Title: Let’s Do It – The Authorised Biography of Victoria Wood

Author: Jasper Rees

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Trapeze

The Blurb

‘I was born with a warped sense of humour and when I was carried home from being born it was Coronation Day and so I was called Victoria but you are not supposed to know who wrote this anyway it is about time I unleashed my pent-up emotions in a bitter comment on the state of our society but it’s not quite me so I think I shall write a heart-warming story with laughter behind the tears and tears behind the laughter which means hysterics to you Philistines…’

From ‘Pardon?’ by Vicky Wood, Aged 14. Bury Grammar School (Girls) Magazine, 1967

In her passport Victoria Wood listed her occupation as ‘entertainer’ – and in stand-up and sketches, songs and sitcom, musicals and dramas, she became the greatest entertainer of the age. Those things that might have held her back – her lonely childhood, her crippling shyness and above all the disadvantage of being a woman in a male-run industry – she turned to her advantage to make extraordinary comedy about ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary bodies. She wasn’t fond of the term, but Victoria Wood truly was a national treasure – and her loss is still keenly felt.

Victoria had plenty of stories still to tell when she died in 2016, and one of those was her own autobiography. 

‘I will do it one day,’ she told the author and journalist Jasper Rees. ‘It would be about my childhood, about my first few years in showbusiness, which were really interesting and would make a really nice story.’ 

That sadly never came to pass, so Victoria’s estate has asked Jasper Rees, who interviewed her more than anyone else, to tell her extraordinary story in full. He has been granted complete and exclusive access to Victoria’s rich archive of personal and professional material, and has conducted over 200 interviews with her family, friends and colleagues – among them Victoria’s children, her sisters, her ex-husband Geoffrey Durham, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Dawn French, Anne Reid, Imelda Staunton and many more. 

What emerges is a portrait of a true pioneer who spoke to her audience like no one before or since.

bVictoria Wood is one of Britain’s best loved comediennes. I say ‘is’ because whilst she passed away she is still lauded as one of the best by both her peers and her audience today. She gave us such gems as Acorn Antiques, Two Soups and of course Let’s Do It – The Ballad of Barry and Freda (still one of my all time favourite things ever) however behind the camera Victoria Wood was an intensely private person. Those who knew her well tell us all about the person behind the performer in this in depth and wonderfully written biography.

The Review

Victoria Wood is one of Britain’s best loved comediennes. I say ‘is’ because whilst she passed away she is still lauded as one of the best by both her peers and her audience today. She gave us such gems as Acorn Antiques, Two Soups and of course Let’s Do It – The Ballad of Barry and Freda (still one of my all time favourite things ever) however behind the camera Victoria Wood was an intensely private person. Those who knew her well tell us all about the person behind the performer in this in depth and wonderfully written biography by Jasper Rees.

I should start by saying that Victoria Wood is not glorified in this biography. In fact, some of the more unpleasant facets of her personality are highlighted – in particular her grueling work ethic that she expected others to adhere to and also making her friends the butt of her jokes. However, all of those who worked with her are quick to say how talented and how generous she was with her comedy, often relegating herself to the lesser role and giving the more memorable zingers to her fellow cast member. Jasper Rees paints a picture of a woman who knew she had the power to make people laugh and she knew what she wants from her work and her fellow colleagues. He has taken the life of a brilliant woman and brought her back into the public conscience.

Whatever you think of Victoria Wood it is inarguable that she pathed the way for women in comedy and that her humour had a firm finger on the pulse of contemporary Britain. It is no wonder she is still adored and sorely missed.

Let’s Do It: The Authorised Biography of Victoria Wood by Jasper Rees is available now.

For more information regarding Jasper Rees (@JasperRees) please visit www.facebook.com/fredaandbarry

For more information regarding Trapeze (@TrapezeBooks) please visit www.instagram.com/trapeze_books/

Halfway to ParadiseTitle: Halfway to Paradise – The Life of Billy Fury

Author: Caroline and David Stafford

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Omnibus Press

The Blurb

If he’d merely stood like a statue on stage, he would have flooded theatres with hormonal longings, but he was incapable of standing still. He pulsed. He writhed. He invalidated the manufacturer’s guarantee on microphone stands. He provoked shock and awe.

