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Tommy James

Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells written by Tommy James with Martin Fitzpatrick

Review by Gary Hill

This is one heck of a book. It’s got a lot in it. First off, it’s a great read. It feels like Tommy James is just talking to you. The story is compelling making it the kind of thing you won’t want to put down. Now, let’s talk about the story. You see, Roulette Records, which signed Tommy James was run by the mob. So, that makes this part autobiography, part Sopranos. In fact, two of the people James talks about in the book inspired characters in that television show. So, it seems that this will appeal to fans of mobster books along with fans of Tommy James and fans of music.

James seems content to own most of his mistakes and some of them (by his own admission) were pretty bad. That makes him better than some folks who have autobiographies out. He’s got some really interesting insights into all angles of the music business, from creating hits, being used by industry folks to getting caught up in the excesses. All those things make this a human story and a compelling one.

My only complaint is more as an editor. I edit a lot of work and so (other than in my own stuff – often it takes a second set of eyes) I have a tendency to spot grammatical errors, often slowing down my reading by making me double take. This reads as if it didn’t have a professional editor go over it. In other words, there are a lot of more subtle (but glaring to an editor) issues while the things the average reader would notice are all correct. Mind you, that’s very much a personal preference thing, and it’s a minor complaint. I still made fast work of this book and will probably read it again when I get time. It’s a great story and Tommy James really seems like a great (but human) guy. I’d recommend this to just about anyone who enjoys reading life stories.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at

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