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on 11 November 2003
I've actually just finished reading 'American Scream' and im still unsure of what i felt about it. In one way it was great to read about the stuff you didnt know about Hicks, the personal stuff and his friends, yet you feel as if the person is writing a journalistic piece on one of the greatest people to have ever lived and clearly didnt know Hicks herself. Every antidote she included from his live shows you will have heard if you have his albums, or have seen the video's. Alot of the commments from Mr and Mrs Hicks, aswell as his friends can be seen on the 'Totally Bill Hicks' video, which seems to show she hasnt went that in-depth on her subject, much to the dismay of all his fans around the world. I guess if you really like Bill Hicks, you should buy it no matter what just to read about his depression and other issues which you really wouldnt imagine from just listening to him.
So i advise you to read it, but dont expect much from it. I would rather have had the writer to be Hicks himself (sadly impossible) or even someone close to him, or with similar feelings about the downfall of the world. This woman seems to have no geographical knowledge of the world outside America, often referring to Glasgow and Edinburgh as being in England. Her ignorance for these facts im sure Hicks would have been very annoyed with if he were alive today. But then again, if Hicks were alive today, he would probably be ruling the world and we wouldnt need some anonymous writer writing about him, the world would KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM.
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Eight years after Bill Hicks' death in 1994 came the publication of the very first book to document the American comedic talent's life and career. Bill passed away far too soon at the age of 32, but there is still so much to say about this remarkable man and his work, and author Cynthia True did a pretty good job of documenting it all in her 'American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story'.

Written in a straight-forward, journalistic manner, True, clearly a big fan of her subject but never really biased, traces the Bill Hicks story from his childhood to untimely death, through good-research, and first-hand interviews with lots of people who knew him personally. As a unauthorised biography, aside from the direct quotations from interviews and stage performances, it was naturally always going to lack the authentic tone of Bill's voice, but there is an alternative now with the appearance of the comprehensive 2005 tome of his work, Love All the People (New Edition).

If you know very little about Bill Hicks before picking up this book, which is illustrated with good photographs, then you're in the target audience for this capable 'beginner's guide', and will be able to discover the basics with a few interesting anecdotes added in. Most of the time, the focus is very much more on the stand-up comedy side of things, as opposed to other aspects like delving a little deeper into his childhood. The drink and drugs are especially well-documented, but his recovery is spoken about in fewer pages.

