For most of All That’s Left to Know About The Boss, John Luerssen fulfills and transcends the FAQ moniker of his book on Bruce Springsteen. In painstaking, but never excruciating, detail he chronologically recounts the events that made this son of the Jersey Shore one of rock’s most admired figures. In doing so, he eschews melodrama and instead relies on amassed facts to flesh out his story of the man known as “The Boss.”
Compiling data from a variety of resources, including fanzine and online databases, Luerssen manages to restrain himself from any kind of fanboy editorializing. At the same time, he doesn’t just present bullet points of early concert appearances or the more significant turns of events in Springsteen’s career, such as the simultaneous cover stories in Newsweek and Time magazines. The author is credible and astute enough to research his subject’s own perspective on the topic at hand and allows that insight to color in the picture.
With that being said, Bruce Springsteen FAQ becomes a wholly different book after page 24. It’s such a dramatic shift in tone and style that it seems as if a significant chunk of manuscript was excised. Following the enlightening account of Springsteen’s grappling with the success of Born to Run and his new found mainstream popularity with Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River, Luerssen suddenly introduces Miami Steve Van Zandt’s departure from the E Street Band within the Born in the USA phase of Springsteen’s career.
The remainder of the book reveals a tedious listing of concert dates without a framework or much commentary. A possible explanation is that by this time, living in California and in his first marriage (a life event curiously given only passing mention), Springsteen became a much more private man. Quite possibly a means of coping with his new found celebrity. Luerssen restrains himself from speculation on that subject, which is in keeping with the restraint he maintains so effectively throughout FAQ.
The end of the book is devoted to the man’s career from 2002 to the present and acts as a teaser for a sequel, in which more inspection is afforded the reconfiguration of The E-Street Band and the passing of Clarence Clemons, among other topics. But it’s forgivable. Because if any rocker were to have a career long enough to warrant a follow-up to a book like this, it’s The Boss. And if such a tome eventually appears, John Luerssen should be the author.