Tom Waits is a notoriously difficult interviewee, and not only refused to be interviewed for this biography, but instructed Keith Richards, who's worked with Waits, not to let Hoskyns interview him either. Nevertheless, by talking to those of Waits' friends who were prepared to go on record, drawing on two magazine interviews he conducted with Waits in 1985 and 1999, and above all by detailed analysis of his songs, Hoskyns has put together a convincing portrait.
Waits comes across as a contradictory character: he created an image for himself as a whiskey-sodden jazz hobo, and played the part of an alcoholic with such commitment that for a while he became one, yet resents being identified with the persona. Hoskyns intertwines events in his personal life – early years as a suburban oddball in LA, affairs with Bette Midler and Rickie Lee Jones, life-changing marriage to Kathleen Brennan – with the development of his musical and acting career. And the musical analysis is so evocative it made me resolve to revisit Waits' brilliant oeuvre.