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Customer Review

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Second edition will be brilliant, 3 Oct. 2012
This review is from: A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths (Hardcover)
It's a great read if you care about the Smiths. The weight of material and detail may well be too much for anybody who isn't seriously bothered about the band. Research is very deep and thorough, and the writing evokes the 80s landscape well.

I hate that there are so many silly inaccuracies, though. Misquoting Smiths lyrics, getting names of people, places and albums wrong, etc. I know it's a pedant's quibble, but for a factual book it's discordant and it can have the unfortunate effect of causing you to doubt the robustness of the other material in there.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Oct 2012 17:46:26 BDT
Thank you for posting this review, Roman. I appreciate that you seem enthusiastic about the book and I'm glad that you feel it evokes the landscape of its times. That aspect was important to me.

As author, I am responsible for any inaccuracies which are, by their nature given that I knew better, indeed 'silly.' I can not tell you how frustrated I am that I allowed myself to, for example, reverse two nouns in a Smiths song lyric or to reference a soldier instead of sailor, when in each case I knew otherwise. It's particularly galling because, as you imply, it threatens to negate the three days I spent at the Manchester City Library ensuring I had my facts right about Manchester's history, or the new perspective I was bring on the Smiths' business dealings by acquiring a previously unseen copy of the original Rough Trade contract, or the time I spent watching documentaries on Shelagh Delaney and Oscar Wilde. That my manuscript passed through multiple editors and copy-editors, self-confessed Smiths fans who themselves failed to notice these `silly inaccuracies,' is not an excuse: I needed to double-check everything I wrote to begin with.

I'd like to put out, however, that over the course of a 200,000 word book with so much detail, the odd mistake is sadly inevitable. Almost every book I read about music - be it memoir or biography - has multiple factual errors, and as an author myself, as long as they don't completely alter the context, I let them go. Rather than name examples among my fellow writers, let me point to some other recent experiences. As a lifelong Who fan and Keith Moon's biographer, I was baffled to find myself watching NBC's online coverage of the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony and find that the Who's `Baba O'Riley,' one of the staples of American classic rock radio, had been re-titled, on screen, `Teenage Wasteland.' So much for the reliability of American networks, you would think. And yet, a week later I found myself viewing the BBC's footage of the Who at Glastonbury 2007 and they mis-spelled the same song `Baba O'Reiley.' No fact-checkers at the BBC, no oversight or sub-editors? I could imagine Pete Townshend throwing his windmill arms up in despair some 35+ years after the song's release, and yet I suspect that if his own past pronouncements are anything to go by, his eagerly anticipated autobiography may equally be open to the odd contested memory.

I was taken to task for the Smiths book, by one reviewer, for calling Manchester the Lancashire capital, and yet this was deliberate on my part - if I'd just called it the 'northern capital' it may have been more apparent that I was discussing local pride in the city. And yet that same reviewer stated, as fact, and in the Guardian no less, that Morrissey's autobiography is being published this December when basic research on his part - a quick scan of amazon perhaps - would have confirmed for him that it is not on any schedule anywhere. This just goes to show that to err is human, whether you write a 700-page biography or whether you review said biography for a respected national newspaper. For your part, you seem to have nailed it - and in far less words. And as you anticipate, future editions will be correct those silly inaccuracies. Thanks for taking the high road.

Tony Fletcher

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Oct 2012 17:32:47 BDT
Roman Totale says:
Gulp, I'm humbled to have drawn that response from the author of such a great book. And also sorry that my review might have struck the wrong note. In case my review comes across as slighting the achievement, I would like to say to anyone who's following this thread that it's an excellent book and the extent and depth of the research is very clearly apparent. As is the passion for the subject. It's also beautifully written.

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