REVIEW: The Killers: Vagabonds and Victims by Jimmy Ramsay

In brief: The story of the band from (fabulous) Las Vegas and how they made a hit number one album.

The good: A concise history of the fun parts leading up to worldwide fame.

The not-so-good: Big typos and of course, there have been a number of albums since then!

Why I chose it: I am one of those Victims.

Year: 2005

Pages: 173

Publisher: Independent Music Press

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The Killers: Vagabonds and Victims is the last book I can find about the band The Killers – I’ve now exhausted the supply of reading material available in book format. This book like several others I’ve read, suffers from being quite dated given that fans are now eagerly awaiting titbits about their sixth album. This book covers the first album (Hot Fuss) and the events leading up to the multi-platinum album.

These kinds of unofficial and unauthorised books have faded from the radar likely due to the rise of the internet. Today, I could likely find all the information contained in this book and more and devour it within a couple of hours of typing ‘the killers hot fuss’ into Google. But back in 2005 it was harder – dialup internet, relying on scans of international magazines from fans and not doing anything on the computer for 30-45 minutes while you downloaded the latest bootleg from LimeWire. (Said bootleg would only be one song though). It was a hard life and books like this filled the void for fans. (Saying that, the copy I bought second-hand doesn’t even have the spine cracked so I doubt it’s been read). These are the things I tried to keep in mind as I was reading this book.

Jimmy Ramsay has a good writing style – casual and familiar. For the most part, it looks like he’s done his homework in reading and researching the seminal articles of The Killers at the time and talking to relevant record people. I could have lived without his personal reflections and thoughts of the bands and some of The Killers songs. (Saying you don’t like All These Things That I’ve Done would get a huge social media reaction these days. There are also a couple of references to the gay community which would not pass muster these days). He opens the story with a personal reflection of the Tyson vs Holyfield fight, which is odd for several reasons. One, because this had nothing to do with the band except that the fight occurred in Las Vegas. Two, because The Killers would later be seen with Mike Tyson on screen and their fifth studio album contains the song Tyson vs Douglas. A premonition or just getting lucky?

I can understand that this book would have been put together in a hurry to capitalise on The Killers’ fame but some of the typos are extreme. I had to stop and roll my eyes at the wrong your/you’re and a quote is attributed to bassist ‘Matt’. The bassist who said that is Mark. Victims who know their Killers history will cringe at that even more, as the former drummer in the early days was Matt. Oops. Overall, it’s a good, brief history of a band who didn’t have a lot of history at the time. For the more visually inclined, yes there are pictures but you wouldn’t buy this book on pics alone. They are small and black and white, padded out with pictures of Live 8, The Bravery (remember them?) and Las Vegas. The pictures of the boys are easily available on the internet, in colour and high res.

I’d reserve this book for hard core Victims. For a more recent and detailed review of the band, The Killers: Days and Ages by Mark Beaumont is a good go to.

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