Category Archives: Books

Remember the Bay City Rollers? Read about their world of sexual depravity and drug use!

If you still like the Bay City Rollers, you can keep on dancing. Yet did you know their story is one of the greatest scandals of the music industry? Turn to When the Screaming Stops: The Dark Story of the Bay City Rollers (Overlook Press, $30) in which biographer Simon Spence offers up a rigorously investigated and unflinching exposé of the sinister undercurrents and dark truths behind “Rollermania”—the hysterical adulation for the Bay City Rollers that spread throughout the U.K., U.S., and around the world during the ’70s.  (They came up with their names by throwing a dart at a map of the United States, which landed near Bay City, Michigan.)

With the release of their debut album Rollin’ and the No. 1 Billboard 100 smash hit “Saturday Night,” the Bay City Rollers quickly went from average Scottish teenagers to international heartthrobs. Everywhere the band went mountains of screaming girls, calling themselves the Tartan Horde, followed. The band’s skyrocket to fame led by Tam Paton, one of pop music’s most notorious managers, was one for which they were wholly unprepared.

Paton, their Svengali bandleader, controlled his charges and promoted them as clean-living, wholesome teens. What the world did not know was that behind this happy facade the band was continuously subjected to various forms of mental and sexual abuse. In Paton, the industry cliché of the manipulative and venal pop manager found its most grotesque expression. Dazzled by sudden global fame and corrupted by Paton’s unquenchable sexual appetites, the Bay City Rollers soon fell into his world of depravity, victimhood, crime and psychosis. Band members became hooked on drugs, and their fall was almost as rapid as their rise, leaving them penniless and emotionally destroyed. Three years after they fired Paton in 1979 he was finally imprisoned, convicted of gross indecency with the teenage band members. The band then spent a decade in litigation with Sony Records over the millions of dollars never paid to them under Paton’s management.  

That such gross exploitation could have happened to one of the world’s most famous boy bands is a brutal reminder that conspiracies of silence about sexual exploitation were once the norm in the music and entertainment business. When the Screaming Stops: The Dark Story of the Bay City Rollers is a no-holds-barred exposé of sex, drugs, and financial mismanagement. Based on more than 500 hours of interviews with many of the Bay City Rollers’s closest associates, including former band members, Spence’s look into this chilling scandal is an essential read for those interested in the inner-workings of the pop music industry.

A wonder, woman: “The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History”

Think strong female protagonists are a modern invention? Think again. Women have been a staple of comics since the creation of the medium. Prepare for a deep dive into pop culture and the fantastic female characters who shaped the world of superheroes with The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History (Quirk Books, $24.95).

Author Hope Nicholson, owner and founder of Bedside Press, is one of the fastest rising stars of the comic book industry. Here,  Nicholson plumbs each decade of comics’ rich history, from the ’30s to today, exploring not only prominent women (both fictional and real) but also key trends. Readers will time-travel through the birth of the industry in the ’30s, the wartime comics of the ’40s, the Golden Age of superheroes in the ’50s, the popularity of romance comics in the ’60s, the indie comics boom of the ’70s, and the creation of the modern comic book trade from the 1980s to today.

Immersive chapters highlight a diverse slate of iconic and forgotten characters, with each heroine receiving her own write-up, paired with vintage art and essential reading suggestions. Each chapter ends with an “Hero of theDecade” feature packed with facts and thoughtful critique about some of the most important female protagonists of all time, including Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Watchmen’s Silk Spectre and Ms. Marvel. These heroines are celebrated for their lasting pop-cultural impact and the important role they played in redefining the way people interacted with women in comics.

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen introduces long-lost characters while allowing readers to see their favorites in a whole new light.  We also learn that the superwomen of the comic book industry weren’t merely confined to the page.

Throughout the book Nicholson reveals fascinating anecdotes about women who worked in the medium, from the all-female creative team at publisher Fiction House during World War II to the surge of female creators during the independent comics boom of the 1970s.

Longtime and recent fans alike will love this comprehensive look at the female characters who have defined comics since the very start. From the halls of comic cons to the halls of academia, The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen will become your go-to reference for history’s greatest heroines.

Anne Frank was right: Paper has more patience than people, and “An Anthology of Decorated Papers” stuns

Papercrafting has just gotten more elegant, more exciting and much richer and more dignified with the stunning An Anthology of Decorated Papers  (Thames & Hudson, $60). P.J.M. Marks, P. J. M. Marks, curator of bookbindings at the British Library,  has pulled together a collection of gorgeously reproduced decorated papers, along with a thoughtful and carefully researched history of this often-overlooked art.book cover

Rich in ornamentation, decorated papers have been in use for centuries—as wrappers and endpapers for books, as the backing for playing cards, and even as linings for chests and cases.

Yet despite the many contexts in which they can be found, they often go unnoticed. The remarkable new book An Anthology of Decorated Papers not only showcases several hundred of the best and most exquisite examples of decorated paper, but also provides a fascinating introduction to its history, traditions and techniques.

“Decorated papers have been produced worldwide for centuries,” Marks writes in the introduction to the book. From rudimentary paper in the Chinese court in 105 AD to block printing in China and Japan in the ninth and seventeenth centuries, respectively, to pre-industrial European decorated papers in Germany, France and Italy, to the impact of decorated papers, including Benjamin Franklin’s introduction of bank notes printed marbled paper to counter fraud, Marks examines the many paths and uses of decorated paper throughout history, including in art, bookbinding, and stationery.

Drawing on the Olga Hirsch collection at the British Library, one of the largest and most diverse collections of decorated papers in the world, this beautifully produced anthology will both delight and inspire designers, bibliophiles, and anyone with a love of pattern and decoration.

 

Thames & Hudson keeps the fashion of great books with “A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton”

When fashion photographer and costume designer Cecil Beaton died in 1980, it was not surprising that one of his tailors was telephoned with the news before Buckingham Palace, despite Beaton’s close association with the Royal Family.

CB in later years, still handsome

Yep, that’s how famous and informational he was. From the moment Cecil arrived at Cambridge University in 1922 wearing an evening jacket, red shoes, black-and-white trousers and a large cravat, to his appearance nearly 40 years later at Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, Beaton expressed a flamboyant sartorial nonchalance. He had accounts with the best Savile Row tailors; he bought his shirts from Excello in New York; and his clothes from Lanz of Salzburg. Clothes hound par excellence. Those duds now reside, along with other elements of his wardrobe, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Benjamin Wild’s luscious A Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton (Thames & Hudson, $50)Life in Fashion: The Wardrobe of Cecil Beaton - 藝術 | 誠品 ... is the first book to showcase the evolving wardrobe of the famed fashion photographer and designer, whose brilliant style is being celebrated as classic tailoring comes back in vogue.

Barbra Streisand - 1966.jpg
CB’s photo of BS

A Life in Fashion is a lively and informative study of Beaton’s style, which kept evolving over the decades, driving and reflecting the transitions in men’s fashion that followed World War II. Drawing on unpublished records and interviews with Beaton’s former tailors, fashion historian Benjamin Wild delightfully scrutinizes Beaton’s approach to fashion as well as his influence on such designers as Giles Deacon and Dries van Noten. “I don’t want people to know me as I really am,” Beaton is quoted as saying, “but as I’m trying and pretending to be.”

In his Introduction to the book, Wild notes “if the style and sartorial savvy of Cecil Beaton are significant, they have hitherto been sidelined by writers focusing on his accomplishments as a photographer and costume designer…

A 1932 Standard Rolleiflex, a type of camera used by Beaton

While renewed interest in Beaton’s wardrobe is part of a more general contemporary appreciation of vintage styles, it is his personal engagement with fashion, and his critical understanding of it, that makes him a unique and enduring figure in the annals of style.”