From Billy’s troubled childhood in Liverpool, via gold and silver lamé, to his later years as a farming ornithologist and a comeback cut short by his premature death, David and Caroline Stafford’s sparkling biography brings to life this captivating performer. Billy knew everybody, auditioned The Beatles to be his backing band, met and out-handsomed Elvis, partied with Keith Moon and hosted acid parties. Yet, throughout the mayhem, he always remained true to himself: diffident and amused.

Halfway to Paradise tells the full story with the compassion and affection due to an artist who, decades after his death, still commands admiration and adoration: the life, the times, the fans, the Fury.

The Review

Growing up in Liverpool there are certain local artists that you cannot be ignorant of. The obvious ones such as The Beatles and Cilla Black naturally sprint to mind however, there is one artist who is equally revered as one of the sons of Liverpool. That man is Billy Fury.

Caroline and David Stafford have released a well researched and impressive book about the Life of Billy Fury. From his start as an unwell child to a star in the making, Stafford and Stafford look at how his music life was turbulent due to lack of strong leadership and direction, and how he never really hit the heights that he musically deserved.

Halfway to Paradise – The Life of Billy Fury by Caroline and David Stafford is not only a brilliant account of Billy Fury’s life but also of the changing face of entertainment during his working years. It is a great read filled with anecdotal tales from those who knew him best.

Halfway to Paradise – The Life of Billy Fury by Caroline and David Stafford is available now.

For more information regarding Omnibus Press (@OmnibusPress) please visit www.omnibuspress.com.

4 Stars

Marilyn MonroeTitle: Marilyn Monroe

Author: Barbara Leaming

Pages: 480 Pages

Publisher: Orion

The Blurb

Barbara Leaming’s Marilyn Monroe is a complex, sympathetic portrait that will forever change the way we view the most enduring icon of America sexuality. To those who think they have heard all there is to hear about Marilyn Monroe, think again. Leaming’s book tells a bran-new tale of sexual, psychological, and political intrigue of the highest order. Told for the first time in all its complexity, this is a compelling portrait of a woman at the centre of a drama with immensely high stakes, a drama in which the other players are some of the most fascinating characters from the worlds of movies, theatre, and politics. It is a book that shines a bright light on one of the most tumultuous frightening, and exciting periods in American culture.

Basing her research on new interviews and on thousands of primary documents – including revealing letters by Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, John Huston, Laurence Olivier, Tennessee Williams, Darryl Zanuck, Marilyn’s psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson, and many others – Leaming has reconstructed the tangle of betrayal in Marilyn’s Life. For the first time, a master story teller has put together all the pieces and told Marilyn’s story with the intensity and drama it so richly deserves.

At the heart of this book is a sexual triangle and a riveting story that has never been told before. You will come away filled with new respect for Marilyn’s incredible courage, dignity, and loyalty, and an overwhelming sense of tragedy after witnessing Marilyn, powerless to overcome her demons, move inexorably to her own final, terrible betrayal of herself.

Marilyn Monroe is a book that will make you think and will break your heart.

The Review

I never knew an awful lot about Marilyn Monroe. I knew she was an iconic actress and that she had been married to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio. I knew that it had been rumoured that she had had an affair with JFK but all this stuff is the generic facts that most people know. Once I had read Barbara Leaming’s book I knew so much more.

What I really loved about this book was that Leaming didn’t glorify Monroe. She discussed matters of Monroe’s life in an in-depth but sensitive way. She had a knack of showing Monroe, warts and all, without making your perceptions of Monroe too altered yet giving you an extra dimension to consider.

It isn’t just the story of Marilyn Monroe. It is the story of film making and Monroe as one of the first cluster of women who tried to break through the glass ceiling of an industry long considered a boys club.

Marilyn Monroe is a fascinating read.

Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming is available now.

35 Stars

High on RebellionTitle: High On Rebellion – Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City

Pages: 287 Pages

Publisher: Open Road Media

The Blurb

With a foreword by Lou Reed: The definitive oral history of Max’s Kansas City, favorite hangout of the most outrageous and notorious characters of New York’s 1960s and ’70s underground cultural scene

From its opening in December 1965 on Park Avenue South, Max’s Kansas City, a hybrid restaurant, bar, nightclub, and art gallery, was the boisterous meeting spot for famous—or soon-to-be-famous—figures in New York’s underground art, music, literary, film, and fashion scenes. Max’s regulars included Andy Warhol (and his superstars such as Viva, Ultra Violet, Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga, Holly Woodlawn, and Candy Darling), Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Jane Fonda, and dozens more. A hotbed of drugs, sex, and creative collaboration, Max’s was the place to see and be seen among the city’s cultural elite for nearly two decades.

