkable Journey to the Hall of Fame
by Bud Grant and Jim Burton
Publisher – Triumph Book
Copyright 1997
288 pages

Rating - 6.5/10

Summary - Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant was noted for his stoic silences during his career. But he has had an interesting life and he offers some nice insights in his autobiography, I Did It My Way. While the book could be better, football fans will still enjoy it.

Review - In the eleven seasons between 1968 and 1978, the Minnesota Vikings won ten division titles and appeared in four Super Bowls. Coach Bud Grant was a constant during those years. Grant’s life – inside and outside coaching – has been interesting and he recounts his story in the autobiography, I Did it My Way.

Early Years

Some of the best material in the book concerns Grant’s hardscrabble youth in Superior, Wisconsin. He sugarcoats nothing, telling readers that a) his grandmother was a prostitute, b) he never had enough to eat, and c) alcoholism is common in his family. Perhaps even more remarkable is that Grant tells the story without apparent bitterness.

Grant eventually moved on to military service at the end of World War II and then to the University of Minnesota where he played football. Again, he does not view his college days through rose-colored glasses, stating that he a) was not a good student, b) did not enjoy playing college football, c) lived in awful housing, d) scalped his complimentary game tickets, and e) learned how not to coach by observing his college coaches.

After college, Grant played two years of professional basketball in the NBA for the Minneapolis Lakers. (A period of his life which he should have covered in more detail). Then, Grant played in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles before leaving for the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers (who offered Grant a nice raise). It was in Winnipeg that Grant got his chance to coach in 1957.

Everyman

One of the best things about Grant is that he comes off a likable, down-to-earth, straightforward person. One could say that his is the story of an “everyman” who ended up in extraordinary circumstances. He easily confesses that “…to this day, I still do not know how to tie a tie. Clip-on ties saved me, because every time I went somewhere I had to put on a tie.”

Grant’s passion – aside from football – is the great outdoors. He spends a lot of I Did It My Way on his passions for the outdoors; some of this material is excellent (such as the time he was stranded for several days after a blizzard during his youth), but some of it falls flat.

Near the end of I Did It My Way, Grant offers a strong – and very moving – account of the death of his wife, Pat, in 2009. The couple was married for 60 years and Bud notes that, with her death, “a part of me was lost forever.”

On Football – Hits & Misses

The tragic flaw in I Did It My Way is the selection of material for the book. Grant’s fame comes from coaching the Minnesota Vikings, but he does not place a special emphasis on those years. The reader wants to know more about Grant and the Vikings. Readers would feel disappointed if a former President of the U.S. were to write a memoir and devote no more attention to the four years in office than to any other stretch in his (or her) life; essentially, this is what Grant has done in his autobiography.

What remains is still pretty good. Grant shares a unique perspective on coaching “A lot of coaches feel that they can outcoach or outthink other coaches. That is just not true. You really can’t outcoach someone else, but you can outpersonnel them…”. Some of Grant’s other insights on coaching also surprised me. For instance, Grant writes that he often said literally nothing to his teams at halftime, believing that people listen more if you wait to speak until you have something important to say. On the other hand, Grant was a firm believer in rules as a way to create discipline and a “team feeling”; to this end, Grant stipulated how his players a) wear their socks and b) were to stand for the national anthem. (He even goes into detail on how he dictated what his players were to wear while standing for the national anthem on a snowy day in Buffalo).

Summary

I Did It My Way is enjoyable, but not perfect. While the book loses momentum during Grant’s digressions from football, it is still a good, easy-to-read story.

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Book Review: The Coed Call Girl Murder by Fannie Weinstein and Melinda Wilson

The Coed Call Girl Murder
by Fannie Weinstein & Melinda Wilson
Publisher – St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Copyright 1997
296 pages

Rating - 7/10

Summary - A college student moonlights as a call girl and ends up a murder victim. It sounds like a TV show, but – sadly – it really happened in the Detroit suburbs in 1995. The seemingly-declasse paperback The Coed Call Girl Killer is actually a compelling read.

Review - St. Martin’s wallows at the low end of publishing, issuing many paperback originals that recount true crimes. While the books are of varying quality, some of them are well written. The Coed Call Girl Murder is one of the better St. Martin’s books that I have read.

The Story

In the early 1990s, Tina Biggar was a student at suburban Detroit’s Oakland University. A psychology major, she became interested in studying AIDS awareness among prostitutes. Then, in an unfathomable turn, Tina began working as a call girl. After Tina had been working a few months, a loser named Ken Tranchida became obsessed with Tina and eventually murdered her.

