For those of you considering jumping into the books of Henry Rollins, a word from someone who has, and some simple advice.
First of all, I consider Henry’s books to be of 4 types: Poetry/Prose, Travel/Gig Journals, Music and lastly LA Weekly Columns.
Second, you may enjoy all 4 types, or only some, but it is hard to know how and where to jump in. It seems like there are a LOT of books, but as you delve in you find that it’s a bit of a Russian nesting doll situation and can be confusing. It was for me. There are books that you can get dirt cheap and some you will frankly NEVER get as they are rare and very very (and one more very) expensive.
You may have to pick up a few of Henry’s books to see what it is you like before committing deeply. Once you have experimented, you also need to determine if you are just interested in “reading” or “collecting” his books, or as is my case, a combination of the two worlds. The reason for the decision to simply read or not is critical because if you are just interested in reading, then there is a much simpler path for you.
I like to use Henry’s book “Get In The Van” as a bit of dividing line in the cannon of his work. At the time of this writing, this is his bibliography in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Henry_Rollins#Bibliography
This is a long list, but important for the discussion to follow.
20, 1984, SST Pubs. Art by Raymond Pettibone. 2nd edition included copyright info, booking info, was hand numbered, and included the words “Second Edition,” also hand written.
Two Thirteen Sixty-One, Volume I, March 1985, 2.13.61 Publications/Illiterati Press
End to End: Two Thirteen Sixty-One, Volume II, 1985, 2.13.61 Publications/Illiterati Press
Polio Flesh: Two Thirteen Sixty-One, Volume III, 1985, 2.13.61 Publications/Illiterati Press
You Can’t Run From God, 1986, 2.13.61 Publications/Illiterati Press. Limited to 1,000 copies. Never re-printed. No ISBN available.
Hallucinations of Grandeur, 1986, 2.13.61 Publications/Illiterati Press, ISBN 0-937837-03-2
Pissing In the Gene Pool, 1987, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-00-4
Works, 1988, 2.13.61 Publications
Art to Choke Hearts, 1989, 2.13.61 Publications
1000 Ways to Die, 1989, 2.13.61 Publications
Knife Street, 1989, 2.13.61 Publications
Body Bag, 1989, Creation Press, ISBN 1-871592-04-6. UK Exclusive Compilation of Two Thirteen Sixty-One, End To End, and Polio Flesh.
The Jackass Theory, 1989 Creation Press, ISBN 1-871592-05-4. UK Exclusive Compilation of 1000 Ways to Die and Knife Street.
High Adventure In the Great Outdoors, 1990, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-02-0. US Exclusive Compilation of Two Thirteen Sixty-One, End To End and Polio Flesh.
Bang!, 1990, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-03-9. US Exclusive Compilation of 1000 Ways to Die and Knife Street.
Art to Choke Hearts & Pissing in the Gene Pool: Collected Writing 1985-1987, 1992, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-10-1
Black Coffee Blues, 1992, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-05-5
See A Grown Man Cry, 1992, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-12-8
Now Watch Him Die, 1993, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-14-4
One From None, 1993, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-04-7
Get In the Van: On the Road With Black Flag, 1994, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-24-1
Eye Scream, October 1996, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-32-2
See a Grown Man Cry, Now Watch Him Die, August 1997, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-37-3
The First Five: Collected Work of Henry Rollins from 1983-1987, October 1997, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-51-9. Compilation of High Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Pissing in the Gene Pool, Bang!, Art To Choke Hearts, One From None.
