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Flatbush Flashback

Into the Unknown

The above trailer for my recent interview with the Spanish digital magazine and podcast Lo Desconocido (The Unknown) is a reminder that I've been talking about Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon for 23 years.

 

Conducted in Spanish and English, the interview is available on Ivoox and Spotify and will appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine. Sergio Ramos of Lo Desconocido asked the questions and my friend Diego Harris translated.

 

Along with the usual questions—Are you a Beatles fan? Why did you write the book? What was your impression of Lennon's dairies?—Ramos asked one I'd never heard before: Do you think Lennon's diaries may be as important as the classified files about the Kennedy assassination?

 

Here's my answer, edited for clarity:

 

It's been almost 60 years since JFK was assassinated, and the classified files having to do with his murder still have not been completely declassified. I don't know if they will be in our lifetime, or ever, but if they say that the CIA was behind the assassination, as some people believe, that would be earthshaking. What the files and diaries have in common is that President Kennedy and John Lennon were major historical figures. Lennon and Ono were working very hard to project a certain image to the world. That's what their Double Fantasy album was about—projecting an image of a happy, eccentric family, with John as the househusband bringing up Sean and baking bread.

 

Lennon was one of the most influential people of the 20th century, in music, fashion, consciousness, and religion, among other things. Because of his profound global influence, the gap between the image he was trying to project and the flawed human being who came across in the diaries is important. The world should know who John was and what really happened (just as they should know what really happened to Kennedy). That was one of the reasons I wrote Nowhere Man. I think in certain ways Lennon is more important than Kennedy because he was more influential. I'm not sure what kind of lasting influence Kennedy had on the world other than projecting an image of a vital young American president. I was 11 years old when he was killed. It was certainly shocking and it affected my view of reality. It showed me that these things can happen. But unlike Lennon, Kennedy had no real influence on my life. I wasn't interested in politics. Lennon's influence continues, more so today than Kennedy's… a lot more so. The thing that joins them forever in our consciousness is the shock and trauma of these two extremely famous men being gunned down in the prime of their life, which I discuss in some detail in A Brooklyn Memoir.

________

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When Crosby, Stills & Nash Came to Flatbush

Marquee of the Kings Theatre, May 2015. Photo © Mary Lyn Maiscott.

 

Though I tend not to wax nostalgic over dead musicians, even those whose music contributed to the soundtrack of my formative years, I was surprised at the surge of emotion I felt upon hearing about the death of David Crosby of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young).

 

Yes, Déjà Vu was an album I played to death in the early 1970s, and Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" was a personal anthem back when I was living with my parents and they were incessantly telling me, "Cut your hair! You look like a damn freak!" I very much liked his lyric about the paranoia he felt when he looked in his rearview mirror and saw a police car. Because those were the days when my freaky hairdo was a magnet for police attention, and I couldn't so much as drive around the block without getting pulled over for a "routine" license and registration check.

 

I should also mention a fond memory of smoking hash in my bedroom with a couple of friends and hearing for the first time CSNY's take on Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" come over the radio, with Crosby providing those ethereal harmonies and rhythm guitar, and thinking that a song never sounded so good.

 

But whatever emotions I've been feeling about Crosby probably have more to do with the last time I saw Crosby, Stills & Nash, in May 2015, when I'd gone back to Brooklyn to meet some old high school classmates for dinner. They all had tickets to see CSN at the Kings Theatre (formerly the Loew's Kings), which was down the street from our high school, Erasmus. I didn't even know they were playing there that night.

 

In A Brooklyn Memoir, I describe the Kings as "one of the rococo, multi-tiered Flatbush Avenue movie palaces," where for 50 cents I'd often satisfy my taste for Godzilla, vampires, and James Bond, and once saw the Three Stooges make a live appearance. (Moe was an Erasmus dropout.)

 

Since I fled Brooklyn in 1975, the Kings, after falling into disrepair, had been restored to a sumptuous entertainment venue equal to its original 1929 magnificence. And it was surreal to walk down Flatbush Avenue and see "Crosby Stills & Nash" on a marquee where I was more accustomed to seeing such offerings as The Three Stooges in Orbit.

 

In any case, I bought tickets to see CSN that night, sat in the balcony with my wife, and listened to one of my all-time favorite bands, still in fine voice considering what they (especially Crosby) had been through, open with "Carry On," and play, among other classics, "Long Time Gone," "Déjà Vu," "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and, yes, "Almost Cut My Hair" (which it's no longer necessary to tell me to do).

