Further incisive revelations distinguish actress-turned-psychologist Stephenson’s follow-up to her perceptive biography of husband Connolly (Billy, 2002), a noted Scottish comedian and actor.
Though this sequel loosely follows the year Billy turns 60, it’s as much about Stephenson herself. Each chapter begins with a recollection of his past—searching trashcans for sledding materials, sneaking his Protestant friends into a Catholic teenagers’ dance, becoming a paratrooper while on National Service—and then segues into his birthday year. The family alternates between Scotland and Los Angeles, with much traveling in between. Billy is on location in Canada and Somalia; Pamela takes their two teenaged daughters to India, where they visit the shelters established by the Connollys for streetwalkers’ children. Billy is ambivalent about his birthday, still subject to frequent nightmares in which he relives his troubled childhood: his mother left home, he was reared in a Glasgow slum by sadistic aunts, his father abused him. But Pamela continues her preparations for the August celebration, a weekend-long extravaganza at their estate in Scotland that includes the reenactment of a medieval battle, kilted pipe-bands, the honoring of the haggis, and a guest list studded with luminaries (Judi Dench, Bob Geldof), as well as Billy’s mates from his pre-fame days, when he worked as a welder. Billy survives, admitting that he normally doesn’t like birthday parties but absolutely loved his own. This naturally pleases Pamela, who is acutely aware of the demons in her man’s past, even though he stopped drinking and taking drugs in his 40s. She follows up the weekend blast with a (slightly) lower-key celebration on the actual day later in the year in Fiji, where she’s studying a group of transgendered Fijians. Evident throughout the witty text is her crucial role as a loving but concerned monitor of her husband’s life.
More fan fodder, enlivened by Billy’s witty observations.