Solipsist, August 1998, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-59-4
The Portable Henry Rollins, February 10, 1998, Villard, ISBN 0-375-75000-2. Contains material from: High Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Art to Choke Hearts, Bang!, Black Coffee Blues, Get In the Van: On the Road with Black Flag, Do I Come Here Often?, Solipsist & previously unpublished material
Do I Come Here Often? (Black Coffee Blues, Pt. 2), December 1998, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-61-6 Illustrated by Shannon Wheeler
Smile, You’re Traveling (Black Coffee Blues Part 3), October 2000, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-69-1
Unwelcomed Songs, September 2002, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-71-3
Broken Summers, November 2003, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-75-6
Fanatic! Song Lists and Notes From the Harmony In My Head Radio Show, 2005, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-78-0
Roomanitarian, November 2005, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-77-2
A Dull Roar: What I Did on My Summer Deracination 2006 , November 2006, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-79-9
Fanatic! 2: Song Lists and Notes From the Harmony In My Head Radio Show 2006, November 2007, 2.13.61 Publications
Fanatic! 3: Song Lists and Notes From the Harmony In My Head Radio Show 2007, 2008, 2.13.61 Publications
A Preferred Blur: Reflections, Inspections, and Travel in All Directions 2007, 2009, 2.13.61 Publications, ISBN 1-880985-81-0
A Mad Dash: Introspective Exhortations and Geographical Considerations 2008, 2009, 2.13.61 Publications
Occupants: Photographs and Writings by Henry Rollins, 2011, Chicago Review Press, ISBN 978-1-56976-815-0
Before the Chop: LA Weekly Articles 2011-2012, 2013, 2.13.61 Publications ISBN 978-1880985533
A Grim Detail: Destination Documentation and Multi-Continental Self Examination 2009-2010, 2014, 2.13.61 Publications
Before the Chop II: LA Weekly Articles 2013-2014, 2015, 2.13.61 Publications
Before the Chop III: LA Weekly Articles 2014-2016, 2017, 2.13.61 Publications
Before the Chop IV: LA Weekly Articles (And More) 2012-2018, 2018, 2.13.61 Publications
Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 1: Hectic Expectorations For the Music Obsessive, 2019, 2.13.61 Publications
Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 2: Jovial Bloviations For the Vinyl Inspired, 2020, 2.13.61 Publications
Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 3: Frantic Rants For the Turntable Able, 2022, 2.13.61 Publications
Sic, December 2022, 2.13.61 Publications
Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 4, TBA, 2.13.61 Publications
Yes, that is quite a list, but there are some secrets and shortcuts to know and you really need to review the above listings before a purchase.
There are UK compilations, and there are U.S. Compilations of several books that are a real time saver if you are looking to just read. My absolute recommendation if you want to jump in and check out the Poetry and Prose of Henry Rollins is to start with “The First Five”.
This book exemplifies the Russian nesting doll principal I referred to earlier. This book is a compilation of compilations of books. So one book contains actually 7 individually released books, which makes the title a bit off, but hey, he can call them whatever he wants.
NOT included in this are some of the rare, and perhaps less mass marketable early books that are so rare that I even had a hard time finding information on them.
“Henry Rollins – 20”
Henry Rollins – “You Can’t Run From God”
Henry Rollins – “Hallucinations Of Grandeur”
and Henry Rollins – “Works”
These are near impossible to find. Truly.
Then there are a few that have been collected together. The 2 books “Art To Choke Hearts” and “Pissing In The Gene Pool” were collected into 1 book. Also the 2 books “See A Grown Man Cry” and “Now Watch Him Die” were similarly collected into 1 book. See listings above.
Also note “Body Bag” and “The Jackass Theory” and “High Adventures In The Great Outdoors” are compilations too. Also all that material is included in “The First Five”. So you can see why I recommend that one.
For those of you into collecting all the early books, that’s a lot to get. Good hunting.
I, and part of the reason I write this post, bought a first edition “Two Thirteen Sixty-One, Volume II” before I realized that it was part of not 1 but 3 separate compilations.
That was when I really started reading and scrutinizing the list above.
I wouldn’t have bought this if I had known I could read it within “The First Five”. However, I think I got a ridiculously good price at $35 and may turn it around and sell it to purchase some of the pricey “Fanatic!” versions out there.
Note that there ARE format differences from the original and the version presented in “The First Five”. If you just want to read though, shouldn’t be a big deal. Just so you are aware though, here is the same passage from both books. “The First Five” – left and “Two Thirteen Sixty-One, Volume II” – right.