 

And that's why surprisingly poignant emotions have been welling up over a musician I never met, but who touched my life, and in the final phase of his own life came to my old neighborhood to sing his songs.

________

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Eleanor Rosen Is Alive and Living in West Palm

 

I describe my mother, Eleanor Rosen, one of the main characters in A Brooklyn Memoir, as an obsessively clean housekeeper, an excellent cook, a lover of art and literature, a hater of Nazis, and a status-conscious woman who was dissatisfied with her lower-middle-class life in a shabby apartment on East 17th Street in 1950s and 60s Flatbush.

 

Today she resides in an assisted-living facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, and last week my wife, Mary Lyn Maiscott, my cousin Mark Coplon, and I visited her. Such visits are emotionally difficult, mostly because my mother is unhappy being "in an institution," as she puts it, and would like to live with my brother, Jerry, or me, which would be impossible. She's having memory issues and problems walking; she'd require a full-time aide. Even putting aside the cost of such an endeavor, neither Jerry nor I have enough space.

 

A conversation with my mother goes something like this:

 

"How old am I?"

 

"You're 96, Mom."

 

"That's old. Do you think I'll make it to a hundred?"

 

"Could happen."

 

"Would you ever move to Florida? I'd feel so much better knowing you were near me."

 

"Our lives are in New York, Mom, but we'll visit you as much as we can. And so will Jerry and Cindy."

 

To distract my mother from her obsessions, we went outside to the patio, where I showed her the copy of A Brooklyn Memoir that I'd brought with me. Despite her failing eyesight, she recognized my father and me on the cover, and that the photo was taken, probably by her, on Church Avenue and East 17th, down the block from my father's candy store. Then I read her favorite passage, which begins, "Say what you will about my mother. She knew how to cook, and must be given full credit for her near-supernatural ability to transform the most ordinary cut of meat or low-budget piece of fish into something delicious."

 

Mark-Coplon.jpg My cousin Mark Coplon, a drummer in The Nickel Bag back in the day.

 

Later, Mary Lyn took out her guitar and sang for my mother, as Mark, who back in the day was a drummer in a suburban garage band called The Nickel Bag, drummed on the tabletop. My mother then looked up into the cloudless Florida sky and saw two hawks circling above us. It reminded her of a lyric from Oklahoma, which she and my father saw on Broadway before I was born. She asked Mary Lyn if she could play the title song from the show. So that's what Mary Lyn played. My mother remembered the words, and we all sang together:

 

Oklahoma, every night my honey lamb and I

Sit alone and talk
And watch a hawk

Making lazy circles in the sky.

 

And for a moment my mother was happy.

________

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The Day They Hanged Eichmann

Schoolkids in June Zero reading an Israeli tabloid featuring Adolf Eichmann on the cover. Photo courtesy of the New York Jewish Film Festival and Film at Lincoln Center.

 

In 1960, the Mossad kidnapped Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution, off a Buenos Aires street and spirited him back to Israel, where he was tried, convicted of crimes against humanity, sentenced to death, and in 1962, hanged. Israeli authorities wanted to quickly cremate the Gestapo colonel and scatter his ashes at sea before his family could claim the body. They didn't want Eichmann's grave to become a Nazi shrine. But the Jewish religion at the time forbade cremation, and there were no crematoria in Israel. June Zero, an extraordinary film directed by Jake Paltrow, tells the story of how a crematorium was built specifically for Eichmann. There's not a wasted frame or moment that doesn't matter in this intertwining tale of a young Jewish Arab who works at the furnace factory where the crematorium is built; a prison official who guards Eichmann; and an Israeli policeman, a Holocaust survivor, who interrogated Eichmann.

 

June Zero, the "date," according to Israeli officials, that Eichmann was hanged, serves as a sequel to Operation Finale, the 2018 film about Eichmann's capture, and is a parallel story to the Eichmann section of my book A Brooklyn Memoir, about how the people of Flatbush, a neighborhood where many Holocaust survivors lived, reacted to Eichmann's capture, trial, and execution.

 

In Hebrew and English with English subtitles.

________

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Song of the Year

If you've read any of my books and gotten as far as "About the Author" (last page of Nowhere Man), then you know I'm married to Mary Lyn Maiscott, whom I call the Mistress of Syntax because, among other household chores, she edits my books. Mary Lyn is also a singer-songwriter who's been performing and recording for decades. Last year, after the horrendous shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which yet another emotionally disturbed man was able to get his hands on an AR-15, in this case murdering 21 students and teachers at the Robb Elementary School, Mary Lyn was so outraged and upset, she was moved to write a song about it.

