A tabloid-style exploration of the death of Michael Jackson (1958-2009), particularly the role the singer’s personal physician may have played in his demise.
In their first book, screenwriter and director Richards and music manager Langthorne plod methodically and chronologically through Jackson’s life, pausing to zoom in on his final few days as well as the 83 minutes that passed between the time Jackson’s physician, Conrad Murray, allegedly discovered him unconscious and the time of his arrival at the hospital. The rehash of the singer’s life in the first half of the book treads familiar ground, dutifully recording how high Jackson’s records made it on the Billboard charts, detailing his intake of prescription painkillers, describing the lawsuits filed against the singer, and examining the minutiae of his contracts with his various producers. In the second half of the book, the authors rely heavily on court records from the trial of Murray on the charge of involuntary manslaughter, of which he was convicted. The picture that emerges of Jackson’s last days is sordid and depressing: Murray appears to have been incompetent and distracted, at best, while his patient comes across as “a frail, deeply insecure, vulnerable, unfit, 50-year-old with a chronic addiction to a wide variety of prescription medicines.” The authors raise the question of whether his producers at the time, AEG Live, may have somehow been involved in his death, but they back away from making any firm conclusions. The book’s bibliography is heavy on websites, and the extensive notes often contain material that could have been more gracefully added to the text. While the epigraphs from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan that head each chapter suggest that the authors may have intended a psychological analysis of their subject, their emphasis is strictly on the facts.
Those who can’t get enough of the details of Jackson’s death might relish this account, but those who prefer to appreciate his music should look elsewhere.