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John Conolly
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Essentially, it is a love story between two men, but not that sort of love. It is a sort of biography without actually being one, and the subjects are Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The love story is the incredible bond between these two men, one that continued even after the death of one of them.
It is written in a most unusual style, not one that I can adequately describe but a sort of mix of first party present/past, however it works very well indeed, once one has become accustomed to the cadences.

The book begins, as it should, at the beginning, with the subject - who is never really referred to by name, but we know that it is Stan Laurel - working with his father, Arthur Jeffereson, on theatres around the country and eventually to his first peformance, one that was unknown at the time to his father.
The book follows his career and life, from the early days of music hall and onto short films in Britain and his eventual membership of the Fred Karno troupe, whist all the while cutting forward to his present day in an apartment in California.
The story covers his friendship - in the early days - with Chaplin and his trials and tribulations of the very early arrempts at film making.

Subsequently the narrative takes us along on his first meeting with Hardy, the man who was destined to be such a big part of his life, and their slow ascent of the movies business.

There is an insight into the formative years of Holywood that I had not appreciated and into the (very) personal lives of the two actors. Laurel married many times - at least twice, possibly three or four times - to the same woman, while also keeping mistresses on the go. Hardy only married three times but also had a succesion of torrid affairs, but what remains from all of this, from the scandals, from the loss of money and the deaths of friends, is the pure joy that they took in each other's company and the incredible depth of their affection for each other.

The author, who I admit is a favourite of mine, is known for much darker stuff, i.e the Charlie Parker books, and this is a revelation.

It is a wonderful book that once I picked up had to keep reading, and now I'm sad that it is finished.

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