 

"Alithia's Flowers (Children of Uvalde)" was inspired by Alithia Ramirez, a 10-year-old artist who was among the victims. Mary Lyn used one of Alithia's flower drawings for the cover art.

 

The song had gotten some radio play on Michael J Mand's St. James Infirmary show, on OWWR, at Old Westbury College, on Long Island. For his Album of the Year broadcast, Michael chose "Alithia's Flowers (Children of Uvalde)" as Song of the Year. Mary Lyn is among some excellent company, including Jethro Tull, John Mellencamp, Timothy B. Schmit, Janis Ian, and the Rolling Stones.

 

You can listen to the song and Michael's hearfelt introduction on the above player, beginning at 2:44:30. Or listen to the whole show. Michael, as usual, has selected some really good music.

 

Here's hoping that 2023 will inspire Mary Lyn to record a happier Song of the Year.

________

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When Critics Disagree

"When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself," Oscar Wilde said in his best-known book, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I've always liked that quote because I think it's true, especially when applied to my best-known book, Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. Though the majority of critics have showered Nowhere Man with praise, a vocal minority have insisted that the book is "useless," "redundant," "poorly written," and that "it hardly qualifies as a book." A number of these negative reviews begin with words to the effect of, "I don't need to read this book, I know what it says."

 

Well, I appreciate their disagreement, but for my final post of 2022, I'm going to look back at some of the positive reviews Nowhere Man has garnered. Below are 22 years of pull quotes from newspapers, magazines, websites, TV shows, and radio shows from all over the world.

 

Happy New Year to all my readers, especially those who read my books before posting reviews!

...

"A gripping read that no Lennon fan will be able to resist." The Times (London)


"Controversial... intriguing... surprising." —Court TV

 

"An obsessive, corrosive, unforgettable account of Lennon and his ménage at the Dakota. Even readers who never bought the airbrushed image of Lennon the benign father and house-husband are likely to experience powerful cognitive dissonance as they read Rosen's chronicle of weirdness, in which the tragic and the absurd are inextricably mixed." Christianity Today

 

"Rather like re-reading a favorite detective story... though you know how the story's going to end, you still wind up willing the events to unfold differently." Mojo

 

"You feel like you are inside The Dakota with John Lennon and Yoko Ono." —HuffPost

 

"Captures with disturbing immediacy the pressure of being a celebrity… flirts with brilliance." Chicago Reader

 

"Entertainingly salacious." Booklist

 

"After reading this book I felt an affinity for Lennon; his life with all its torments, joys and pains was real to me." Vision

 

"Robert Rosen's gripping account of Lennon's five-year seclusion in the Dakota building makes it impossible any longer to agree with the cozy popular image of him during this period as a devoted father and bread-baking domesticated househusband. This is a portrait of... the twilight of an idol." Uncut

 

"A fascinating story.... A shocking biography." Proceso (Mexico)

 

"One of the most sincere and brutal biographies ever written." —iLeon.com (Spain)

 

"What makes this book valuable is the sense that Rosen is providing as honest a characterization as possible—honest enough so that, in spite of Lennon's quirks and foibles, his genius ultimately shines through." Metroland

 

"Eminently readable, whether you're a fan or not.... An excellent, beautifully written book." Chaotic Order (U.K.)

 

"We become privy to first-hand knowledge about Lennon's final days which has never before seen the light of day... this book makes for engrossing reading." Beat (Australia)

 

"The manuscript is so personal that one would think John Lennon himself was telling Rosen exactly what to write." —Shu-Izmz

 

"One of the most fascinating insights in Robert Rosen's book is that John knew that he, in the last half of the Seventies, exercised his greatest power to the extent that he wasn't seen; he was beyond success; he had achieved such fame that his five-year silence hummed more loudly than, say, any of Paul McCartney's appearances in People magazine." Oakland University Journal

 

"A fast-paced demystification of a former Beatle. An essential book." Últimas Noticias (Venezuela)

 

"One of the best books on the life (and death) of John Lennon." ABC (Spain)

________

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Blue Lights

Nowhere Man and Beaver Street are both dedicated to my wife and editor, Mary Lyn Maiscott, whom I call the Mistress of Syntax. She's also a singer-songwriter. This is a lyric video of her Christmas song, "Blue Lights," that she released in 2007. It's about her parents' World War II romance and features photos of them from that era. The song begins: "He was 25, she was just 23..."

