With his chiseled features, effortless screen presence, otherworldly vitality, striking blue eyes, Jan-Michael Vincent seemed destined for superstardom. However, the real Jan-Michael Vincent was a reluctant sex symbol plagued by doubt and low self-confidence, a perpetual misfit doomed to alcoholism.
Jan-Michael Vincent: Edge of Greatness covers Vincent’s entire life, beginning in his hometown of Hanford, California, and details the difference between Jan Vincent, a shy, small town boy, and Jan-Michael Vincent, Hollywood’s golden boy, who was thought to be the next James Dean in the early to mid-1970s, a period in which Vincent delivered memorable performances in films such as Buster and Billie, The Mechanic, Tribes, and The World’s Greatest Athlete.
Featuring interviews with Vincent’s childhood classmates and friends, as well as his former Hollywood colleagues, including Donald P. Bellisario, Alex Cord, and Robert Englund, Jan-Michael Vincent: Edge of Greatnessreveals an eternal man-child, whose career and life symbolize the tragedy of unfulfilled potential.
David Grove is an author,film journalist, historian, and produced screenwriter. He is the author of the books Fantastic 4: The Making of the Movie, Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen, Making Friday the 13th, and On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th. He lives in British Columbia, Canada.
Grove missed his calling. He should have been a novelist. Thanks to Grove's vivid prose and keen eye for emotional detail, Edge of Greatness is reads much more like a tragic novel than the standard biography of a mildly talented actor's rapid rise and horrific downfall. This is the all-too-familiar story of a self-destructive actor undone by all the temptations of Hollywood -- sex, drugs, alcohol -- and his own hubris.
The book tracks Vincent from his humble beginnings inthe central California farming community of Hanford, through his years of stardom, and up to his current squalor, which is physical, mental and financial. As Grove puts it:
"A black Mustang convertible and a patch of roses out front offer the only clues to his past life, when his aquamarine eyes,chiseled features, and sun-streaked hair sang of creamy sand and sweet sex. He has long ceased being beautiful or strong."
Vincent today is confined to a wheelchair. He has lost a leg, the result of peripheral artery disease, and he struggles with diabetes, epilepsy, and the ravages of "countless episodes of alcoholic poisoning and toxic shock." Grove goes on to say that Vincent "barely weights 100 points, his teeth dangle in his jaw, brittle and emaciated" and that the condition of his liver "has moved far beyond the simple characterization of cirrhosis. It's a celebration of rot."
And all of those quotes are just from page one,effectively setting the stage for the tragic story to come. Sure, he gives away the ending, but it puts the actor's entire rise and fall into horrific perspective that haunts the book. What makes this tragedy such compelling reading, as opposed to the literary equivalent of watching a train wreck, is Grove's writing and reporting skills. Perhaps that's due to this startlingadmission from the author, at the very end of the book, when he asks himself if he likes Vincent:
I don't like myself, which is what we have in common and why I was drawn to him.
And he goes on to conclude:
It's obvious now that he was not born; he was invented.I thought there would be more, but this is it. He got what he deserved.
Wow. It's hard to turn your eyes away.
-- Lee Goldberg
"Few punches are pulled when it comes to this biography of Jan-Michael Vincent... Grove has done a massive amount of research, maintains a balanced perspective and never sensationalizes the more turbulent aspects of Vincent's crazy life."
- Shock Cinema
"Recommended!" - Tom Stockman, wearemoviegeeks.com
"This is a thorough, critical, and highly provocative work." - coolasscinema.com
"Some great stories and well researched information on a challenging character who was always quite mysterious. Explosive!" - theactionelite.com
"In Edge of Greatness David Grove provides a thorough appraisal of the acting career of Jan-Michael Vincent, giving an honest and unsparing but thoughtful and sympathetic assessment of the promising highlights of Vincent’s Hollywood career, and then the terrible depths that followed. Grove personalizes the subject, noticeably choosing to refer to him in the familiar, as “Jan” rather than as “Vincent.” The tone of the prose is very much on the side of the subject, but without any cloying sentiment, and it doesn’t shy away from the darker details — although admirably, Grove fast-forwards through the accounts of drinking and drugging that almost any other biographer would reiterate at length. The chapters bookending the bulk of the account, in which the writer gets to be more creative in the presentation of the story, are particularly strong. Biographies tend to have straightforward chronologies; this one, not least because its subject is still alive, gets to be a little more poetic in the telling." - dailygrindhouse.com