It takes a while for thriller writer James Patterson’s impact to be felt on the mostly-mistitled non-fiction history, “The Last Days of John Lennon.” The book is almost entirely given over to a history of The Beatles, from that first meeting between John and Paul in 1957 through their breakup.
Patterson, with co-writers (Researchers, probably?) Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge, turns out punchy, short chapter/sketches on the broader strokes of Beatles history, recycling virtually every anecdote, but finding a few fresher takes as he leads us through the assembly of the band, their first fashion statements and musical influences, on through Beatlemania, Ed Sullivan after the JFK assassination, Sgt. Pepper, Yoko, etc.
Interspersed within that well-known history is the occasional short chapter about Lennon’s assassin Mark David Chapman, what he was doing those last days in New York, fake-befriending other Lennon fans who staked out the Dakota, rudely menacing other celebrities (Robert Goulet, for instance), fondling the hollow point bullets he’s secured from an ATLANTA POLICE OFFICER.
Patterson’s prose makes all of this perfectly readable, even if you’re familiar with the details of The Beatles’ timeline and Lennon’s own curious journey, from working class bloke with a chip on his shoulder to entitled poseur, faithless husband and bad father (with first son, Julian).
But the crime novelist and sometime historian (“House of Kennedy”) hits his stride with the final chapters, giving us lots of details about Chapman’s mania, his every move in the days leading up to the night of Lennon’s murder.
The come-on of the title aside, the book doesn’t feel particularly cinematic, because there are already several “last days” takes on the singer/songwriter/icon’s life. But it could certainly inspire a fresh “Last Days of Lennon” documentary. As the extensive quotes from Geraldo Rivera included here remind us, some in Lennon’s orbit are still around and willing to talk about him.
“The Last Days of John Lennon,” by James Patterson, with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. Little, Brown & Co. 431 pages. $15.99 and up.