 

The video was created by Christine Haire in celebration of the 15th anniversary of Mary Lyn's album, Blue Lights.

 

You can hear more of her music at marylynmaiscott.com.

 

Happy holidays to all!

________

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In My Own Write

This is the introduction to the new edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.

 

Forty years ago, when I sat down to write this book, I could not have imagined that it would take 18 years to find a publisher. But it did. I filled a filing cabinet with rejections, all of them expressing fear—of lawsuits, of the reading public's having little interest in John Lennon, and of my inability to provide documented proof that what I'd written was true.

 

Then… something happened. Maybe the stars and planets finally lined up—that's what Lennon and Yoko Ono would have said.

 

Soft Skull Press, a tiny independent operating out of a tenement basement on New York's Lower East Side, made an offer for Nowhere Man. They loved that the book was "controversial"; they understood that it was more than a standard Lennon biography; and they played the media with an impressive combination of skill and audacity. Nowhere Man became an object of global fascination, and when Soft Skull published it in the summer of 2000, I found myself transformed from an obscure middle-aged writer to an author with an international bestseller in multiple languages. Those were the days.

 

Nowhere Man exists because five months after Lennon was murdered, his personal assistant Fred Seaman handed me the diaries the ex-Beatle had been keeping for the last six years of his life and told me to turn it into a book—it's what John had told him to do, he said.

 

So there it was, the old literary trope: an "ordinary man" in an "extraordinary situation." Did I take at face value what Seaman told me? Yes. Was this naïve? Obviously. Did I recognize the moment as a life-changing occasion? No, I saw it as a job, and I went forward without doubt or hesitation. Of course I wanted to turn Lennon's diaries into a book. I was a writer looking for a story, and the story of the Beatles was the story of my generation.

 

Today I think Lennon's diaries were a rough draft of the memoir he never had a chance to complete.

 

Today I think Lennon's diaries were a rough draft of the memoir he never had a chance to complete. He put everything in there—the gossip, the fear, the rage, the insanity, the insecurity, the inspiration, the love, and the hate… all the emotions and contradictions that made Lennon who he was. And it was up to me to turn this disjointed mass of raw material into a coherent narrative. I was inspired. But before I could finish—and this is the story behind the book, which I detail in the next chapter—everything I was working on was taken from me.

 

Nowhere Man has provoked a number of people to ask what right I had to reveal the personal information in a man's private diaries. I've often asked myself the same question. Many times over the 18 years that the book remained in limbo I tried to walk away from it, to forget it, to get on with my life. But the story in John's diaries kept calling me back—it demanded to be told. So, when Lennon's spirit moved me, I worked on the book, matching fragments of information that turned up on the public record with what I knew to be true from the diaries. I was constantly adding to the manuscript, refining it, and somehow infusing it with the energy Lennon transmitted in his daily scribblings.

 

But there were crucial facts that I was unable to confirm from the public record or from speaking with people who knew John. That's where an aspect of this book that has sent certain readers into a state of spluttering apoplexy comes into play: I wrote in the author's note, "Nowhere Man is a work of investigative journalism and imagination."

 

I want to emphasize that I used my imagination not to simply make things up, but as a fictional technique that allowed me to get closer to the truth than if I'd written a conventional biography. I applied this technique most frequently in the "Dream Power" chapter, about Lennon's efforts to "program" his dreams. Details of many of those dreams have never appeared anywhere outside his diaries. In those cases I used my imagination to create parallel dreams that approximated the feeling of his real dreams—though in this  edition, the Barbara Walters dream is essentially real, a partial description having turned up on the Internet several years ago.

 

Nowhere Man, then, is a journey through Lennon's consciousness, a view of the world through his eyes.

 

But did I have the right to tell this story?

 

But did I have the right to tell this story? All I can say is that John Lennon was a historical figure, the information in his diaries was of historical value, and an extraordinary circumstance allowed me to be a conduit of that information. Had I chosen to not publish Nowhere Man, this story would not have been told in my lifetime, if ever. So I made a decision: I chose to put the story out there.

 

If you're uncomfortable with that, you may want to put this book down and pick up one of the multitude of authorized Lennon biographies. But if you prefer a book written by one of the few people outside John's inner circle to have read his diaries, you can stay with this revised, expanded, and updated Nowhere Man. I've done my best to give you the truth as I know it.