 

 

 

In “Opening Wednesday,” Charles Taylor explores what B-films embody of ’70s America

Classics such as Cabaret, The Godfather, Taxi Driver and The Wild Bunch reigned over ’70s cinema. But there are riches found in the overlooked B-movies of the time . . . flicks that were rolled out wherever they might find an audience, perhaps tell an eye-opening story about post-Watergate, post-Vietnam America. Missed them? Catch up with  Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s (Bloomsbury, $27), in which acclaimed film critic Charles Taylor revisits the films that don’t make the Academy Award montages and explores what these B-films embody of ’70s America.Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-in Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American ’70s

Opening Wednesday unlocks a forgotten treasury, films that display the honest, almost pleasurable, pessimism of the era, with a staying power that stands in opposition to what Taylor calls the current “infantilization” in Hollywood. Taylor argues that movies today—beginning with the unprecedented success of Star Wars in 1977—have devolved to “spectacle and gimmicks,” with sequels and remakes and spinoffs as the bulk of mainstream moviemaking, while films from the 1970s portray a “connection to the world, and to real-life emotions.”

In the essays of Opening Wednesday, Taylor pays homage to the trucker vigilantes, meat magnate pimps, blaxploitation “angel avengers,” and taciturn factory workers of grungy, unartful films such as Prime Cut, Foxy Brown and Eyes of Laura Mars.

He creates a compelling argument for what matters in moviemaking and brings a pivotal American era vividly to life in all its gritty, melancholy complexity.

A literary warning: “Frankenstein Dreams” offers scary thrills and scarier chills

Warning! Do not read this book at night. Or in the dark. Or when you are home alone.

Michael Sims has edited Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Science Fiction (Bloomsbury, $22), a collection of chills and thrills that will be released in September. We are giving you advance warning.

Sims, whose elegant introduction provides valuable literary and historical context,  has gathered many of the finest stories, some by classic writers such as Jules Verne, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells, but many that will surprise general readers. Dark visions of the human psyche emerge in Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s “The Monarch of Dreams,” while Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (below) a glimpse of “the fifth dimension” in her provocative tale “The Hall Bedroom.”   

Perpetual human concerns meet modern anxieties in these tales that grapple with time, mortality, the senses and the unknown. The tales showcase the ways in which Victorian writers confronted the philosophical and spiritual repercussions of the new technologies and scientific revelations of the 19th century. The major themes of modern science fiction emerge: Space and time travel, dystopian societies, dangerously independent machines, all inspiring the speculative fiction of the Victorian era.

You’ve been warned. Again.

“The Complete Book of Classic Chevrolet Muscle Cars: 1955-1974” is one book car lovers auto have

Allow us to steer you to the best chronicle of Chevrolet cars throughout two decades of speed and style. Park Mike Mueller’s The Complete Book of Classic Chevrolet Muscle Cars: 1955-1974 (Motorbooks/Quarto Publishing Group, $40) in your essential library after you’ve taken it for a few fascinating laps o’ reading.      

Chevrolet didn’t invent the overhead-valve pushrod V-8 engine, but without question Ed Cole and company perfected it. And General Motors’ Bowtie division wasn’t the first to put the engine design in a production car, but it was the first to put the engine design in an affordable production car and make it available to the average driver. No other automobile in history so clearly demarcates a before-and-after line in the sand like the 1955 Chevrolet. This was the birth of the affordable performance car, and from the moment the car hit the streets, the experience of driving would never be the same.

The impact that an affordable American sedan with a powerful performance engine had on American society was so great that it not only changed the experience of driving; it changed the psychology of a generation. Prior to the introduction of the 1955 Chevrolet with its V-8 engine, cars had been considered necessary appliances, like refrigerators or vacuum cleaners. With a single stroke, Chevrolet turned American culture into a car culture.

Chevrolet dominated the muscle-car scene throughout the classic era. The Impala SS, with its 409 engine popularized by the Beach Boys, ruled America’s drag strips. The Z16 Chevelle Malibu SS396 became the every man’s muscle car. The Camaro turned the pony car genre into genuine muscle cars. The LS6 engine was the most powerful of the classic era.     Image result for Z16 Chevelle Malibu SS396

The book’s luscious 183 color and 37 black-and-white photos will have you revving the engine!

“The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of Star Trek” flies high

The impossible has happened . . . and we don’t mean why we continue to question why William Shatner is a “star.”Image result for william shatner 2017

Last September marked the 50th anniversary of the debut of the world’s most successful science fiction television series: Star Trek. In The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of Star Trek (Aurum Press, $19.99), author Lance Parkin, goes in search of the show’s creator.

