Mick Middles' From Joy Division to New Order was originally published in 1996. The book has been reissued to capitalize on the attention surrounding the release of 24-Hour Party People. I first thought that the newly added subtitle, "The true story of Anthony H. Wilson and Factory Records" was a cheap ploy to grab fans of the film (especially given that the cover is pure Factory design), but having read the book, I'll grudgingly accept it: this is much more than the Joy Division / New Order story.
Beginning in the mid-nineties, with manager Rob Gretton expressing his uncertainty over the future of New Order, From Joy Division quickly flashes back to what is apparently the most amazing thing to ever happen in Manchester: the Sex Pistols gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. And then, well, everything you already know: Tony Wilson, Granada, Buzzcocks, Vini Reilly, Martin Hannett, Joy Divison, A Certain Ration, Ian Curtis doesn't like what he sees on TV, New Order, the Hacienda, Madchester, bankruptcy, etc. In fact, given the tremendous debate as to the accuracy of 24-Hour Party People, it's remarkable how closely that film followed this book.
Middles' strength lies in how well he conveys the sense of time and place; I've never been to Manchester, but I certainly felt like I was there while reading the book. He's also good on the desperation for stardom that drove Ian Curtis and the ways the other three began to close themselves off as they started to achieve the success that Curtis always dreamed of. Inter-band as well as intra-band dynamics are well explored, and the Factory ethos is successfully explained.
The prose is unpretentious, and Middles' participation on the scene from its earliest days adds both credibility and context. If I have any reservations about this book, they concern a) the shoddy editing (an artist named Ian Drury appears repeatedly) and b) the lack of new material (it's remarkable that in this "revised" edition you would never learn that Rob Gretton is dead or that New Order did, in fact, put out another album; my guess is that the only thing Virgin did to revise the book was slap a new cover on it). In the end, these are minor quibbles. If this is a topic that interests you, this is the book to read.
This review appears in slightly modified form at The Minor Fall, The Major Lift.