Books & Literature

Book Review: Freddie Mercury A to Z: The Life of an Icon from Mary Austin to Zanzibar, by Steve Wide

BIOGRAPHY: An illustrated A-Z guide to the life, loves, style and talent of the incomparable musician and songwriter, Freddie Mercury.

An alphabet soup of music, mischief and the legendary Freddie Mercury.

Steve Wide’s sixth (and final) A – Z is about someone who was the consummate showman, performer, entertainer and icon – Freddie Mercury. Over 26 letters and 56 pages, Steve Wide delves into the life, loves, musical journey, legend and legacy of Mercury and Queen.

Beginning with the woman who is often described as the ‘one true love’ of Freddie’s life – Mary Austin – and ending with the location of his birth, Zanzibar, Wide has (again) written a tantalising smorgasbord of details, facts and titbits, that inform the reader about so much more than that which featured in the film, Bohemian Rhapsody.

The people – both personal and professional associations – are all featured here, alongside Mercury – band members Deacon, May and Taylor; his great loves Mary Austin, Jim Hutton, and an entire letter devoted to his feline companions; plus two of his most famous supporters: Kenny Everett and Elton John.

In the mix are the albums – 15 with Queen and 2 solo (including the operatic Barcelona with Montserrat Caballé), and iconic songs, not only detailing Freddie’s vocal contribution, but his range. He was a singer, songwriter and musician (playing piano and guitar). The quartet’s interwoven catalogue rivals that of The Fab Four. From their early days as Smile to the emergence and majesty of Queen, they (like The Beatles) changed the path of rock’n’roll.

Of course it wouldn’t be a tale of Freddie Mercury without the style choices – whether it’s the fashion choices (in front of the camera or on-stage) or his extravagant personal lifestyle choices. Freddie will always be remembered for, unapologetically it must be said, being himself.

So much is, once again, captured in succinct detail, giving just enough to satiate the appetite, but also tantalising and encouraging the reader to seek out more detailed accounts.

Accompanied by illustrations by Paul Borchers, this book is a beautiful addition to the series, a fitting (book)end to Wide’s contributions (the letter ‘U’ is devoted to the duet, Under Pressure, created with David Bowie, the subject of Wide’s first A – Z)and a heart-warming tribute to the front man who was gone too soon, leaving behind a legacy that ensured he would never be forgotten.

While this book marks the end of Steve Wide’s contributions to the Life of an Icon series, Steve’s next two books will be released in August 2020 – A Field Guide to Punk and A Field Guide to New Wave.

The Life of an Icon series will also continue. Author Nadia Bailey has two future editions scheduled for release in April and September, 2020. The first will feature Frida Kahlo, the second Yayoi Kusama.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: November 2019
RRP: $29.99

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