Greetings amigos! Here is my promised review of Peter Doherty’s edited journals (and other writings) – From Albion To Shangri-La (pub. Thin Man Press). I’m always more than happy to take a look at the output of a fellow Johnny Thunders fan – so, when author/editor Nina Antonia kindly handed me a review copy, I was both inquisitive and excited. Here’s what I found…
Before opening these pages, I only knew Peter Doherty by reputation and tabloid headline. This is not the full picture and, I feel sure, Peter himself is tired of being judged by such criteria. I don’t know if this was a motivation in his decision to release this book (and bravely lay bare his private thoughts and intimate moments to public scrutiny) but I am glad he has done so. Reading this work will allow you to see the real Peter Doherty – in 3D rather than as a media caricature. I was well disposed towards Peter before reading for two reasons – Peter is a fellow Thunders fan (and we happy band – ho ho! – of fellow travellers really do feel a comradeship) and Peter is a cat owner (and, in my world, anyone who is nice to small, furry companion animals is definitely worth knowing). However, I still promise to review From Albion To Shangri-La with complete objectivity. So, here goes!…
The book is as much a triumph for Nina Antonia as it is for Peter Doherty – their collaboration works exceedingly well; both parties bring to the table essential qualities needed to deliver a coherent work. The ‘diaries’ Doherty gave Nina required careful exploration – Peter’s energetic mind and roving imagination had spilled into several carrier bags of inspirational reveries, poetic contemplations, meaningful insights, intriguing anecdotes and contributions from third parties. There were even drawings and illustrations as well! Doing a true editor’s job, Nina had to transcribe, interpret, shape and order the riot of material in a sequence that not only truly reflected Doherty’s character and experience but also made the resulting book accessible to a readership that inevitably covers a broad spectrum from die-hard fans to the casually curious. It is, therefore, wholly appropriate that Nina herself book-ends this book; her introduction at the outset welcomes the reader in and her interview with Peter at the end asks questions that need to be asked. It was very much a labour of love for Nina, who recognises Peter as both a genius and a true artist. Peter Doherty is indeed very fortunate to have Nina Antonia in his corner – she is, without doubt, the foremost rock biographer of our era – and the book succeeds hugely as a result of their partnership.
Thanks to Nina’s diligence, the book is presented in a logical sequence that separates the Journals from the Tour Diaries. A Publisher’s Note advises that Doherty routinely left his journals open for others to comment and contribute (much like a visitor’s book in a B&B) – given the company Peter kept during the height of his fame, this has resulted in some startling moments. When I first read this book (on 28th May) one such guest entry jumped out like neon: “I solemnly swear I am not going to die – Peaches Geldof”. It was both poignant and chilling.
The Journals were written at a time in which Doherty had already been through the Libertines and had thus grown used to notoriety, media intrusion and the trappings (and tribulations) of a ‘celebrity’ lifestyle. As a result, a certain world weary and jaded cynicism often pervades his musings. However, refreshingly, Doherty is also utterly candid and frequently insightful regarding his own failings and errors of judgment – openly wearing his heart on his sleeve and bravely laying bare realities that show him in a less than flattering light. Thus, the Doherty you encounter in these pages is very much his own man – what you see is what you get – making the Peter Doherty revealed in these diaries far more real than the one you might find in any ghost-written ‘celebrity autobiography’.
The Tour Diaries section offers a glimpse of life on the road that will likely disabuse many readers of the notion it is especially glamorous. The mundane reality of chaos, squalor, ennui and petty tensions come across loud and clear.
So, who is the Peter Doherty revealed in these diaries? A more vulnerable, introspective, thoughtful and well-read individual than the media will have led you to expect. Whether you are already a fan or simply wish to know more about the ‘man behind the headlines’, this is the book that will take you inside Peter Doherty’s world and give you the unexpurgated truth from (and about) the man himself.
To buy a copy of the book, click on the cover image below to go straight to UK Amazon: