Review: Paul McCartney, The Life by Philip Norman

Paul McCartney, The Life. Philip Norman. Kindle Edition, 2016, $15.99

I loved Philip Norman’s revealing biography of John Lennon. This hefty volume doesn’t quite match up, but that

A winsome Paul McCartney.

A winsome Paul McCartney.

may not be Norman’s fault. McCartney has lived 36 years longer than Lennon now, and is quite a different character. Part of what must have made the biography a difficult task is that it is very hard to pierce Paul’s shell and the people around him have been discreet. However, this book definitely washes away the silly stereotype of Paul as “the cute Beatle” once and for all. It replaces that caricature with a shrewd and nearly always cautious character (except for the 1970s drug bust in Tokyo!), who was also completely blindsided at certain points in his life and left reeling, confused, and vulnerable. The haunting picture on the book jacket shows that side of Paul.

I came away with an appreciation of McCartney’s immense talent and work ethic, as well as a greater understanding of what makes him tick. He’s someone who’s lost the three people closest to him (his mother, John Lennon, Linda). Norman skillfully shows that Paul’s first long-term relationship with actress Jane Asher was quite hollow in some ways and that issues of control emerge in his relationships, which is why I think Norman dwelt so much on the awful marriage and divorce to Heather Mills, who really exposed Paul at his worst. (But also it’s very revealing that Paul would have gone for a “bad girl” and apparently self-aggrandizing liar like Heather in the first place.)

Still, I can’t help liking someone who when asked if marrying Heather was the greatest mistake of his life, replies, “It would have to be a prime contender.” It made me want to know what his other great mistakes were–but such transparency is rare with this guy. Yet he “tacitly approved” of Norman as his biographer, which shows some good judgment. I wonder if he thought he would outlive Norman, so that the secrets that are inevitably revealed after his death wouldn’t be added to the biography! Sir Paul is a very calculating person, it’s clear, and Norman seems to deplore his actions much of the time.

But this is no hatchet job and there’s plenty of careful analysis that rewards the reader. It was good to fill in the gaps. For example, of course it makes sense that the “Paul is dead” period was after the Beatles broke up when Paul retreated in despair to Scotland, but I’d never quite got this before. In fact, Norman’s narrative of the Beatles breaking up *from Paul’s viewpoint* is fascinating. He does a fine job discussing Paul’s music as well.

After I finished I realized to my astonishment that Norman is the author of the memoir Babycham Night, about his difficult childhood with a narcissistic father on the Isle of Wight. More people should read that—it’s excellent. And my hunch is that Paul has read it. He would be someone who would do his homework, and the oddly compassionate, familiar way he treats Norman (despite Norman’s earlier rudeness towards him as a journalist) seems to prove this.

I think biography is such an intimate task, and Norman shows restraint and some empathy in his portrait of Paul. Recommended for Beatles fans.

PS. Norman is quite venomous about George Harrison, so any great fans/friends of George may be infuriated by his put-downs.

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This Is The Modern Publishing Business

Trenchant insights on the exploitative tendencies of the “traditional” publishing industry from a successful indie writer…

David Gaughran

asandfriendsnewScammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial.

An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters.

With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities in the publishing business might be doing as well as Amazon if they also treated books like toasters and attempted to sell the bloody things, but I digress.

What this…

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Summer in California: Fire and Fog

An emu flees a raging fire in Potrero, CA. (Mike Blake/Reuters)


It’s what used to be called high summer, but here in San Francisco we are socked in by heavy fog. The pattern of terrible California wildfires also continues. Here is a photo by Mike Blake of an emu running down the road in San Diego County. It’s a pretty symbolic image.

I am also feeling the effects of the claustrophobic election season, along with the episodic terror attacks here and abroad. At least the election season will have a finite end point!

I watched both conventions. It occurred to me that Hillary Clinton’s story about her mother explains so much about Hillary’s life, even up to her choice of mate. A woman whose mother was so horribly abused and neglected would of course fall for a partner who had been abused and neglected as a child too. I think that if the Clintons do regain the White House, many of us will have the painful experience of viewing them with cooler eyes and a more jaded viewpoint. (I was only 25 when Bill Clinton won the election in 1992 and I remember how euphoric I felt that night.)

Still, when Hillary Clinton said, “The sky’s the limit,” I could get behind the optimism of that. Her candidacy is ground-breaking. Trump, on the other hand, seems increasingly unhinged and destructive. I worry about the ugliness of the next few months and the bitter hatreds that are being unleashed. But here we are, and I suppose we’ll get through it.

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A Happy Fourth…

I wanted to wish everyone out there in the US a happy Fourth of July! The weather is always chilly and foggy here in San Francisco. At night in our neighborhood, the air is filled with the sound of homemade rockets going off. It’s not fun, but someone’s getting something out of it!🙂

The Pull of Yesterday is in several promotions this month.

The Pull of Yesterday is in several promotions this month.

I released a new book last month (The Pull of Yesterday). Both Pull and Connecting the Dots are 50% off in the month-long Summer/Winter Sale that Smashwords puts on every year (and Elsie Street is free). Just use the coupon provided on the book page at checkout. Two of my early ebook shorts, The Captain and Claire and The Doge’s Daughter, are also free! And many great bargains are to be had.

The Pull of Yesterday is also currently 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time, and will be featured in the Rainbow Shelf newsletter on July 8! Price will revert to $2.99 sometime around mid-month.

A couple of my indie writer friends and acquaintances have released new books lately. Clare Ashton‘s latest romance, Poppy Jenkins, looks delightful. Shannon Yarbrough has a new book out, Feeling Himself Forgotten, which is a sequel to Stealing Wishes. I will be reviewing it soon. Kate Genet has turned to writing crime fiction and has unpublished much of her previous catalog of lesbian fiction.

I have been caught up in the madness of Brexit lately. It has been an odd time, but I find myself feeling more of an Anglophile than ever. Providentially, The Great British Baking Show just came back on PBS. I’m loving it.

It is possible that Britain will have its second female Prime Minister soon. Or will the backstabbing Michael Gove prevail? My heartfelt hope is that Hillary Clinton wins here in November. As Bill Maher said, this election is a referendum on decency.

And that’s about as patriotic as I get, folks.

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Orlando, a week later

This vigil took place in the Castro in SF the evening after the shooting.

This vigil took place in the Castro in SF the evening after the shooting.

I woke up last Sunday morning to news of the Orlando LGBT club massacre on Twitter. It was a terrible moment. The first pieces of news said that 20 people were dead, which was unbelievable enough. I believe the last count stands at 49.

I won’t mention the shooter by name. He was clearly a sad, sick, twisted soul. The fact that he had visited Pulse on a regular basis and been treated kindly by the patrons there just makes things worse. 

What has made things better, at least for me: the images of President Obama and VP Joe Biden visiting the memorial for the fallen really helped a lot. What has fundamentally changed in America is that LGBT people are now being treated with respect. The dead and wounded victims in that nightclub were seen as young Americans and everybody’s children. And that’s a huge, huge change that has taken place in my lifetime.

Because the issues of gun control and gun proliferation in the US are going to be here for a very long time.

It seems weird to say it in this context, but happy Pride Month.


A march in London in support of the Orlando victims.

A march in London in support of the Orlando victims.

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Elsie Street Sequel Now on Preorder!

Sequel to Elsie Street on preorder now!

Sequel to Elsie Street on preorder now!

I’ve been busy writing this spring. The full-length sequel to Elsie Street, The Pull of Yesterday, is now available for preorder at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It will be released on those platforms on June 5. Meanwhile, Elsie Street is currently free on all platforms, including Google Play!  

Update: Elsie is now .99 on most platforms. But talking about Google Play, I spotted two 5 star reviews there today that warmed my writer heart. In the latest review, a reader called Chris Webb writes:

“Addictive reading. Superbly written, beautifully drawn characters, totally addictive and absorbing.”

