Written by Vincent Price (not the actor)
Published by Blurb, August 28, 2019
My quick opinion:
Clearly self-published, possibly plagiarised, and stuffed with low-resolution images likely downloaded from the internet, this book offers nothing new to Cars history. Save your $20.
My long story:
On Monday night I heard the surprising news that there was a new book about The Cars that was just published. C’mon, you know me… I had to jump right on that train! I found the book online and ordered it up via Amazon Prime that same night. While I waited for its arrival I poked around to see what I could discover about this unexpected addition to The Cars’ legacy.
My cursory research into the publication and the author turned up few details. The book appears to be part of a larger series of celebrity biographies churned out through Blurb, a self-publishing website where a product like this one would cost either $6 or $14 (approximately, and depending on if the author chose economy or standard color printing). Vincent Price has published at least 25 of these readers in the last four months.
So today, Friday, mine came.
I can’t beat around the bush. I was definitely disappointed after my first flip-through, but only to a certain extent: I knew that weighing in at only sixty-eight pages, I wasn’t going to get a long, detailed history of the band. I was not wrong. But upon closer inspection, there were other immediate and stronger impressions that left me feeling more angry than anything else.
Let me give you the basics:
- The book is paperback, measures at 6″ x 9″ and, as I mentioned, is sixty-eight pages long.
- There are thirty-five pages containing generously-spaced text, and thirty-three pages printed with a total of fifty-five images, mostly in color with some black and white.
- The cover of the book includes no title, author, or publishing house information. There is no writing on the front, back, or spine, other than the band’s original logo and a barcode.
- There is no title page, copyright page, or any kind of heading, subheading, or introduction inside the book.
- The author’s name does not appear anywhere in or on this book.
- There is no publisher information in or on the book; not the publisher’s name or location, nor the date of publication.
- There are no acknowledgements or photo credits anywhere in the book.
- There is no bibliography.
Did I get some “lemon” copy of the book? Did Amazon or Blurb print it wrong? Maybe… but I double-checked with my friend, Craig, and his looks the same as mine. So we’ll keep going…
The text starts out with about two dozen paragraphs giving a brief (and slightly inaccurate) history of The Cars. This appears to be a narrative based almost entirely on an article called “The Cars” by A.J. Wachtel (for Music Museum of New England). I believe Price attempted to restate Wachtel’s research in order to make it his own, and I will just gently say that it seems like he did not have the benefit of an editor OR a proofreader, and he was very much in need of both.
Now here’s where I might not be so gentle. There are some very obvious and unhappy flaws in this book.
The rest of the text appears to be a cut-and-paste job of three articles that are currently posted online. In the order that they appear in the book, they are:
- “The Cars’ ‘Drive’ to the Rock Hall” by Jim Sullivan, April 12, 2018, bestclassicbands.com
- “Second Gear: After 24 Years, The Cars Return” with Ilana Kaplan, April 20, 2011, interviewmagazine.com
- “The Cars Take on Their Critics” by Mikal Gilmore, October 30, 1980, rollingstone.com
Incredibly, there is no introduction to these articles, no proper credit given, no acknowledgement of the other writers, no reference to the source material at all. Instead, the text is very slightly altered to change the tense of the interviews. For example, in the piece by Interview Magazine, Ilana Kaplan posed questions directly to Greg Hawkes, like, “Did you ever think there would be a reunion like this after so long?” Price edited the text to read, “Had Greg ever thought there’d have been a reunion like this after so long?”
And let me be clear, these are not excerpts. In all three cases, the entire interview is included with those amateur edits. Even the most inattentive high school teacher would identify the rampant plagiarism here.
At a minimum, reproducing someone else’s work in its entirety, without giving credit to the original writer and/or publication, and especially without doing a single thing to make it clear that it is not the author’s own work, is unethical, disrespectful, and rude.
Furthermore, it is very likely grounds for a lawsuit. As tempted as I am (and believe me, I am!), I won’t take the time here to detail the ins and outs of Fair Use, but I feel very strongly that this book is a monumental violation of copyright laws. (If you’re interested in looking into this issue yourself, start with this helpful and layman-friendly article from Nolo.)
Is it possible Price had permission to reproduce these texts? Yes, of course. But I am suspicious because it doesn’t seem reasonable to me that there would be zero acknowledgement of the original source. If I am wrong, I will happily and humbly apologize.
The second half of the book is chock full of images from well-known photographers like Ebet Roberts, Lynn Goldsmith, Philippe Carly, Jeff Albertson, Peter Simon, and Marco Glaviano. Unfortunately, all of the images are available on the internet and have been circulating for years. Some are obvious screenshots from video, some bear watermarks, and some are duplicated on other pages. Judging by the substandard quality of the majority of them, my guess is that they are low-res copies downloaded from various websites.
The photo section lacks in another respect. The majority of the pictures feature the full band; the only ‘solo’ shots are of Ric and Ben. Since the book was published prior to Ric’s recent passing I can’t justify the singling out of those two as any kind of memorial tribute, so I find it annoying that equal treatment was not given to all five members. That, of course, is just my personal opinion.
More importantly, here we are again with copyright concerns. Not a single photo is credited, there are no descriptions of dates or locations; heck, they are not even in chronological order. Again, I can’t help but question if the author had the proper permissions to reproduce these works.
I can’t recommend this book at all, based on the sketchy text, the poor quality of the photos, and the fact that there is no new content offered. But here’s the truth of the matter: this book makes me angry because I believe that this author may be illegally profiting from the hard work of those that came before him. This is similar to the frustration I feel at bootleggers who take Ben’s unreleased solo tracks and sell them on CD, or profiteers who jack the official Cars logo and produce merch that they resell on ebay for exorbitant prices. It’s selfish, unscrupulous, and just plain wrong. I strongly urge you NOT to support such exploitation.