I picked this one up shortly after Heath Ledger’s death in 2008. I also found a shirt from a University night out where people thought it was appropriate to write ‘I hate Heath Ledger’ all over my back. It was during the season of bad taste but just to clarify; I don’t hate Heath Ledger. Just this book.
The first few pages give a history of Australia dating as far back as 1982 which pre-dates Heath by 150 years. This is unnecessary padding for a book that is only 279 pages long. Also did you know that a man called Charles Harper set up a school for his own kids in 1896? You do now! Again it has no bearing on the life of Heath Ledger put at least it adds an additional paragraph to the book.
Another problem surrounding the length of the book is its publishing date. It was published in 2008, the same year as Heath’s death, and before the success of The Dark Knight and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was fully known. The book was rushed to make money, something that I don’t hold in high regard as per my review of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. This is worse because it tries to cash in using a man’s death as a selling point.
That’s my main problem with it, now for the nitty-gritty. The first small error I noticed was on page 8. It was only a double space but these sorts of punctuation errors continue throughout the book – another sign of rushing.
While I’m going on about unnecessary wording, the first chapter is called ‘Sea, Surf and Gene Kelly.’ However there are no references to surfing or Heath’s enjoyment of it. It seems to be written on the concept of, ‘Surfing is associated with Australia... and Heath Ledger is Australian... I know! Let’s use Surf in the chapter title!’ Brilliant.
On page 52, an entire sentence is repeated. The whole page is Heath’s quotes but a little editing wouldn’t have hurt the book. And I doubt he said exactly the same thing word for word. In fact while I’m on the subject, quite a lot of the book could have been pulled directly from the internet. This is probably a good thing though as when the author decides to write his own narrative, it is either Australian history or stuff like this, ‘Heath and Heather... the names seem to go together well,’ which is an astute and pointless piece of prose. Pointless piece of prose... that goes together well too Mr McShane.
On page 201 the author uses two quotes that give Heath two different ages. Even though they are quotes from other sources, the author could at least have proof read the articles before publishing. It could also be a typo made during transposing, but again, a proof read would have sorted this. It’s just more laziness.
That’s it for my problems with the author. There was one other thing that annoyed me slightly. When Heath is talking about working on the set for A Knight’s Tale he says that the crew used bottles of Evian water to pour over the actors to keep them cool. This seems to me like a huge waste of money. Why not just use normal water for the purposes of keeping people cool?
That said there are some good points to the book. There are many quotes and inferences from Heath’s life that are quite interesting. My personal favourite was, ‘If you make decisions based on society’s opinions, you’re going to make boring choices.’
The book also increased the size of my DVD collection so some good definitely came out of it!
Heath Ledger – His Beautiful Life and Mysterious Death by John McShane was published by John Blake Publishing Limited in 2008. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)