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The Weekly Blague

The Origins of Nowhere Man

Below is a transcript, edited for clarity, of a question asked at my event at Subterranean Books in St. Louis. Transcription courtesy of Laurel Zito.


Do you feel that the burglary of your apartment was done by somebody who wanted John Lennon's diaries back or do you think it was just an ordinary burglary?


I know who did it: My old college friend Fred Seaman, John's assistant, the guy who hired me to write the book that 18 years later would become Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. He had the key to my apartment. He was staying there when I was out of town and he had three weeks to go through everything and take what he wanted. John's diaries were the key to the project.


John and Fred were in Bermuda in the summer of 1980. John was putting together the demo tape for his Double Fantasy album. Fred said that John had a premonition of his death, and John told him that if anything should happen him he wanted Fred to write the true story of his life based on whatever material he needed. This is what Fred told me and I accepted it as face value. Years later I learned that Fred had decided at a certain point he was going to sell the diaries as an art object and he didn't need me for that. He was going to make a lot more money that way.


After the burglary I put together a book proposal based on what happened and what I remembered from the diaries. I was going around trying to get a book deal. I went to Playboy because they had that big interview with John and Yoko. I went to Rolling Stone and I met with Jan Wenner, the editor. I told him the story and he believed me but he said he couldn't publish it and that he wanted to save my karma. He told me I needed go to Yoko Ono and tell her the story. So I went to Yoko Ono and she put me on the payroll for six months.


The whole time that I was transcribing John's diaries, and long before that, beginning in 1977, I'd been keeping my own diaries. Everything that had happened since the day John and Yoko hired Fred was in there. Fred's first day on the job, in February 1979, he came to me and said, "Someday we have to write a book about John Lennon." And I said okay. I didn't know when this was going to happen, and for the two years, between when Fred was hired and John was murdered, he was in touch with me at least once a week, and he'd tell me everything that was going on with John and Yoko and their son Sean—how they were traveling to Bermuda or their homes on Long Island and in Palm Beach. For two years I was taking notes in my own diaries, and this is what Ono wanted to see. She told me that she didn't know that John was keeping diaries. I didn't think that was true. In fact I'm sure it wasn't. On some pages in John's diaries, like when he was contemplating having an affair, Yoko had scrawled something like, "Over my dead body." So she obviously knew the diaries existed. She told me that John's diaries were sacred and I shouldn't have read them. That's when she asked if she could read my diaries. I said, "All right, that's only fair. I read John's diaries you can read my diaries."


I brought over 16 volumes of my diaries, about a half-million words. This covered everything from the day Fred was hired until he was fired. We'd sit around her kitchen table, she'd read my diaries and ask me questions about them. She wanted to piece together what Fred was doing this whole time, and my diaries were like an hour-by-hour account. As far as she was concerned Fred did not have the right to take John's diaries. She had him arrested and she got John's diaries back.


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