That's not true of a biography I bought a couple of weeks ago, released in the United Kingdom, and containing nothing new. The author, Peter Ackroyd, has excellent credentials, but foremost among them must be the ability to read everyone else's books and stitch together pieces gleaned from their efforts. Which makes me wonder: Are there any new books to be written about Sir Charles? (I know of one in the process, by a friend of mine. She is on to a terrific idea but still has much work to do.)
So.... What's new? First of all, I immediately rejected the notion of "Charlie Chaplin for Dummies" and "Chicken Soup for the Little Tramp's Soul." He doesn't belong in a franchise collection.
Here are the six book ideas under consideration:
1) "The Charlie Chaplin Cook Book." Recipes that reflect an aspect of Chaplin's life and films. All recipes kitchen-tested. Includes Tramp Goulash, Pasta ala City Lights, Stewed Tripe (one of his favorite dishes), Plum Pudding (a British tradition), Boiled Boot Meuniere with stir-fried laces, Bean Soup Immigrant Style, Calvero Bolognese, Key Limelight Pie, and a Derby Danish.
2) "The Lost Symphonies of Vevey." During his final 24 years in Vevey, Switzerland, Chaplin, it is rumored, wrote four symphonies. The scores still exist. Because Chaplin wrote the music for many of his films, he still felt the need after 1966 to compose, so he attacked the longer form of symphonies. Each symphony is inspired by one of his wives. Particularly noteworthy is the "Lita in Hell" work. This book will contain a CD with performances of those lost symphonies.
3) "Smile, Smile, Smile." The most famous song he wrote, from "Modern Times." This book contains profiles of every artist who ever recorded "Smile." A total of over one hundred. Includes vocalists such as Petula Clark, Elvis Costello, Josh Groban, Trini Lopez, Johnny Mathis, and Michael Jackson. Includes a CD with a rare recording by Marlene Dietrich, in German.
4) "Waiting On Charlie." A revealing insight into the artist as told by waiters from a variety of restaurants that Chaplin used to frequent. The men and women in aprons with order pads who saw the famous man at his hungriest. What he ordered, what questions he asked, if he used a knife and fork like the Brits do, how and if he tipped. And much, much more. Includes photographs.
5) "Chaplin: The Tell-Tale Hand." For the first time, the somewhat dubious science of graphology will be applied to Chaplin. His handwriting will be examined, which will reveal the motivation behind his films. It will also define his character, disposition, and attitudes. I will apply all three graphology approaches: integrative, holistic, and symbolic. This book could end up on the bottom shelves next to Weissman's psychological analysis of Chaplin, where it belongs. Still, a fascinating exercise and a possible best-seller among graphologists and mystics.
6) "Thursdays With Charlie." Through close examination of his letters, journals, tennis matches, film production schedules, and reservations at Musso-Frank's restaurant, I will document Chaplin's activities for every Thursday between 1921 and 1953. Quick math: That's over 1600 Thursdays. This book is sure to be a doorstop.
Let me know which book most interests you. I'll be sure to let you know who the winner is, and when the book will be published. I'm already preparing my query letters to agents.