Coleman, former editor of the British magazine Melody Maker and a longtime Lennon friend, has--""with the full cooperation of his family""--assembled a massive, sympathetic, indiscriminately detailed biography: thickened with lengthy quotes from all and sundry, downplaying (but not entirely overlooking) the darker side, and committed to presenting both Lennon and Yoke One in the best possible light. ""Beneath that abrasive exterior beat a heart of pure gold,"" Coleman begins--with a close-up of Lennon's undeniably ""wounded childhood"": virtual abandonment by both father and mother; quasi-adoption by stern, loving Auntie Mimi; and later a renewed closeness to his mother--cut short by her sudden death (hit by a car). Thus, teenager John became a loner/rebel, masking his tenderness with coolness and cruel wit, finding an art-school soulmate in brooding Stu Sutcliffe. With soft-spoken Paul McCartney (""always the tougher of the two""), they became the core of the future Beatles. And then, after Hamburg (no really wild hijinks, says Coleman), Stu's departure/death, the firing of drummer Pete Best (an ugly episode barely mentioned here), and Brian Epstein, came ""the fastest-moving escalator to fame and fortune in the history of entertainment."" Coleman scoffs--with rather shrill defensiveness--at the rumors of a Lennon/Epstein liaison. He's inconsistent about Lennon's reactions to sudden fame. (""He had never lacked confidence in his ability""--yet ""never having believed in himself, he could not fully absorb what was happening."") Ex-wife Cynthia contributes material on Lennon's drug-use, their marital strains; as of 1967 ""he was desperately looking for some new milestone in his life."" Then: enter Yoko, who was treated ""shabbily"" by the other Beatles but helped Lennon recover his youth-rebel vigor. And, despite an estrangement period, she helped see him through primal therapy, the US Immigration case, and domestic/artistic renewal. Coleman is over-generous in his assessments of the late Lennon canon, uninspired on the Beatles-era work. His prose throughout is low-level journalese, often platitudinous--with loose, unselective use of everybody's recollections (including his own). Still: the fullest, longest treatment around--and a sure bet for the many fans.