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Book Review: Brian Jones: Straight From the Heart by Gloria Shepherd

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I am not really a Rolling Stones fan. I like their music, but I don’t feel the need to find out more about the band, or go see them live. I could not name one of their songs that wasn’t a single. So then why was I drawn to this book? It’s about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Tragedy, murder, abuse, mystery, a rags-to-riches story – it has all elements of a fascinating read, regardless of the subject. On top of that, it has allegedly been banned in the UK (or so says the press release; I could not find anything to back up this statement), and I wanted to find out what could offend an entire nation.

Brian Jones: Straight From the Heart is not a straightforward biography. It is written almost like a novel, in third-person narrative. It tells the entire story of Brian’s life – his abusive home life, his time prostituting himself to get by, forming the Rolling Stones, his falling out with the band, and his mysterious death.

Although she never explicitly states this, I get the sense that the author, Gloria Shepherd, believes she was able to reach Brian Jones through some sort of psychic communication. For starters, nowhere in the book is there a quote from or interview with anyone who knew Jones. Not a single research source is cited. And the two forwards were written by a “spiritual advisor” and a “visionary communicator” (which is apparently some sort of fancy name for a psychic who feels the need to include B.A. and CEO in the list of letters after her name). Once I figured out that the book was written with the help of spirits, it became complete fiction to me.

The actual writing is quite obnoxious. Phrases such as “his beautiful platinum hair” are repeated ad nauseam. The prose is flowery and wordy. Shepherd states at the beginning that she refrains from being too detailed about the more sordid events in Jones’s life out of respect for his children. Unfortunately, that leaves many passages feeling as though they were written by a child too shy to use proper terminology. Shepherd claims that Jones suffered from ADD and bipolar disorder, even though she admits these disorders had not even been diagnosable before Jones’s death. And her description of manic-depressive episodes clearly doesn’t depict true mania.

I must admit: I simply could not finish this book. I got about 100 pages in before I decided enough was enough. In some of my very minimal research on Jones, nowhere did I find any references to abuse or mental illness. Not one account spoke of Jones prostituting himself. One article even suggested that stories of his experiences during his months traveling through Europe were highly exaggerated, depending on which of his friends you spoke to. I realized that this book was a waste of time. Even as fiction, it is poor. I would not recommend it even to the most die-hard Brian Jones fan; in fact, any true fan would likely be insulted by the book. I’m not a huge fan, and even I was insulted. You can get better information on Brian Jones from his Wikipedia page.

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