This book reveals how an undistinguished writer of cop shows set out to produce “Hornblower in space” and ended up with an optimistic, almost utopian view of humanity’s future that has been watched and loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Along the way Parkin examines some of the great myths and turning points in the franchise’s history, and Roddenberry’s particular contribution to them.Image result for The Impossible Has Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, the Creator of Star Trek 2017 He will look at the truth in the view that the early Star Trek advanced a liberal, egalitarian and multi-racial agenda, chart the various attempts to resuscitate the show during its wilderness years in the ’70s, explore Roddenberry’s initial early involvement in the movies and spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (as well as his later estrangement from both), and shed light on the colorful personal life, self-mythologizing and strange beliefs of a man who nonetheless gifted popular culture one if its most enduring narratives.

W.W. Norton offers four books that are meant to be read and savored . . . even at the beach!

Beach books to carry along? We suggest this quartet from W.W. Norton.

With the sweet yearning and raw truth of a Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris duet, Don Lee’s Lonesome Lies Before Us ($26.95) resounds as a contemporary ballad of heartbreak, failure, and unquenchable longing. Yadin Park is a talented alt-country musician whose career has floundered—doomed first by his homely looks and lack of stage presence, and then by a progressive hearing disorder. His girlfriend, Jeanette Matsuda, might have been a professional photographer but for a devastating heartbreak in her teens. Now Yadin works for Jeanette’s father’s carpet-laying company in California while Jeanette cleans rooms at a local resort. book coverThey sing together in a Unitarian church choir and try to find comfort in their weekly routines, yet solace eludes them, their relationship remaining lukewarm despite their best intentions. When Yadin’s former lover and musical partner, the celebrated Mallory Wicks, comes back into his life, all their most private hopes and desires are exposed, their secret fantasies about love and success put to the test. Subtly and sublimely, all the characters’ paths begin to converge, and the results of these intersections will provoke readers to reconsider their own lost highways.

With an infectious passion for the period and an expert knowledge of the music, Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tells the story of how progressive rock developed, evolved and endured over time—and why it still matters to music today. A wonderfully entertaining behind-the-scenes look at such hugely popular bands as Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis and Jethro Tull, The Show That Never End: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock ($26.95) explains exactly what was “progressive” about the music, how it arose out of psychedelia and heavy metal, and why it went from dominating the pop charts to being widely despised and satirized. book coverSpanning five decades, the book is both a narrative history and an affirmation of progressive rock as “a grand cultural detour” that made possible much of the music that is popular today. Every new artistic movement rebels against whatever came before it, but progressive rock’s rebellion was the weirdest, the most outlandish of them all.

Part archeological dig, part culinary science lab, part history lesson with booze, Ancient Brews: Rediscovered and Recreated ($26.95) by Dr. Patrick E. McGovern is a romp through time to rediscover how our ancestors brewed libations, and how to recreate these liquid time-capsules at home. Biomolecular archeologist and experimental beer-maker Dr. Pat—as he is affectionately known—not only traces the rich history of human’s centuries-long passion for fermented drinks, but reveals how research science and the culinary arts combine to bring these paleo-brews back to life. book coverMcGovern has worked to uncover the tastes and techniques of ancient brewers, while also exploring the significance of alcoholic beverages in human history: how ancient brews shaped our culture; impacted our environment; and informed our ideas of life, death and the divine.

Soaking up the sun is a good way of cooking up some new dishes with BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts ($35). Stella Parks, an award-winning pastry chef, serves it all up: From foolproof recipes and fresh take on the history of American desserts to the surprising story of how our favorite desserts came to be—the hidden meaning of the word “oreo,” the weirdly vindictive origin of graham crackers, and the marketing-driven machinations that led to key lime pie. You’ll find everything from a one-bowl Devil’s Food Layer Cake to Blueberry Muffins and Glossy Fudge Brownies, even Stella’s own recipes for recreating popular supermarket treats!book cover These meticulously tested, crystal-clear, and innovative recipes (including an effortless, no-fuss twist on Angel’s Food Cake) bring a pastry chef’s expertise to your kitchen.