________

Buy Nowhere Man on Amazon or Bookshop. If you'd like a signed copy, e-mail me here for details.

 

A Brooklyn Memoir is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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



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The Final Frontier

 

You can now buy the new edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon at any brick-and-mortar bookstore. That's the final frontier of its distribution: The paperback and e-book are available everywhere books are sold, online or off.

 

Of course, it's always good to support your local indie bookstore, and indiebound.org will direct you to one in your neighborhood.

 

My personal favorite indie is Subterranean Books, in St. Louis. One of the last live events I did, back in October 2019, before the onset of the pandemic, was a reading from Bobby in Naziland (since re-released as A Brooklyn Memoir) at Subterranean. The enthusiastic crowd bought enough books to put Bobby in Naziland on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch bestseller list, and the staff was so happy with the way the evening went, they invited me to come back.

 

I was going to return in October 2020 to read from Nowhere Man on what would have been Lennon's 80th birthday. But this thing called Covid forced me to cancel. Now, here it is December 2022—on the eve of a sad day filled with reminders of what happened to John 42 years ago—and I've still not returned to St. Louis.

 

I'm going to make a New Year's resolution: In 2023, I will again do live events. And assuming they still want me back, one of those events will be a celebration of John Lennon and the new edition of Nowhere Man at Subterranean Books.

 

To all my friends and family in St. Louis and environs, I will see you there. Details to be announced in 2023.

________

A Brooklyn Memoir is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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

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Your Personalized Inscription Here

 

Should you be in the market for a personalized gift for a Beatles fan or somebody who appreciates a good book, may I suggest a signed copy of the updated edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon.

 

That's my hand in the above photo demonstrating where I'll inscribe the book to your specifications. If this exclusive offer interests you, write to me here and I'll tell you where to send your check or money order for the unbeatable price of $16 if you live in the U.S. Unfortunately, I'm not set up for 21st century e-commerce so we'll have to do this the old fashioned way.

 

If you'd like a signed copy of any of my other books, that can also be arranged.

________

My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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

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Ever Widening Availablility

As promised last week, the updated and expanded e-book edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is now available from Barnes & Noble and Scribd. You can download it from B&N by clicking on the above image, and you can read it on Scribd by clicking here. Scribd, for those unfamiliar with it, is a digital library offering unlimited access to e-books, audiobooks, and magazines for a monthly subscription of $11.99.

 

If you'd like a signed copy of Nowhere Man, A Brooklyn Memoir, or Bobby in Naziland please contact me by clicking here and I'll send you the details.

________

My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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

 

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Now Available From Apple and Kobo

The updated and expanded edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon continues to reach more online bookstores. It's now available as an Apple e-book, which you can download by clicking on the cover, and as a Kobo e-book, which you can download by clicking here.

 

Soon it will also be available from Barnes & Noble and Scribd. The final frontier, of course, is your local book store, and in due time you'll be able to find the paperback edition there, as well.

 

Stay tuned for more updates on the availability of Nowhere Man.

________

My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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

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The Rosen Oeuvre

 

Talking with Emerson Souza, host of the Hear Some Evil podcast, is kind of like hanging out at a bar and getting into a stimulating conversation with the knowledgeable stranger sitting on the barstool next to you. Souza originally told me that he was interested in discussing Beaver Street, my book about the history of pornography. But we ended up talking for two hours about my other books, too: an updated edition of my classic John Lennon bio Nowhere Man, which was just re-released, and A Brooklyn Memoir, a darkly comic tale about growing up in Flatbush in the 1950s and 60s, surrounded by Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who fought the Nazis. In short, Souza and I covered the entire Rosen oeuvre, and you can listen to our conversation if you click on "Play," above.

________

My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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

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The Director's Cut

 

The best way to get a sense of how the new edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon has changed from previous editions is to take a look at the table of contents. For one thing, this is the first English-language edition to have a table of contents.

 

In addition to the new introduction, "In My Own Write," which grapples with many of the obstacles I had to overcome before Nowhere Man could be published, most of the new material can be found in Part V, "Afterlife." In these chapters I delve into such things as conspiracy theories and the absurd lengths that certain compromised people in the media and law enforcement went to in an effort to derail the book's publication. There's also an extended exchange I had with Bill Harry, founding editor of Mersey Beat, the first newspaper to cover the Beatles and to publish Lennon's poetry and prose.

 

Throughout Nowhere Man there are countless refinements, updates, corrections, additions, and clarifications. You can look at this new edition as the "director's cut." Here's the complete table of contents.

