Wilson, Staci Layne- Rock & Roll Nightmares:True Stories Vol 2. (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: March, 2023
Released:  2023, Excessive Nuance Publishing
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Although I am unfamiliar, the Rock & Roll Nightmare series has been going for quite some time. True Stories Volume 2 is the newest in the series and my first introduction to the books.

American author Staci Layne Wilson has combined her love of true crime and Rock & Roll to make a very interesting concept. She was kind enough to send me copy of her 500+ page paperback. The book itself is a straight up independent publication, sort of one of those ‘print-on-demand’ books which means it is good quality but short on frills.

It’s no secret that Rock and Metal can be sordid and, regardless of occupation, like any person, the artists and performers can be subjected to tragedy, victims of crime,  become addicts, abusers, or criminals themselves. Wilson has gathered up all these legendary stories about rockers and sorted them into broad categories/ chapters; such as psycho fans, stalkers, murder, rape, child abuse, theft, tragic accidents and more.

We are taken on a whirlwind tour of various true crime stories, from Led Zeppelin having over $200,000 in cash stolen from a hotel, to the Judas Priest murder/suicide pact trial, to Kevin Dubrow’s overdose to Phil Rudd’s alleged hiring of a contract killer and dozens more. Each one is presented largely factually and without judgement. It is quite contemporary as well with the recent news of the suicide of Bruce Dickinson’s former wife and the rampage of a serial killer in Kongsberg, Norway in 2021 which resulted in the death of a performer who had worked with Satyricon years ago.

One touch that I felt was nice is that in her introduction Wilson said that she realizes that these stories are exploitative and accordingly she donates a portion of the profits to the Sweet Relief Musicians fund. Overall, it was a dark, occasionally graphic, and fascinating read.

I’m quite torn in three directions on how to grade this book. On one objective hand TRUE STORIES VOL 2 is very well executed, entertaining and fun, everything a light read should be. It gets top grades for that.

On the other hand, from a personal perspective, while entertaining I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t l know before. This is very entry level Hard Rock / Heavy Metal trivia. Most of the information is taken from open sources and these stories are all largely old stories that most or all rock fans already know. It is almost written aimed at an audience who knows nothing about Rock or Metal. The only thing I learned was that John Gary Driscoll , the former drummer of Rainbow was murdered in 1987.  That’s it.  I think I knew that at one point that he had been murdered but had forgotten. Every other Rock / Metal story I already knew about so there was less value for me in that regard.

The last factor to consider, from the perspective of the readers of Metal-Rules.com, is that there is not a ton of ‘Metal’ content here. About one-third to may a maximum of 40% of the stories are related to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. There is a ton of stuff about Beatles, Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Who, some punk stuff, and bunch of grunge stuff.  The Manson murders get a lot of coverage, so does Phil Spector.  The stories are heavily weighted towards American, classic rock bands and the era of the 70’s and 80’s.  For your reference here is a list of bands in the book that our readers might be interested in reading about;  AC/DC, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Burzum, Great White, Guns N’ Roses, GWAR, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, Metallica, Motley Crüe, Ozzy, Quiet Riot, Pantera, Rainbow, Ratt, Rigor Mortis, Satyricon, Skid Row, Ted Nugent, Van Halen, Warrant, and W.A.S.P.

As evidenced by this list, it is mostly mainstream stuff covered in the book.  A seasoned Hard Rock / Metal fan can glance at this list and probably guess what the stories are behind the artists or people in these bands.  There are literally dozens and dozens of  other true crime/tragic stories related to Metal bands, more than enough for a book of equal size, that would perhaps only appeal to die-hard Metal people.   For example, did you know that in 1986, Kurt, vocalist and guitarist of the thrash band NME, murdered his adoptive mother with scissors and a hatchet because he thought she was a robot and he wanted to look inside her for proof?  Or did you know that Konstatin, the founder of the Russian thrash band Deadhead, murdered his ex-girlfriend and allegedly put a picture of her dead body on the front cover of his first demo?  I’d much rather read about the lesser known true crime stories than the murder of Darrell Abbott for the 10th time.

Looking back at the big picture, I really enjoyed having all this information synthesized into one place. Wilson is also an entertaining writer often interjecting her sense of humour into the proceedings. I hesitated to use the word ‘entry-level’  in the above paragraph because it might seem negative but it sort of fits because ROCK & ROLL NIGHTMARES:TRUE CRIME VOL 2 is very entertaining but presents very little new and a lot of non-Metal stories that ‘Metal’ fans (like me) will be less interested in.  Benefit of the doubt based on style and quality, I’d still recommend this fun book!