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Flatbush Flashback

John Lennon, James Patterson, and the Hired Elves

John Lennon, James Patterson, and the Hired Elves.

Ad that ran on the back page of The New York Times Book Review.

 

I come here to neither bury nor praise James Patterson. I've not read his latest book, The Last Days of John Lennon, nor do I intend to. I don't read books written by elves who toil in Patterson's word factory, no matter how closely he oversees their work. Patterson is more brand name than author, and the elves in this case are named Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. I assume they researched and wrote the book based on Patterson's outline and guidance.

 

My only interest in Patterson's (for simplicity's sake I'll refer to the three authors by their brand name) heavily promoted "true-crime story," as he calls The Last Days, is that my book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is cited in the notes. Naturally I was curious to see what scrap of information Patterson gleaned from my book.

 

The note section of Patterson's book is extensive. Virtually every fragment of information throughout The Last Days is attributed to a source. The Nowhere Man note is from Chapter 43. It says:

 

Playboy magazine: Robert Rosen, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon (New York, Soft Skull Press, 2000), 180.

 

This isn't quite correct. Playboy magazine is mentioned on page 180 of the Quick American Archives edition, not the Soft Skull Press edition—a sloppy, though hardly tragic, mistake.

 

But sloppy research may also be apparent in the full-page back-cover ad for the book that recently appeared in The New York Times Book Review. In the ad, Patterson writes that the day after Lennon's murder, "I was in the huge, sad crowd gathered in Central Park." He seems to be referring to the vigil that took place December 14, six days after the murder.

 

I'm not usually a nitpicker when it comes to this kind of thing. And having made my share of factual mistakes in my own books, each one invariably pointed out by concerned readers, I understand just how easy (and human) it is to err. But considering that the two things I looked at—an endnote and a prominent newspaper ad—contained factual mistakes, I think it's an indication that the sloppy research is widespread, and that Patterson needs to hire a few more elves to do his fact checking.

 

The scrap of information he gleaned from Nowhere Man is straightforward: Lennon's assassin, Mark David Chapman, bought, at the Sheraton Center Hotel on Seventh Avenue, a copy of Playboy featuring an interview with John Lennon.

 

The scene is more or less mirrored in Chapter 43 of The Last Days, describing how Chapman gets into a cab, goes to the Sheraton Center, and buys Playboy and a copy of The Catcher in the Rye at a bookstore near the hotel.

 

Curiously, Patterson adds a fictional B-movie element to the scene: He has the cabdriver say to Chapman, "Get in, bud."

 

The book begins on December 6, 1980, with Chapman flying to New York from Hawaii. Patterson also adds some fictional elements to this scene. He has Chapman sitting in a cloud of cigarette smoke looking at his handgun permit.

 

I assume such fictional elements are pervasive, and I'll leave it to others to decide if Patterson achieved his goal of telling "a story that's almost impossible to stop reading," as he says in the ad. I was able to put the book down where I found it in the bookstore. I know the story well—too well. It's been told in about 400 other Lennon biographies, many of which I read when I was writing Nowhere Man. I feel no need to hear it again, as told by hired elves.

________

My latest book, Bobby in Naziland, is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you should (and probably can) buy it again.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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It Was 40 Years Ago Today

 

John Lennon left us 40 years ago, on December 8. We're fast approaching the day, sometime in February 2021, when he'll have been gone longer than he was with us. As time continues to pass at an ever-accelerating pace, I find myself looking back, as I often do at this time of year, on the night when the unthinkable happened.
 

Like John, I was a compulsive diary keeper. Below are two excerpts from my diary from the days immediately after John's murder. Both excerpts appear in Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. The "Fred" I refer to is Fred Seaman, John's personal assistant. The book I mention would, 18 years later, become Nowhere Man.

 

I post these excerpts now to share with you a sense of what it was like at a time when the world changed and my own life would never be the same.

 

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12/9/80 John Lennon was killed last night. At around 7:00 I'd smoked the last bit of dope Fred had given me, my "Lennon Dope." I looked at those crumbs in the bag and said, "What the fuck am I saving this for, sentimental reasons? This stuff is for getting stoned." It was Jim Morrison's birthday and I was listening to a Doors special on WPLJ. When news of the murder came over the radio, all I felt was a chill. Around 2 A.M. I went down to the Dakota. I felt it was important to observe the scene. I shed a few tears, I couldn't help it. God help you, John Lennon. Thank you for touching my life. At 5 A.M, when I got home, I tried to call Fred at the Dakota. I got the accountant. He said Fred wasn't available. I said, "Tell him I called and that I'm sorry." There was nothing to say then and there's nothing to say now. There is only sickness in a sick world.

 

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Yet as I absorbed the unfolding events, I couldn't help but consider my own role in them.

 

12/10/80 I'm an eyewitness to history. I would not be human if I were not fascinated by Lennon's death. My perfectly human desire is to want to be part of the scene, to be part of history. There is a possibility Fred will ask me to begin work on the book. He called this morning to say he's quitting his job at the end of the week to begin writing it. "It's what John wants," he said. "John knew he was going to die and he poured his heart out to me. He knew I was working on a book." I'm not going to ask to participate in this project. If I'm not part of it, my life will go on as it has. But if Fred does ask me, there's no way I can say no. I believe I can execute such a project in a spirit true to John Lennon's memory.

 

I hope that Nowhere Man is sufficient proof that the last sentence is correct.

________

My latest book, Bobby in Naziland, is available on Amazon and all other online booksellers, as well as at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore, where you should (and probably can) buy it.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or my eternally embryonic Instagram.

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