With reminiscences from the likes of Alice Cooper, Bebe Buell, Betsey Johnson, Leee Black Childers, Holly Woodlawn, and John Chamberlain, along with Max’s owner Mickey Ruskin and several waitresses and bartenders, this vivid oral history evokes an unforgettable place where a spontaneous striptease, a brawl over the meaning of art, and an early performance by the Velvet Underground were all possibilities on any given night. High on Rebellion dazzles with rare photos and other Max’s memorabilia, and firsthand accounts of legendary nights, chance encounters, romances sparked and extinguished, and stars being born.

The Review

Music scenes are usually synonymous with places – in particular, clubs. Mersey Beat with the Cavern in Liverpool, Indie pop with Leeds during the noughties and Punk with New York – in particular clubs like CBGBs. One club that I didn’t know a lot about was Max’s Kansas City. I had heard about it, sure, any self respecting fan of music will have come across it in the annals of history but I didn’t know its diverse and fascinating history.

When I came across High on Rebellion on NetGalley I knew I had to jump at the chance to read it. Wow. Part biography of owner Mickey Ruskin and part biography of the club, High on Rebellion makes me so sad that I wasn’t part of that music scene. That I was born 30 years after it took place. If the walls of Max’s Kansas City could talk then they probably would have written this book. The book gives you insights from the people who frequented the club, people who grew up, who loved and who lived there. It has a level of truth because it isn’t written from a third party perspective.

High on Rebellion is a fascinating read and is a staple text for anyone with a love of music and the scenes in which they encapsulate.

High On Rebellion by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin is available now.

For more information regarding Open Road Media (@OpenRoadMedia) please visit www.openroadmedia.com.

35 Stars

byronTitle: Byron – A Poet Dangerous to Know

Author: Geoffrey Trease

Pages: 165 Pages

Publisher: Endeavour Press

The Blurb

“A poet dangerous to know,” said Lady Caroline Lamb, infatuated with Lord Byron

As were many others, both in fact and in fancy, for he was a man who had the misfortune to become a legend in his own time.

It was largely a scandalous legend.

The reputed improprieties of his life have continued to shadow his name and obscure the details of what was in essence a tragic story.

Born of an unhappy marriage, lame from infancy, reared in an uncomfortable mixture of poverty and grandeur, Byron was also gifted, spectacularly handsome, and a peer, attributes which ensured his entry into fashionable London society.

He was headstrong, brave almost to recklessness, and proud, a storm-centre wherever he went, his complex character an enigma both to his admirers and detractors.

Geoffrey Trease traces Byron’s turbulent career, outlining with tact and clarity the varied relationships that formed his character and ordered his life from its deprived beginning to his untimely death, mourned by Greek patriots and a handful of loyal and devoted friends.

He relates the poet’s work to the events that inspired and enriched them.

Byron’s poems are so interwoven with his personal life that they are often incomprehensible by themselves, and Byron’s human relationships must be explained as well as his foreign travels and romantic death.

The Review

I’m not a lover of reading poetry. It hurts me to say that because I do love reading and I’m an old romantic at heart but I have never really fallen in love with poetry as an art form. However, as a craft I absolutely adore it. I love getting to the nitty gritty of a poem and basking in the cleverness of the writer. I get to do this a lot because I work in a high school and I am often involved in poetry lessons.

This year I discovered the poetry of Byron. It is actually quite shocking that it took me 33 years but hey ho, what can you do?  I found his work captivating so when the option came up to read about his fascinating and scandalous life I jumped at the chance.

Byron A Poet Dangerous To Know is a brilliant guide to all things Byron. The book delves into his life, his loves, his family history and all the little things that made Byron tick. Trease’s writing style made the biography very readable. Never did I feel too bogged down by information and it almost felt like the biography read as a novel but then Byron’s life was lived in quite a dramatic and entertaining fashion that I am not surprised by this.

If you are new to Byron’s poetry then I would definitely recommend giving Geoffrey Trease’s book a read.

Byron A Poet Dangerous To Know by Geoffrey Trease is available now.

For more information regarding Endeavour Press (@EndeavourPress) please visit www.endeavourpress.com.4-stars