'American Scream' is still worth a read today, although another biography, Bill Hicks: Agent of Evolution, penned by the man's life-long close mate Kevin Booth (who True spoke to during the writing of her account) has since surpassed it, but then again, Cynthia had never met the great man, and was only able to access what she could, but she did well with what she did.
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on 23 October 2002
Excuse me while I refrain from singing Ms. True's praises for this book. "American Scream" is a biography of one of the most interesting entertainers of the 80s and 90s, whom died a relatively unknown, only to have his star explode upon his death. Bill Hicks' ideas obviously struck a chord with True (as it did with so many others) and compelled her to write a book about him, some 8 years after his death having never met the man in person.
To me, the book is a disappointment because it relies on the word of casual friends and "co-workers" and (seemingly) bootlegged recordings transcribed in part to form a narrative journey through Hick's life. There is not a great deal of information contained within this book that the average fan doesnt already know via the wealth of articles available online or from John Lahr's profile prior to Bill's death.
The book is undoubtably a fanboy(girl)'s unashamed gushing about someone she admires. Theres nothing really wrong with that but it still feels a tad empty for me as a Hicks' fan that finally something related to Hicks is released and its less than satisfactory way to celebrate the life of one of the greatest entertainers of the past 50 years (who sounds like the fanboy now?). While you do get a somewhat limited insight into certain aspects of Bill's persona that you wouldnt normally get, at the end of the day only the die hard fans will rush out and buy it and... they'd know most of the story anyway.
I, for one, hope Kevin Booth will eventually come through with THE definitive epitath to the life of Bill Hicks - And Im sure he will. Someday.
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on 19 August 2002
The author ..has made a stab here at profiling a comic genius who frankly deserved better. The choice of Janine Garofalo to write a foreward is quite bizarre, given that she didn't know Hicks and devotes a scant one and a half pages to tell us that he was a big influence on her - I don't see it myself. So, what True delivers is a life told through the eyes of a series of friends and managers - those who chose to cooperate with an unauthorised biography - there are no surprises here, no great insights and one is left with the nagging sensation that things have been left out. Some of the narratives presented by 'friends' do not ring entirely true; the impression that they have embellished or edited events in their own favour is hard to shake. The style is dry, the vocabulary oddly limited and the volume itself inexplicably slim when one considers how much living Hicks packed into his short life. That said, I salute any attempt to shed some light on the man's background and experiences and no doubt, if you're a fan of his work, you'll buy this book anyway just as I did. I can only hope that this doesn't become the definitive work on Bill Hicks' life and talent and that a better biographer comes along eventually to put some colour and motion into True's black and white still.
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on 14 December 2004
I remember the first time I saw Bill Hicks on Channel 4 (late 80's, Jools Holland's Happening, I think...). One of the funniest comedians I had ever seen. He approached things from a completely different angle and was probably the funniest, most intelligent comedian I'd ever seen. And certainly the only one with a serious social, rather than purely political, message. None of your "right on", politically correctness here...
So I bought this book and, whilst there some interesting stuff in there I didn't know about his life, there's a lot of stuff I knew already or didn't really care about (sorry Bill!). The guy should be remembered through his art, not through someone else repeating his jokes in print, where you'll only really get it if you can remember hearing or seeing hi telling it.
Don't buy this, by the DVD "Totally Bill Hicks" instead. Then you'll see what all the fuss was about....
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on 14 February 2005
I am a big fan of Bill Hicks and I was interested to learn more about him. This book did not help. This is a rather dull biography providing a largely chronological account of his all too brief life interspersed with copious extracts from his stage material. It totally fails to capture the spirit of the man.
If this is your only exposure to Bill Hicks then you will never understand why he was so fantastic - go straight to the source - don't bother with this book, buy a Bill Hicks DVD (e.g. Totally Bill Hicks which includes a documentary and a performance) or CD.
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on 25 February 2008
Being a huge Bill Hicks fan and thinking he is the best stand up comedian ive ever come across, i thought that buying a biographic book about him, could tell me the other side of Bill's life, this book kinda delivers on that note, but each chapter you get through, it just doesnt grip you. In the end once you finish a chapter, you are left wondering, can i actualy be bothered to read on to another chapter that is just not gripping enough. It only excelled at the parts where Bill was giving up Drink,Drugs and smoking and the sad part of how he found out he got cancer, these few chapters, that are few and far between, are very interesting. This is not a terrible book, but it just doesn't give Bill Hicks the credit he deserves that other books may give him, if your new to Bill Hicks you may enjoy, but die hard fans,stay away! There is nothing new here you wouldnt already know.
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on 15 February 2002
Well finally! Roll out the bunting and put on the party hats Goat Boy fans because after one incredibly long wait something new about the genius that was/is Bill Hicks is now available for us, the extended family of Hicks fanatics, to go out and buy!
Really, this book has been such a frustrating and looooooong time coming considering Bill's ever increasing (and fully justified) cult status. It's really quite surprising that no one has put pen to paper before now; but a big pat on the back to True for making the effort and doing a pretty good job.
This is actually a pretty straight forward, but extremely interesting biography, and it manages to detail Bill's life as well as it can without any imput from the man himself (obviously). True relys on the stories and accounts from Bill's friends and colleagues, and the anecdotes are delievered with just the kind of affection and admiration you would expect. For those of us who only really caught onto Bill after his death the details about his early years, and how he broke into stand-up will be particularly interesting.
Is the definitive account of Bill? I hope not, there is a lot more out there and hopefully one day it will be available to us all, but this is a essential contribution to the, unfortunately, pretty small canon of work.
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on 25 September 2003
This book is strange, it could have been written 8 years ago, the text relies heavily on the same tapes all Bill Hicks fans have of his live shows and does not touch on 'life after Bill Hicks'. There is nothing on how he became more famous (argueably) following his passing, nothing on who he left behind and how they felt and very little on his influence. The book is well written, very journalistic, and it does give some insights into his upbringing and how he lived and worked. A little too pro-Hicks, but still a relatively enjoyable read. However, its expensive, so I'd buy a tape or a video of the man himself, you'll get much much more out of it.
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VINE VOICEon 5 November 2010
The story of Bill Hicks, like his idols JFK & Martin Luther King, is familiar to most people who've heard of him - a brilliant talent, on the verge of success, cut tragically short by cancer.
However there are many perspectives that the story can be taken from, and this book is just one of a myriad of angles, including that of his best friend Kevin Booth or that of his family/ estate (American).

This particular book appears to be the only one written from a female perspective, and certainly one of the few that talks about his fiance Colleen McGarr or his assortment of girlfriends.
Before reading this book, I thought that Bill had been basically a loner who rarely had any luck with the opposite sex & spent his time watching porn in hotel rooms.
Truth is Bill had a selection of girlfriends and, even when he was doing routines about how he wasn't getting laid, he actually consistently had many a long-term relationship, even during his years as an alcoholic.

And though many other reviews say that this is a poor book, it actually does contain a lot of interesting material that even fanboys (like me - see profile) won't have heard or read elsewhere.

The one weakness with the book is that it is a little journalistic and anecdotal in tone. Much of the narrative reads like a series of interviews with people who knew him, cobbled together into a kaleidoscope of people's perspectives on him.
In fact, you do get the impression that the author interviewed a few fans plus Dwight Slade and Colleen Mcgarr, without having interviewed any of the Outlaw comics or Bill's friends and family.

Funnily enough though, this is precisely what gives the book its strength - it shows some odd angles that can't be seen in other sources (such as Bill's reaction to No Cure For Cancer and Leary's alleged plagiarism).
There are also other interesting elements that crop up, such as an assessment on whether Hicks was the new Lenny Bruce (by John Magnusson - a man who knew both comedians) and a lot of detail on the Letterman incident (which is one of the main themes of the book).
Oh, and for people who are really into rare material by the man, there are some really interesting performances she comments on, such as when he was on the Dennis Miller show (well worth a watch if you can find it) and also some detail on 'Ninja Batchelor Party'.

All in all, a good book and a worthwhile read, but suffers a little from being written by someone who'd never met him. Still, sometimes a fresh perspective sheds new light, something that Bill was only too aware of...
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