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Book Review: by Lang Reid
Newport is the author of the Vampire of Siam series, but has gone from the
vault of the dead to the electrifying life of Jimi Hendrix, best remembered
for the number Purple Haze and for drug abuse (as did most of the recording
artists in those days - see the wonderful book Black Vinyl, White Powder by
Newport has had first hand experience of Jimi Hendrix, working as a band
photographer in the 1970’s, and the book introduces many of the famous names
from that era. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and especially Brian Jones,
Eric Burdon and the Animals and even Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees.
Chasing Jimi (ISBN 978-974-07-1940-3, Willat Publishing, 2008) follows Jimi
Hendrix from 1966 to 1967 with a semi-factual but still wonderfully fanciful
tale of drug induced ‘haze’ and probably ‘purple’ with a pair of goons
chasing Jimi and finally stealing his Stratocaster guitar to bring him face
to face with Sid Gannet, a music agent with a prior contract with Hendrix
when he was still a struggling performer called Jimmy James. Gannet is
obviously modeled on Ed Chalpin, a real agent with a real prior contract.
The action is fast paced and the fictional characters well drawn. The ‘real’
characters are also described in period, such as this one on Brian Jones,
“Brian was dressed in eighteenth century finery, velvet frock coat, white
frilled blouse. Topped off with a purple feathered boa.” Remember Carnaby
Street? If you are old enough, then you will.
Jimi’s penchant for setting fire to his guitars is given a star billing in
the book, with one of his Stratocasters playing a leading role. Jimi Hendrix
actually did set fire to many guitars on stage, so again author Jim Newport
has taken a fact and woven it into his fictional (but inherently believable)
If you attended the Monterey Festival in 1967, as the author obviously did,
you would remember the three days, opened on the Friday with Lew Rawls, Eric
Burdon and the (New) Animals and Simon and Garfunkel, followed on the
Saturday by the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane and Booker T and the MGs. The
finale was the Sunday with Pete Townsend and The Who vying with Jimi for who
should go first, eventually settled by the toss of a coin, but of course
giant egos such as theirs would not be satisfied by chance.
I have to admit that the Vampire of Siam series by this author was not my
favorite pieces of literature and when ‘Chasing Jimi’ arrived on the
reviewer’s table I ignored it for a few weeks; however, when I opened it and
began reading, I found I was enthralled. Sure, it is a work of ‘faction’ but
it has so much of the color of the era and the performers of the day woven
into the dramatic story that it ‘could’ be true. And much of it is!
At B. 599, it is a reasonably heavy ticket for what is in many ways a
lightweight book, but I did enjoy it. If you can remember Woodstock, you
will enjoy this book.
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