 

CONTENTS

 

In My Own Write xi

 

PRELUDE

John Lennon's Diaries 3
Jerusalem Fantasy 11


PART I
DAKOTA 1980

 Being Rich 15
That Magic Feeling 20
Sean 25
The Lunatic Incident 27
Answered Prayers 29
Cold Turkey 35
Macrobiotic Perfection 37
The Servant Problem 39
After Breakfast 47
Dream Power 49
Afternoon 53
Lennon's Complaint 62
The Occult Arts 64
The Book of Numbers 67
The Cards According to Swan 80
Beatle Economics 86
Money 90
His Finest Hour 97
People I Remember 101

 

PART II
GETTING CENTERED

Interlude at El Solano 107
The Visitors 112
Happy Birthday Dear Yoko 115
Imagine 116
Jude 117
Born Again 121
Going Back to New York City 123
Cannon Hill 124
A Plan 127
Vow of Silence 129
Cape Town 131
Voyage to Bermuda 134
Knapton Hill 137
Villa Undercliffe 138
American Tourist 140
Night Life 145
Birth of a Song 147
Mother's Arrival 151
Inspiration 154
Madonna and Child 158


PART III
THE FINAL DAYS

Double Fantasy 161
Media Blitz 167
Geffen's the One 169
October 9 170
Completion 173
Ecstasy 174
Life After Double Fantasy 175
Yoko Only 179
Weekend 181
12/8/80 182
The Best Is Yet to Be 183


PART IV
THE CODA 1980–1981

The City on the Edge of Time 187
Young Man with a Goal 191
What Would Holden Do? 193
The Diagnosis 204
God's Decision 207
Chapter 27 209
Dakota Fantasy 214


PART V
AFTERLIFE

Aftermath 217
Strawberry Fields Forever 228
And the Mersey Beat Goes On 229
The Unfinished Life of John Lennon 238
An Open Letter to G. Barry Golson 242
A Question of Conspiracy 250
The Book That Cannot Be 254
(Just Like) Starting Over 258
How It Began 259

 

Sources 261
Index 263
About the Author 279

________

My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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The Kindle Edition Is Here

 

The new Nowhere Man, the first update to the print edition in 20 years and to the Kindle edition since 2015, is slowly working its way into distribution channels. The Kindle became available this week. You can preview or download it by clicking on the buttons above.

 

In additions to updates, corrections, and clarifications, the book contains six new chapters, including Mersey Beat founding editor Bill Harry's interview with me; a discussion of conspiracy theories surrounding John Lennon's murder; and "In My Own Write," a new introduction, available in the preview, that grapples with the question: Did I have the right to tell this story? Check out the table of contents to see what else is new.

 

In the coming weeks, the e-book will also be available on Apple Books, Kobo, Scribd, Barnes & Noble, Overdrive, and all other online bookstores. The paperback will be available in your local bookstore in late November.

________

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A Book and Its Covers

 

The front and back covers of the new Nowhere Man paperback, the first updated English-language print edition in 20 years, has certain references and symbols that a casual reader might overlook. Let's begin with the the color red in "Nowhere" and in the background of the front cover. This is a reference to the cover of J. D. Salinger's classic novel of disaffected youth, The Catcher in the Rye, which plays a crucial role in Nowhere Man. Mark David Chapman believed that if he murdered John Lennon he would literally disappear into the pages of Catcher, become the Catcher in the Rye for his generation, and there would be a new chapter of the book, Chapter 27, written in Lennon's blood. At Chapman's court hearing, after he pleaded guilty to murder, he chose to read a passage from Catcher as his way of explaining why he did it.

 

In Nowhere Man, I explore the insanity of what Chapman believed and what he did, and try to make sense of a senseless act that defies rational explanation.

 

The photo of Lennon, which perfectly captures the mood of the book, was shot in Denmark in 1970.

 

The circle and lines on the back cover are a reference to the tarot card the Sun, which portends good fortune, joy, and harmony. Both John and Yoko were deeply into tarot—they had a full-time tarot-card reader, Charlie Swan. In Nowhere Man, I examine their obsession with tarot and other occult practices, including magic, astrology, and numerology.

 

There have been 15 editions of Nowhere Man, in various languages, all with different covers. This cover, designed by Grey Thornberry, I think is the best one yet, and I hope it will entice you to pick up the book.