Thanks, Chris!


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Time of Grace on Promo to Mark Easter 1916 Centennial

Time of Grace2When I started writing the book that became Time of Grace in 1996, I really gave little thought to the Easter Rising of 1916 being almost 100 years old. After all, as a child in Dublin in the 1970s, I knew an elderly man in our neighborhood who had fought in WW1! As a child, in fact, I was surrounded by old people who would have been children themselves in 1916, but those events weren’t widely discussed in the circles I was in. (The Rising was followed by the War of Independence and then a terrible civil war, which pitted brother against brother and led to decades of simmering violence in the North by the IRA.)

Fast forward to now, and the Irish people have just officially marked the Easter 1916 centenary (as they call it). Not on the exact historical date that it happened (April 24), but on the day before Easter. The Rising itself began on Easter Monday, 1916, and was actually covertly announced by the planners in the newspaper classifieds—just one of many fascinating tidbits from that time.

My novel Time of Grace takes a mostly objective, though somewhat sympathetic, view of the events of 1916 but is mainly concerned with a forbidden love affair between two young women, one Irish, one English, who are caught in the middle of the storm. After originally being published in Ireland 15 years ago, it has enjoyed new life as an ebook on Amazon, and I’m going to mark the occasion of the centennial by lowering the Kindle price to 99 cents for all of April.

Click on the cover image above to take you to the Amazon link.

Happy Easter, everybody. I always find pleasure this time of year in noticing the renewal of spring. This does seem to be a season in which the pagan and the spiritual are overlaid with each other, just as many early Christian churches were built on pagan temples or near sacred springs. It’s a powerful time of resurgence and I think the planners of the Rising must have sensed that. They did in fact succeed in radically changing Ireland, though they couldn’t have anticipated the complexities that followed their actions.

To learn more:

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Smashwords Read an Ebook Week Promo Runs Through Saturday

Read an Ebook Week

Read an Ebook Week Is Here Again!

It’s that time of year again. Smashwords has its sitewide promotion, Read an Ebook Week, running through Saturday, March 12.

It’s a great opportunity to pick up a multitude of ebooks at low cost using the in-store coupons SW provides.

For my books, pick up my memoir Connecting the Dots, novels Elsie Street and The Leaving, and my nonfiction short on ADHD and food dyes for 50% off, using code RAE50 at checkout!

Here’s a link to my profile page, where you can find the titles: 

And enjoy browsing the entire eclectic Smashwords catalog by category from the home page.

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An Aside: Louis CK on Donald Trump

donald trumpTrump is a messed-up guy with a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with money and attention. He can never ever have enough of either and he’ll never stop trying. He’s sick. Which makes him really really interesting. And he pulls you towards him, which somehow feels good or fascinatingly bad. He’s not a monster. He’s a sad man. But all this makes him horribly dangerous if he becomes president. Give him another TV show. Let him pay to put his name on buildings. But please stop voting for him.” –Louis CK on Donald Trump, 3/5/2016

More at:

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Elsie Street Will Be Deal of the Day on ARe!


Get Elsie Street for 50% off on All Romance ebooks March 2.

All Romance eBooks is an ebook platform focused on, well, romance, and to my surprise my latest novel, Elsie Street, has done quite well there as opposed to on the bigger stores like Apple and Barnes & Noble. So I was delighted when Elsie Street was chosen as ARe’s Daily Deal on Wednesday, March 2nd. Update…I checked, and the price has been reduced to $1.49 all day today!

What that means, as far as I can gather, is that customers are given the option of buying the book for 50% off at checkout. I thought I would share the good news and encourage readers who may not know about ARe to check it out. It’s a vibrant little site with its own unique look, and it’s fun for us authors because you can discount your own book/s at any time for up to two weeks. They are very LGBT-friendly as well.

(Click on the image above to get to the book page on the site!)


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