The above paragraph hints at the main frustration that I experienced after reading the book – Tina Biggar’s motives remain unfathomable. While she hinted that she became a prostitute as a way of “paying back” her boyfriend for an affair that he had, I never found her explanation sufficient. I don’t fault the authors for this frustration, but the reader wants to know why Tina followed her self-destructive path.

A Solid Effort

While there is nothing outstanding about Fannie Weinstein and Melinda Wilson’s account of this bizarre case, they can be proud of The Coed Call Girl Killer. It is obvious that they did their “legwork” and spoke with many of the case’s principals. The book offers readers some “eye candy” – eight pages of black-and-white photos on glossy paper. While the photos are well done, I would have liked to have had more of them.

The story is compelling and the pages easily turn from start to finish. Many true crime books lose their momentum when they recount legal proceedings. Weinstein and Wilson solve this problem by focusing on the crime, the backgrounds of Tina Biggar and Ken Tranchida, and the manhunt for Ken. Interestingly the authors do not spare law enforcement; they recount in detail the incompetent police work that allowed Tranchida to stay at large for some time.

Drawbacks

While I recommend this book, the authors have a tendency to get in the way of their story with their sometimes-clunky prose. For example, the authors spend many pages recounting conversations. Rather than just writing “Ken said” or “Tina said” they will add their own “spin” to the accounts. They might write “Ken snivelingly whined” or “Tina confidently exclaimed.” This unsubtle editorializing wore on my nerves over 300 pages.

Another quibble is the way that the authors portray the owners of the “escort service” that Tina worked for at the time of her murder. These two women claim that they closed their “business” and spent all of their looking for Tina after she disappeared due their great concern for her welfare. The authors accept this statement at face value. Perhaps the two women were telling the truth, but I have hard time believing in hookers with hearts of gold and I suspect that extends to their madams as well.

Summary

I ordered a remaindered copy of this book from Edward R. Hamilton. For some reason, I never got around to reading even though my wife had recommended it to me. I wanted a low-rent book for the holidays and this one fit the bill. The Coed Call Girl Murder won’t change your life, but it’s a solid true-crime story.

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Book Review: Good Ted, Bad Ted by Lester David

Good Ted, Bad Ted: The Two Faces of Edward M. Kennedy
by Lester David
Publisher – Birch Lane Press
Copyright 1993
320 pages

Rating - 7/10

Summary - Revered and reviled, Ted Kennedy captivated political junkies for nearly 50 years. Author Lester David recounts his career through the early-1990s in Good Ted, Bad Ted. While not the definitive Ted biography, Good Ted, Bad Tad is an interesting, quick read.

Review - Though often told, the Kennedy family’s story still fascinates. From the family’s immigration from Ireland, to untold wealth, to the Presidency in about 100 years, they are in some ways the embodiment of the American dream. Though less celebrated than his brothers, to me, Ted Kennedy is more interesting. His public life occurred at a time when the family’s influence was beginning to wane and the public took a more-jaundiced view of public officials. (If I can be forgiven a flourish, one could argue that Ted paid for some of the sins of his family).

Split Personality – The Political

Author David admires Ted’s public career. He portrays Ted as a born politician at home in the U.S. Senate with many legislative achievements to his credit. (The book might be better if David acknowledged that there are many who staunchly opposed Kennedy’s view of an expansive government). David depicts Ted as a tireless worker who put in the hours to understand the legislation crossing his desk. But there was another side…

Split Personality – The Personal

Vice is much more interesting than virtue and it is in recounting Ted’s many shortcomings that Good Ted, Bad Ted really shines. David devotes particular attention to Ted’s unsuccessful marriage to Joan Kennedy, which lasted from 1958-1982. In David’s account, the women who married the Kennedy men were left to “sink or swim” without much emotional support from their husbands. Artistic Joan was unsuited to political life and endured Ted’s constant philandering. Eventually, she became an alcoholic before finding the strength to divorce Ted.

Good Ted, Bad Ted really shines in recounting Ted’s personal decline after his divorce from Joan. During the 1980s, Ted was adrift, sinking deeper into alcoholism and debauchery, culminating in Ted’s presence in Palm Beach during his nephew William Kennedy Smith alleged rape of a woman in 1991. Few of the Kennedy books focus on the 1980s and early-1990s and Good Ted, Bad Ted is worth reading for this material alone.

On The Presidency

David’s take on Kennedy’s pursuit of the Presidency is simple – Kennedy simply didn’t want it. This may be true, but he simply doesn’t offer a lot of evidence for this view. He briefly recounts Kennedy’s flirtation with running in 1968, 1972, and 1976, but he fails to prove his point. (In regard to the 1976 campaign, he fails to mention that Kennedy was up for reelection to the U.S. Senate that year and that an unsuccessful run for the Presidency would have ended Ted’s political career, at least for the time being).

David does a somewhat-better job of covering Ted’s abysmal 1980 attempt to capture the Democratic nomination, but the account is still too short. Also, he fails to mentions Ted’s much-praised “the dream shall never die” speech at the 1980 Democratic convention.

Summary

With all that has been written and said about the Kennedy family, it’s difficult give Good Ted, Bad Ted a strong recommendation. To me, Leo Damore’s Senatorial Privilege (about Chappaquiddick) was more compelling. However, taken on its own, Good Ted, Bad Ted is still pretty good. It’s entertaining and provides a nice overview of the many highs and lows of Ted Kennedy’s life through the early 1990s.

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Book Review: High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips

High on Arrival: A Memoir
by Mackenzie Phillips
Publisher – Gallery Books
Copyright 2011
320 pages

Rating - 8/10

Summary - Mackenzie Phillips recounts her life of incredible peaks and valleys in High on Arrival. Oh yes, she also says that she had a sexual relationship with her father for many years. For fans of celebrity gossip, High on Arrival is difficult to beat.

Review - If someone told you Mackenzie’s Phillips’ life story, you would dismiss it as impossible. She tells her interesting story in High on Arrival.

Living the Crazy Life

Mackenzie Phillips grew up as the daughter of show business royalty. Starting in the mid-1960s, her father, “Papa John” Phillips, hit it big with the Mamas and the Papas on their hits “Monday Monday” and “California Dreaming.” For better of worse, he took Mackenzie along for the ride.

Her childhood life was bizarre by any standard. Papa John lavished money on Mackenzie, but paid little attention to her. Mackenzie makes it plain that drugs dominated John’s life and he made no attempt to dissuade her from taking drugs as well. After The Mamas and The Papas disbanded, Papa John’s money ran out and he lived a strange life hopping from hotel to hotel, one step ahead of the bill collectors. Mackenzie was largely abandoned; in fact, in one scene in High on Arrival she finds herself alone in a Los Angeles mansion after her father takes a trip to New York and never returns.

Amazingly, show business lightning struck twice in the Phillips family. Mackenzie won a small, memorable part in the surprise hit American Graffiti, which led to a role in the popular TV show One Day at a Time. As with her father, Mackenzie’s success – and the money that came with it – helped to bring out her impulsive, self-destructive side. The tale of Mackenzie’s fast-lane living during these years makes High on Arrival worth reading.

Momentum Ebbs

After Mackenzie recounts her (involuntary) departures from One Day at a Time, High an Arrival gradually loses its momentum. Mackenzie’s career faded as her reputation for unreliability made her a pariah. She joined a latter-day version of the Mamas and the Papas with her father and struggled to stay clean. Eventually, she began the long road to recovery. This part of the book isn’t bad, but it’s just not as interesting as what came before. Drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll may kill you, but they aren’t boring. A single mom struggling to stay clean and and raise her son isn’t a fast-lane fantasy come to life. Still, the end of the book isn’t bad.

That Stuff About Papa John

Of course, if you’ve heard anything about High on Arrival, you know that none of what I’ve mentioned above has been the focus of most reviewers. Instead, people have focused on Mackenzie’s most-salacious assertion – that she had a sexual relationship with her father for many years. While, this material does not dominate the book, it is a major theme.

Back in the mid-80s, I saw Papa John promoting his own autobiography on David Letterman. He was so spaced out during the interview that Letterman jokingly told him to read the book and then come back to discuss it. Eventually, I read Papa John’s book and was amazed that – even by rock-star standards – it was a debauched tale.

Much of the commentary about High on Arrival has focused on whether Mackenzie’s tale is true, or whether it is an attempt by a faded to celebrity to recapture the spotlight. Obviously, I don’t know, but it’s fair to say that Papa John was a man who knew no limits. Judge for yourself.

Summary

Whatever else may be said about Mackenzie Phillips, hers has been a life less ordinary. High on Arrival isn’t great art, but it’s an interesting read.

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