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My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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Long Time Coming

 

It's been a long time coming but now it's here. For the first time in 20 years, an updated and expanded paperback edition of Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon is available—for the moment exclusively from Amazon, but soon in all the usual online places as well as your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

The 2022 Nowhere Man contains six new chapters, including Mersey Beat founding editor Bill Harry's interview with me; a discussion of conspiracy theories surrounding Lennon's murder; and a new introduction, "In My Own Write," that grapples with the question: Did I have the right to tell this story?

 

You can also check out Robert Rodriguez's interview with me on his podcast, Something About the Beatles. In this episode we talk about Yoko Ono's efforts to suppress unauthorized narratives about her and John, especially those that discuss the information in Lennon's diaries... like Nowhere Man.

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My latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, is available on Amazon, Bookshop, all other online booksellers, and at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore.

 

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Another Fragment of My Father: II

 

This is the kind of document I wish I had when I was writing A Brooklyn Memoir. It's my father's pay record from 1944 and 1945, the final years of World War II, when the 94th Infantry Division had arrived in Nazi Germany as the Third Reich was making its last desperate stand against the advancing and soon to be victorious Allied armies.

 

The pay record contains many details that I was unfamilar with and that would have clarified the chronology of my father's war years, which he only discussed with me in the vaguest terms. I can see, for example, that when he was promoted from private first class (PFC) to corporal (CPL), on September 29, 1945, his salary skyrocketed from $15 per month to $40 per month; that a $6.50 life insurance premium was deducted every month; and that his life was valued at $10,000.

 

Had I known any of this, I'm sure I'd have included it in the book, as it adds another dimension to what my father was going through. Should there be a second edition of A Brooklyn Memoir, I will include it.

 

In the meantime, I offer his pay record as a souvenir of a time when Nazis were America's mortal enemy rather than domestic terrorists who declare themselves patriots and defenders of freedom.

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Another Fragment of My Father

 

World War II and its effect on my father, Irwin Rosen, is one of the main themes of A Brooklyn Memoir. He was an infantyman in General Patton's 94th Division. He marched through France, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and took part in the liberation of a Nazi slave-labor camp. Despite my persistent questions, he never talked about what he experienced in any detail. Everything I learned about what happened to him in the war I learned from somebody else, usually my mother.

 

As a child, I loved looking at my father's war souvenirs, which I describe in the book. Recently, I came across a war souvenir I'd never seen before: his "Special Orders for German-American Relations" (first page depicted above), signed by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, in 1945.

 

His orders were exactly as follows:

 

1. To remember always that Germany, though conquered, is still a dangerous enemy nation.

2. Never to trust Germans, collectively or individually.

3. To defeat German efforts to poison my thoughts or influence my attitude.

4. To avoid acts of violence, except when required by military necessity.

5. To conduct myself at all times so as to command the respect of the German people for myself, for the United States, and for the Allied Cause.

6. Never to associate with Germans.

7. To be fair but firm with Germans.

 

This happened a long time ago. My father would have been 99 September 24. This is another fragment of his life.

________

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Don't Pass Me By Podcast: The Sequel

Don't Pass Me By Podcast: The Sequel

The latest edition of the Don't Pass Me By podcast, with host Bob Wilson, is a deep dive into my book Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. Originally published 22 years ago, the book continues to endure in the popular imagination—because the Lennon I portray is a talented yet flawed human being that we can relate to.

 

By all appearances, in the last years of his life, Lennon was working on a tell-all memoir, and Nowhere Man is the closest we may ever get to the essence of what he'd written. On the podcast, we cover everything from John's jealous rivalry with Paul McCartney to his forceful rejection of a Beatles reunion to his brief acceptance of Jesus.

 

Wilson doesn't hesitate to ask (and I don't hesitate to answer) tough questions about Yoko Ono. It's quite a conversation and we hope you will enjoy the show!

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Don't Pass Me By Podcast

Don't Pass Me By Podcast

The title may be a Beatles reference, but this edition of the Don't Pass Me By podcast, with host Bob Wilson, is all about A Brooklyn Memoir. Bob and I began talking about my old grade school, PS 249, and the third-grade class photo that I ran in the previous blog post, "It's Not Even Past." I told Bob that seven people in that photo, including me, are "characters" in the book.

 

I then talked about how I'd been out of contact with my classmates for more than a half century, and how, a year ago, I received an e-mail inviting me to a mid-pandemic sixth-grade class reunion via Zoom, with many of the same people in my third-grade class. After 50 years, there were my characters, live and on a computer screen.