Terry Newman’s “Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore ” fits like a glove . . . or a Gucci

After working professionally in the offices of Redbook, Us Weekly, United Feature Syndicate and sundry other spots, I no longer dress when I work. And write. The daze of black ties and tuxes are over with. Forever. No more Oscars and Tonys and Grammys and other stuffy, star-studded events.

A new book? That calls for me to wear T-shirts and boxers.
Another article? Perhaps sweats or pjs.
Another blog? The naked truth in the naked truth.

It’s no wonder I didn’t make Terry Newman’s delicious new book, Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore (Harper Design, $29.99). This innovative gift book took a clue from the horse-faced Diana Vreeland who, in her 1984 autobio D.V., reminded all “Where would fashion be without literature”?

Newman presents 50 fully illustrated profiles of prominent men and women of letters, highlighting their key works, signature fashion moments from their wardrobe that express their persona and how they influence the fashion world today. This segues into an examination of how this particular item of clothing or style makes up part of fashion’s lingua franca, getting under the skin of the fashion story and talking in more detail about its historical trajectory and distinctive impact on popular culture.

Under the garb are revealing anecdotes about the authors and their work, archival photography, first-person quotations, little known facts, and clothing-oriented excerpts that exemplify their writing style—make this a lively look at the authors we love.

Joan Didion, smoking and leaning against a sleet Stingway, stars out from the cover. In 2015, she was the face of Céline. Everything Didion writes is distinctly Didion; she is an original and that’s something designers can connect with. Her personalized journalism where innermost emotions and ideas are transparently communicated or experimental fiction such as her novel Democracy where she, as the author, takes center stage as narrator are bodies of work that reflect the soul. Her style does the same.

There is only one thing more interesting than a writer, and that’s a stylish writer. The shape and twist of their hair, how they hold a cigarette, or penchant for wearing a particular item is their creative DNA on display, whether it’s an exotic turban like Zadie Smith’s signature head-piece, James Joyce’s wire-framed glasses, or Samuel Beckett’s Wallabees (left).Image result for Samuel Beckett’s Wallabees Quite often a writers’ wardrobe is distinctly out of fashion and for that very reason stands out and alone. Likewise, curious fashion-hounds find writers a stimulating muse in today’s non-linear fashion climate.

For some writers, their style does not mirror, but rather, deflects. Take Sylvia Plath, her Bell Jar wardrobe was prim and proper, and a foil for her tormented psyche. The pearls and twinsets, and later, her less formal but still sensible choices, all projected assimilation and a non-confrontational, even somewhat bland persona, yet her work was dark, confessional. For Plath, fashion was aspirational: she dressed in the way she wanted to be seen, rather than exhibit her interior turmoil.

Delving into the wardrobes of literary icons—past and present—and the way they write about clothes provides a glimpse into the world they each inhabited and their moment in time. A testament to the notion that reading and writing never go out of style, this beautifully designed book is sure to captivate lovers of fine literature and dedicated followers of fashion.

My fave remains Jacqueline Susann (below). The iconic author wrote the best novel ever, Valley of the Dolls, a sordid saga of show-biz. (“Sparkle Neely sparkle!) More than 40 million copies of the bible have sold and I am not even mentioning Jackie’s luck with The Love Machine. After all, once is not enough. Susann sits on the tiled floor of her 200 Central Park South apartment, clad in a mini Pucci (circa mid-60s), diagramming Love Machine‘s Robin Stone on a blackboard.Image result for jacqueline Suzanne pucci

And the quotes! Newman choose some whoppers, the way Liza would have chosen the right Halston before she got fat and drunk and slovenly.

Dorothy Parker: “Gingham’s for the plighted maid; satin’s for the free!”

Maya Angelou: “Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you. You will always be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself.”

Oscar Wilde: “Fashion is what one wears oneself. Whit is unfashionable is what other people wear.”

Tom Wolfe: “You never realize how much of your background is sewn in the lining of your clothes.”

Newman writes: “What you read is as important as what you wear. And what authors wear is source material for designers’ creativity. The literary and fashion worlds are therefore synchronized, and the geek chic of librarians is a look that is set to prevail.” She adds: “Fashion is a history book as well as a mirror, and the incidental assimilation of who is wearing what, where, why, and when adds density to a cultural read.”