An unpolished but heartfelt recounting of a vivid life.

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MOONLIGHT

THE BILLY CAMPBELL STORY

A debut memoir chronicles one man’s transition from drug addict and mob accomplice to stable, spiritual business owner.

The author has certainly lived a life worthy of a book. As a child growing up in Rhode Island, he suffered beatings from his mentally unhinged mother and neglect from his alcoholic father. After being sexually abused by a pair of school peers for years, 11-year-old Campbell realized that the only way to protect himself from others’ cruelty was to prove his toughness. He viciously beat his abusers with a bat, and from then on joined gangs committing petty crimes because of the camaraderie and pocket money they offered. Adulthood saw him graduate from local burglaries to nationwide criminal enterprises, as he and his partners developed insurance scams, filmed and distributed pornography, and distilled and sold cocaine. Everything he did was in the pursuit of money, but his cocaine addiction meant that he was always scrambling to find his next fortune-making scheme. And success in the underworld came at a cost; the author lived in constant danger as he outmaneuvered mobsters and the police, both of whom would have liked to serve him their particular brands of justice. A 13-year federal sentence brought all this excitement to a crashing halt, and while in prison, he began to question what kind of purpose he envisioned for his life as a whole. Campbell relates all these events in simple, matter-of-fact language, detailing moments of criminal drama but glossing over other elements (like his marriage and divorce with his first wife). The narrative presents an odd mixture of reflection and thoughtlessness. Moments of insight arise, including when Campbell asserts, “Everything that was a serious problem in my family was treated as a secret that shouldn’t be discussed,” and when the white author met a young black prisoner serving a much harsher sentence for possessing far less cocaine. But the word “pornography” could be replaced with “packing tape” for all the examination Campbell offers on that industry, and the seesawing between introspection and blind machismo celebration makes for a curious reading experience.

An unpolished but heartfelt recounting of a vivid life.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64316-811-1

Page Count: 259

Publisher: Fortune Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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