ABBA biographies, musical examinations and pictorial surveys
published October 28, 2013
If you want to read about how Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story of ABBA originally came to be written and published in 2000-2001, that background story is here. This page deals with the revised and updated edition, published in January 2014. Omnibus Press editor Chris Charlesworth now puts this book in the Top Five out of the circa 800 books he's commissioned and edited during his 33-year tenure with Omnibus Press.
January 30, 2014 saw the publication of a completely revised and updated edition of Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA.
This is not simply a matter of fine-tuning what was already there, or correcting the odd error here and there. I've spent four months going through the book, page by page, chapter by chapter, removing certain paragraphs, adding new information that's come to light since the book was first published in 2001, making use of research I've conducted over the past decade, adjusting the prose so that the book reads better, moving sections within each chapter (where needed) and sometimes even between chapters, updating the book with recent events, and, in general, tweaking and improving the text so that the book is as readable, as entertaining, as accurate and as up-to-date as a book about one of the major musical phenomena of the 20th Century deserves to be.
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WHY AN UPDATED VERSION OF THE BOOK?
Writing a biography often feels like standing on top of a windy hill trying to fly 25 different kites, all at the same time. You have to locate the stories as well as the details behind those stories; you have to make sure that those stories and details are accurate, in as far as this is possible; you have to conduct interviews and then try to sift fact from fiction in the stories you're being told by your interviewees; you have to fashion all this into a readable narrative that offers interesting facts and insights, yet doesn't get bogged down by detail that will bore the reader - plus innumerable other factors to be taken into consideration while your book takes shape.
After all that hard work, as the author of a book, you're often hyper-critical of the result. If I'm reading someone else's book, and enjoying it for the most part, I find it easier to "forgive" the occasional passages that may be less successful, whereas I find it harder to stomach the bits in my own book that could have been better. I don't know how it works for other readers and authors, but that's how I'm wired. In the case of Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA, I've always been proud of the book, but as soon as it was published I realised there were a number of things I wish I'd done differently.
But to actually go back and revise it wasn't so easily accomplished. Although the book has been reprinted a number of times, allowing me to adjust one or two bits here and there, and add a few details and anecdotes, I couldn't really do any major changes, since that would have upset the entire structure of the book in terms of the number of pages etc. In other words, it would have meant serious production considerations for my publisher, Omnibus Press.
However, it was always my dream to make Bright Lights Dark Shadows more like I wanted it to be. As the years went by, and new events occurred in the ABBA saga, not to mention new information about the pre-ABBA and ABBA years coming to light, I only became more eager to revise and update the book. In June 2012, I contacted my editor at Omnibus Press, Chris Charlesworth, and suggested that it might be a good idea to update the book and that an appropriate publication date would be around the time of the 40th Anniversary of ABBA's Eurovision victory, i.e. the first few months of 2014. Chris liked the idea, but for various reasons it wasn't until June 2013 that I finally found the time to get to grips with this task. For about four months, I worked hard on revising and updating the book.
SO, WHAT'S NEW?
It's hard to describe exactly how the book has changed: so many different kinds of major and minor changes have been made. Needless to say, I haven't changed sections that were already fine as they were. But I've gone through the book, page by page, chapter by chapter, removing certain paragraphs and taking out superfluous details. Making use of research I've conducted over the past 13 years, I've added new, interesting information and stories, as well as adding depth of detail to stories that were already in there. I've also adjusted the prose so that the book reads better, moving sections within each chapter (where needed) and sometimes even between chapters, updating the book with recent events, and, in general, tweaking and improving the text. In these endeavours I have been greatly aided by my two invaluable proof readers, Ian Cole and Paul Carter, as well as my editor, Chris Charlesworth.
The ABBA story is what it is, so the course of events remain basically unchanged, but my perspective on certain things have changed over the years, plus new details have emerged, and this combines to change the book quite a bit in certain sections. The book was first reprinted shortly after publication, then again when the paperback was published in 2002, and yet again in 2008, at which time an Afterword was added, bringing the story up to date. All these reprints gave me the opportunity to do a number of updates and corrections to the book, so if you haven't read Bright Lights Dark Shadows since it was first published, I would say there will be plenty of things that are new in it.
I'm constantly conducting ABBA research, so some of the new stuff I've uncovered has been included in this new edition. Other authors have published books with a few or several ABBA-related stories in them, many of them only published only in Sweden so not really available to ABBA fans who don't know Swedish, and many of these stories have now been incorporated into Bright Lights Dark Shadows.
One of my own favourite bits in the 2014 book is the story of how ABBA got their name. Recent research and interviews I've conducted have turned up quite a few interesting facts, adding more shades to that story than was previously known. That's just one example of the new bits in the book.
All in all I would say that the 2014 edition of Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story of ABBA is much better than the previous versions: it reads better, it's more entertaining, and it's as up-to-date as a book about one of the major musical phenomena of the 20th Century deserves to be. But why take my word for it? Some reader reviews are available here.
If you decide to buy the new version of the book, I do hope you will enjoy it. I know I enjoyed improving it, and I feel it was a more than worthwhile project. I was already proud of the book, and now, without being conceited, I'm even prouder.
Bright Lights Dark Shadows - The Real Story Of ABBA. Revised and updated edition published by Omnibus Press, January 30, 2014. English language. 600 pp. Paperback. ISBN: 1783053593.
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