So Let It Be Written: The Biography of Metallica’s James Hetfield

Authored by Mark Eglinton

Foreword by Chuck Billy of Testament

Published by Lesser Gods

This book works better as a history of Metallica than it does as a biography of James Hetfield. The author has not been able to do the extensive interviews with Hetfield that would be needed to produce an in-depth biography. Thus, he has had rely on either people who know or have known Hetfield, or interviews that Hetfield and those around him have done over the years. This is akin to, for example, describing the contents of a building, not by entering it and looking around, but relying on those who have been there in the past and on their descriptions. This is not a criticism of Eglinton – he has put a lot of work into a very readable book – but not having access to your subject matter is a hard hurdle to surmount for any writer.

So Let It Be Written works best when dealing with the early days of Hetfield’s life, where we genuinely do gain valuable insight from friends and early bandmates. But as Metallica grow in stature, their access to Hetfield grows ever more distant.

We don’t gain a great deal of insight into Hetfield’s character. When we do, it isn’t always pleasant. His, and his bandmates’, treatment of Jason Newsted is shameful – it was bullying plain and simple; if you treated someone like that at work, it would not be tolerated, and the person or persons doing it would be fired. Hetfield is a great musician, but it is impossible to warm to behaviour like this.

Mark Eglinton is a good writer, and is quite honest about Metallica’s strengths and weaknesses, and as a history of Metallica, it works well, but as I say, not as well as a biography of Hetfield. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing; in our social-media saturated age, it is unusual to have a rock star like Hetfield who was retained a mystique. Plus, access to stars in the 21st century is very guarded, despite the illusion of access caused by twitter and other social media, and a great many biographies of bands and musicians suffer from this. A rare exception I can recommend is Neill Strauss’s ‘Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead’, a superb insight into the people he interviewed, but unlike Eglinton, he got to interview these people, which is a great help.

So Let It Be Written

Steve Earles

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).