Book Review: Dead People I Have Known, by Shayne Carter

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_dead_people_i_have_knownEveryone has heard of the ‘Dunedin Sound’, and this book by frontman of Straitjacket Fits, Shayne Carter, will bring back memories for those who lived through those years when the music was in its infancy.

Carter says he used to keep a diary, and although he dumped them years ago, that style of recording everything features throughout the book. There are certainly no holds barred regarding his childhood and family life. He grew up in a family that used alcohol as a crutch, and at times during his life, he did too. A lot of fights and disagreements with band members – his own band and those from acts he played alongside or supported – litter the book.

He’s very honest about his battles with alcohol, drugs, depression, and – I think – his own talent. Despite the accolades, he seems uncomfortable with the fame he achieved and always wanted things to be better.

Making it big in New Zealand saw the band head overseas, but for some reason they never quite achieved their potential. Carter resents some of those he feels didn’t deserve to achieve success in the industry, but he’s also very generous to those who have been there for him and helped his musical career along the way.

There are some surprising revelations in the book, like his early love of Cilla Black and Donny Osmond, but when bands like the Sex Pistols hit the scene, he’d found music he could really identify with. The songs he wrote started having more meaning, and the industry started taking notice. Despite all this, Carter writes for himself and his fans, and therefore they actually mean something.

I’m not sure I would have enjoyed seeing him live as he recounts many instances of abusing the audience, but I’d say a lot of that was down to his heavy drinking rather than wanting to have a go.

Hearing he’d started out as a cadet reporter on a Dunedin radio station wasn’t surprising as he spins a good yarn. A man of many contrasts, I reckon he’d spin a good yarn in person too. It’s an engaging read, even for someone like myself who tends more towards the rock and pop end of the spectrum. For those who are fans of New Zealand music and musicians, you won’t find a better present.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

Dead People I Have Known
by Shayne Carter
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776562213

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