Grove Press: Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley

Nothing's Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon

Near the end of his life, musician Warren Zevon (1947-2003) was asked if his cancer battle taught him anything about life and death. "...Enjoy every sandwich," he famously answered. Cheeky and merciless: this is the Warren Zevon profiled in Nothing's Bad Luck: The Lives of Warren Zevon by C.M. Kushins.

Zevon's early life was unsettled: his Mormon mother raised him while his Jewish gangster father was rarely around. He was an early prodigy on both piano and guitar, leading to a record contract while still a teenager. He was ill-prepared for the resulting temptations. "Both his life and burgeoning career had slowly become defined by stretches of genuine warmth and creative genius, yet punctuated by jarring moments of extreme jealousy and ingratitude." Zevon's growling voice, quirky, literate lyrics and classically influenced melodies became successful--strangely so for pop music. In a career that spanned more than 30 years, Zevon won Grammy awards and received widespread industry respect. Low points were many: years of addiction, which made him violent and unpredictable, a revolving door of wives and women and the mercurial tastes of the music industry that saw his work fall in and out of favor and contributed to his destructive behaviors.

In his first book, journalist Kushins relies on extensive documentation, including hundreds of interviews with Zevon's family, friends and colleagues. These give the reader an intimate, sometimes painful window into "the conundrum of Warren Zevon." Readers are advised to have Zevon's extensive catalogue queued up to accompany this absorbing, compelling biography. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.