What Humphries has on most of us who dare write about Tom Waits is that he’s actually interviewed the man. It might have been in the early 80s, largely taking an extended trip/borderline kidnapping around London in a car, but that’s 20 years and a few miles closer than most. Humphries’ understanding of Waits is pitch-perfect and, since the other Waits book worth getting (interview collection aside) is American, perhaps this is the one to crack the story open in the UK.
Most of us know the interview technique (answer the question you wish they asked), red herrings, and left-turn into the avant-garde; rest assured it’s all here. Humphries adds a perspective sympathetic to the English reader, more on Waits’ acting career than we’ve seen elsewhere (he doesn’t only name the films, but he’s seen them all too), and a good deal of research into Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and his obsession with Alice Liddell, further painting the picture behind Waits’ Alice project.
No one will ever bust the door wide, but Humphries has cracked it open as far as the safety chain will allow. Seems he got a good look before it slammed shut, too.