Friday, November 22, 2019

Disgraceland by Jake Brennan

Disgraceland by Jake Brennan
Release Date - October 1, 2019
Publisher Website - Hachette
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  288 pages
My Rating - 4/5

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
From the creator of the popular rock 'n' roll true crime podcast, DISGRACELAND comes an off-kilter, hysterical, at times macabre book of stories from the highly entertaining underbelly of music history.

You may know Jerry Lee Lewis married his thirteen-year-old cousin but did you know he shot his bass player in the chest with a shotgun or that a couple of his wives died under extremely mysterious circumstances? Or that Sam Cooke was shot dead in a seedy motel after barging into the manager's office naked to attack her? Maybe not. Would it change your view of him if you knew that, or would your love for his music triumph?

Real rock stars do truly insane thing and invite truly insane things to happen to them; murder, drug trafficking, rape, cannibalism and the occult. We allow this behavior. We are complicit because a rock star behaving badly is what's expected. It's baked into the cake. Deep down, way down, past all of our self-righteous notions of justice and right and wrong, when it comes down to it, we want our rock stars to be bad. We know the music industry is full of demons, ones that drove Elvis Presley, Phil Spector, Sid Vicious and that consumed the Norwegian Black Metal scene. We want to believe in the myths because they're so damn entertaining.

DISGRACELAND is a collection of the best of these stories about some of the music world's most beloved stars and their crimes. It will mix all-new, untold stories with expanded stories from the first two seasons of the Disgraceland podcast. Using figures we already recognize, DISGRACELAND shines a light into the dark corners of their fame revealing the fine line that separates heroes and villains as well as the danger Americans seek out in their news cycles, tabloids, reality shows and soap operas. At the center of this collection of stories is the ever-fascinating music industry--a glittery stage populated by gangsters, drug dealers, pimps, groupies with violence, scandal and pure unadulterated rock 'n' roll entertainment.
We've all heard stories of rock and roll legends behaving badly. The saying is 'sex, drugs, and rock and roll' after all. We've all been fascinated, repulsed, or intrigued by the actions these entertainers get away with, and the impact their actions have on their careers (or not in some cases). Disgraceland looks at a few of these stories and shines the spotlight on a particular element of that story and does so with a captivating, intriguing writing style that pulls you into the stories effortlessly.

Anyone who has listened to the Disgraceland podcast will instantly recognize Jake Brennan's style and voice reflected in these pages. It reads exactly how the podcast sounds and I felt Brennan's style translated with ease from the podcast to this novel. I could easily hear Jake narrating the chapters and it made reading the book feel like listening to a collection of podcast episodes. Fans of the podcast will immediately feel comfortable and new fans will be dazzled by the storytelling talent Brennan posses and comes across with apparent ease.

The stories, much to my delighted surprise, do sort of link together in a way. They flow into one another in a way that felt natural, and compliment each other. It's book ended by two chapters about Elvis Presley that both perfectly open and close the book by setting the tone and wrapping up the overarching message of the book.

This book more than flirts with the fact that people like their rock stars to be bad. They want them to be larger than life. They want them with an edge. It takes this as a fact and runs with it. It also inspires the reader to question what about that aspect of the rock and roll mythology speaks to people in such a way. It's hard to argue with this when the biggest rock stars are well known for the exact behaviour highlighted within these pages.

The stand out chapters, for me, were the ones on the Norwegian Black Metal scene and the church burning and murders that came from it, the chapter detailing the unknown (to me at least) history of Colonel Tom Parker, and the chapter on Phil Spector. Each dives into a slice of the story that grabs your attention and is just as captivating as the voice being used to tell the story.

The research that went into this is impeccable and Brennan sites all of sources in the back of the novel (just in case you thought any of these stories too scandalous to be real).  The research makes the writing stronger, and focused. It also allows Jake to spin a tale that entirely captivates you. His citations make further rabbit hole jumping very easy. This, like anything in true crime genre, has the potential to lead you down the path of devouring any other media related to a particular story that you can get your hands on.

Disgraceland is for anyone who likes true crime, music and that sweet spot where the two interconnect. It's a fast read thanks to its writing style and definitely leaves you wanting more. If you, like me, are interested in the darker side of rock and roll I highly recommend picking this one up. I also recommend, if you end up loving it, listening to the podcast that came before it. 

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