Exhaustively researched but too discursive for its own good.

Biography of a drug-ridden Seattle grunge outfit whose fame peaked in the mid-1990s.

In his nonfiction debut, Georgetown University graduate student de Sola brings a refined sensibility to the tale of Alice in Chains, a band that gained widespread notoriety but lost two of its original members to drug-related causes. The author aptly situates the band’s sound, attitude, and lifestyle in the context of a particular time and place; his subjects were outcast working-class kids growing up bored in the Pacific Northwest, in love with punk and classic rock just as much as 1980s hair metal. Of course, the main focus is on the band’s once-charismatic frontman-turned–heroin casualty, Layne Staley, whose distinctive, brooding style would come to be almost as widely recognized as Kurt Cobain’s banshee wailing. De Sola approaches writing about the band with the sort of genteel orthodoxy one might apply to a master’s thesis. To the author’s credit, though, his staid writing purposefully avoids the usual overheated rock-speak, letting quotes from the band and those operating in their milieu do the necessary dirty work. De Sola also integrates countless interviews with the band members’ surviving friends and family and just about anybody who was ever remotely associated with the band. Unfortunately, though, the book requires more aggressive content editing, as it drags readers along on too many detours detailing the dead-end side projects of the band members, not to mention their onstage (and backstage) high jinks. In the end, just like too many rock bands over the years, Alice in Chains couldn’t transcend the pitfalls of drugs, money, and overnight fame. Along with other bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains helped destroy complacent glam metal, but they also left behind a trail of futility and wasted talent in their wake.

Exhaustively researched but too discursive for its own good.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04807-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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