 

And somehow over the course of the podcast, I babbled on about everything from playing tackle football without equipment in Brooklyn's Parade Grounds to Middle East politics (no, I don't have a solution).

 

This is the first podcast exclusively devoted to A Brooklyn Memoir. I hope you enjoy.

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It's Not Even Past

 

You can just make out the date, 4/25/61, on the rectangular black-and-white identification board in the back of the room, on the right. Most of these people were together from first through sixth grades, and this particular classroom is the setting of a key scene in A Brooklyn Memoir. A chapter titled "The Third Grade: 1960" begins like this:

 

"Does anybody know someone who was in a concentration camp?" our teacher, Mrs. Feinstein, asks the class during a social studies lesson.

 

Daniel Silver is the only one who raises his hand.

 

"Who do you know, Daniel?"

 

"My mother," he says. "She was in Dachau."

 

"Do you know how she survived?"

 

"She could split logs into three even pieces with an axe."

 

"Your mother has a good eye. She's very lucky the Nazis found that useful."

 

This photo demonstrates the inherent truth of William Faulkner's best known line: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

 

I'd been out of contact with my classmates for a half century as I wrote A Brooklyn Memoir. I had no idea what had become of them. I didn't know if they were alive. A Google search revealed nothing.

 

About a year ago, I received an e-mail. My former classmates were organizing a mid-pandemic Zoom reunion. Would I like to reunite?

 

Sometimes the past is best left in the past. This time I welcomed it back.

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How I Found My Voice

How I Found My Voice

 

Shepherd, a new Website that helps people discover their next great read, asked me to put together a list of books that were important to me, and explain why. This was a way to make readers aware of my latest book, A Brooklyn Memoir, which I describe as "darkly comic" and "an unsentimental journey through mid-century Flatbush, where Auschwitz survivors and WWII vets lived side by side and the war lingered like a mass hallucination."

 

I called the list "The best memoirs, essays, and fiction that inspired me to write." It's also a list of books that helped me find my own voice. The most difficult part of putting the list together was limiting it to five books. Those five classics, which you can see above, were written by giants of American literature: Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, and Joseph Heller, who was one of my creative writing instructors at City College.

 

If I could have added a sixth book, it would have been Miller's Black Spring, because A Brooklyn Memoir is, in part, an homage to Miller's journey out of the "damp grime of his Brooklyn youth."

 

Been there.

________

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I'm Just Sitting on a Fence

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Addressing the Ball

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A Day at Riis Park

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Why I Wrote the Book

 

An expanded version of this post appeared on the Oil on Water Press site. The paragraph below is drawn from the afterword of A Brooklyn Memoir.

 

A Brooklyn Memoir is an attempt to make sense of a confusing past that for most of my life I pretended didn't exist. The seeds of A Brooklyn Memoir can be found in the opening pages of my previous book, Beaver Street—a description of the scene in my father's candy store in 1961. As I wrote those pages, I knew that I was only scratching the surface, and that whatever was happening in Flatbush in the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, from the final days of the Brooklyn Dodgers to the arrival of the Beatles, was rich material that demanded further exploration. So I wrote down everything I could remember about that time and place, and when I looked back at the 400 single-spaced pages of notes, fragments, anecdotes, and ideas that had accumulated, what jumped out at me were Nazis—they were everywhere, like in the souvenirs my father brought home from the war and in the numbers on the arms of my neighbors. In one way or another, it was Nazis and the Holocaust that provided much of the inspiration I needed to write this book.

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Can You Dig It?

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Eleanor on the Beach

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Caught in the Spotlight

Caught in the Authors Guild Spotlight

The following interview was posted on the Authors Guild Website.

 

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world?

I became a writer because I wanted to satisfy a primal need to communicate. That's why it's important to me. It's important to the world because the written word is often the best way to tell stories that need to be told.

 

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block?

I don't believe in writer's block. If you're blocked, just start writing anything. Describe the wall in front of your desk. It doesn't matter if it's gibberish. Eventually the right words will come.

 

What is your favorite time to write?

If I have a deadline, first thing in the morning. If I don't have a deadline, I generally hit the computer by noon.

 

Keep a notebook and write in it every day. Make writing seem as natural as breathing.

 

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers?

Keep a notebook and write in it every day. Make writing seem as natural as breathing. That's what my writing professor at City College, Francine du Plessix Gray, told me. And she was right.

 

What excites you most about being a writer in today's age?

Getting published, seeing my book on a bestseller list, and getting paid.

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