TV and radio host Smiley (My Journey with Maya, 2015, etc.) and his frequent writing collaborator Ritz tell the story of the 16 weeks preceding the death of singer Michael Jackson (1958-2009).
Before he died, the King of Pop was preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London. He was also doing a lot of shopping, playing with his three children, watching Shirley Temple movies, making questionable business decisions, receiving almost daily Botox injections, taking an increasing number of prescription painkillers, and suffering from a degree of insomnia that caused him to enlist a doctor to administer the anesthetics that led to his death. The authors delve through a wealth of research material to create a nearly day-by-day account of Jackson’s last weeks, with occasional glimpses into his earlier life. Smiley and Ritz are clearly sympathetic to their subject, sometimes to the point of glossing over Jackson’s more questionable choices and actions. In occasionally purple prose, the authors ratchet up the suspense and drama of this period of the singer’s life, ending most of the brief chapters with some variant on, “Sleep, the most precious of commodities, eluded him,” or “sleep, precious sleep, comes not at all.” The most intriguing sections of the book unravel the complicated business relationships in which Jackson was involved, his attempts to separate himself from his parents and siblings, and his efforts to push his art further while his fans were demanding more of the same. The authors, who set out to understand why their subject died at 50, end up asking a different question: “Given the extraordinary obstacles he faced, the stresses that pulled him apart, how did Michael survive as long as he did?”
This compact biography should please Jackson’s fans even if it doesn’t break new ground in exploring the singer’s life.