The secret of a good biography is the ability to hook in readers who might not have considered themselves interested in the subject to begin with, but upon finishing the book have developed sufficient appetite to explore the subject's work further.
This book may get the fans digging out the old CDs and videos, it may even get them exploring the work of the bands and albums that influenced Duran Duran, but I'm less confident of the book's ability to persuade the neutral observer to immerse themselves any further in the world of Duran Duran.
The band's career is fascinatingly varied, with the intense highs actually considerably outnumbered by the gloomy lows, characterised by disappointment and catastrophic misjudgements. Unfortunately, like every potted history there has ever been on Duran Duran (hitherto all others have been on TV), the biography focuses on the early Birmingham period of the band and the glory years that followed up until 1985, with rather less detail on the rest of their career thereafter. The problem being that everyone, fan and foe alike, is somewhat overly familiar with the story of Duran Duran's heyday, and would probably welcome more flesh on the bones of the accounts of the band's leaner years, namely 1986-1992 and 1995-2003.
That said, there is still plenty on offer here and enough revelations to devour to keep information-hungry fans reasonably happy. Particularly of interest are the universal doubts over Simon Le Bon's singing ability just after he joined the band (doubts shared by the singer himself, and which still resurfaced intermittently throughout their career); the band's frosty relationship with John Barry during 'A View To A Kill'; the rival factions that formed during the recording of the 'Big Thing' album; and the fact that Rhodes and Le Bon were still performing live shows with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo as Duran Duran in 2001, even though they had already agreed to reform the 'Fab Five' behind his back.
This episode is perhaps the most interesting, since relatively little is known about how Cuccurullo left the band to make way for the three estranged Taylors to return. Sacked from the band by letter shortly after completing live dates, the reader is left with the unwelcome impression that Rhodes and LeBon treated Cuccurullo with little short of cowardice and ingratitude, given that Cuccurullo had been the driving force behind the band for a decade or so. And that's not something any fan is going to want to feel.
That aside, the portrayal of Duran Duran as people is probably a fair one; preposterously cocky and confident during the highs, refreshingly humble, introspective and honestly self-critical during the lows. The impression of cockiness is reinforced by the inclusion of quotes from band members at the start of every chapter, quotes which one hopes now make the band cringe and which will in their own right harden the sentiments of Duranophobes against them.
With so many characters in the band's story, it's inevitable that some of the construction is a little clumsy, with different strands of the lives of those involved weaving in and out of one another. Towards the latter stages of the book, Steve Malins's attempts to pad out the material by running through at length the band's live gigs and TV appearances, with nothing else to say about them, becomes increasingly transparent. At times the hurried tone occasionally suggests that Malins has written the book because he's spotted a hole in the market rather than because he's interested in Duran Duran.
The main problem with 'Notorious', however, is simply that it isn't very well written. In places, the writing is more reminiscent of sixth-form journalism, especially the author's penchant for writing things like "said the weaselishly intelligent Rhodes", or "said the alabaster-skinned Rhodes", whom he describes as "platinum-haired" so many times it made me want to scream. "Platinum-haired" written just once would have been bad enough; repeatedly, it's infuriating. He also occasionally struggles to describe music convincingly, resorting to describing songs as "Depeche Modey", for example - although to be fair, most people struggle similarly; it is, after all, easier to listen to music than to describe it effectively.
Anyone who's interested in Duran Duran will have no choice but to read this flawed biography, as it's the only one there is - amazingly. And for devoted fans this book is undoubtedly manna from heaven, despite its faults. For those only mildly interested in Duran Duran, however, probably better to stick to your CD and DVD of 'Greatest'. Because while the reality is more interesting, the fantasy is more fun.