While reviewing the list above I came across books that I didn’t even know existed post “Get In The Van”. In particular of interest to me were “A Dull Roar” and “A Preferred Blur” books 1 and 2 to what is a 4 book series. Books 3 and 4 “A Mad Dash” and “A Grim Detail” are for some reason hard to come by. Why? They are going for hundreds of dollars. The first 2 are gettable for under $20. Here are mine.
“A Preferred Blur” is even signed!
Addendum: It seems that there are 2 version of “A Mad Dash” and “A Grim Detail”. There are versions that are signed and numbered. 1500 copies. See below. This explains the crazy prices.
My version of “A Mad Dash” is a Third Printing. Got it for less than $50.
I had been stalking this book for a while. If you just want to read it, they are out there, but you gotta stay vigilant.
Same deal for “A Grim Detail”. One signed and numbered version and one plain.
I picked up a yellow plain version, though it IS a first printing, again for less than $50 in a teeth grinding e-bay bidding war.
As of this writing, you can get “Get In The Van”, “Stay Fanatic!!!” Volume 2 on Henry’s website standard reasonable prices and signed copies to boot.
I know that this isn’t necessarily in perfect order, but a word needs to be said here about “Get In The Van”.
This book is essential. If you are into Henry Rollins, you must own this one. It is replete with pictures and tour journals from Henry’s days with Black Flag.
I got mine for $40 bucks signed.
This one I think he will continue reprinting as long as he is alive. It as stated above, essential Henry Rollins. However, that is NOT the case with all his other books. For instance… I recently bought a signed copy of “Sic” and I noticed that on his website it is already sold out! From the time I saw the Instagram post that it was available and purchased until now was less than a month. Wow.
So, in the Henry Rollins book game, act fast.
As Henry would say… “Go. Go Hard. Go More. Go again.”
Abe Books and Thrift Books and even Amazon are your friend for other books in Henry’s bibliography, you can even get signed ones from there. There are also plenty of Kindle/digital versions of some of the books to be had.
I have written about the Stay Fanatic!!! series and am excited to see a Volume 4 is coming soon per his website and biblio above.
The series of books called “Before The Chop” are collections of his LA Weekly articles. The paperback version can be pricey. Again, if this is your thing, stay vigilant on E-bay and Abe books.
For me, as stated the music and travel/gig journals are my favorite and for Christmas I was gifted a signed copy of “Black Coffee Blues”. The majority of this book is of the poetry and prose variety, but it does include the first of some of the travel/gig journals that I love so much.
Next up is “Do I Come Here Often? (Black Coffee Blues Pt. 2)
This book is a combination of things. There are several interviews (Isaac Hayes, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lee Hooker) and other articles, no poetry or prose, but the majority of this book has gig/travel journals from the 90’s. Further, they are more fleshed out than in “Black Coffee Blues” the original.
Skipping the released order a bit, the 3rd part of this book series is called “Smile You’re Traveling (Black Coffee Blues Pt. 3). This was the book that hooked me on the work of Henry Rollins. This book is all travel journal and is awesome. It was the one I got first actually and have written about it here.
Go. Go hard. Go more. Go again.
This book was incredible. If you want to check out journals, this is the place to start.
Next up I opted for the combined version of Henry’s 2 books “See A Grown Man Cry” and “Now Watch Him Die”. I may look for a signed version of “Now Watch Him Die” in the future, but for now…
It has the distinction of being written before and after the murder of his friend Joe Cole. The poetry and prose of “See A Grown Man Cry” was dark. Did I say it was dark? Then I meant it. The second book “Now Watch Him Die” starts with more poetry and prose post murder and is equally dark, but, about a third of the way in the book changes to a section called “Cities” and is then gig journals. These are also dark, but fascinating.
Another book of tour journals is “Broken Summer”.
I stumbled on a personalized signed copy that was sort of ironic.
Other books beyond this include all the “Fanatic!” books, the “Stay Fanatic!!” books and the “Before The Chop” books.
The “Fanatic!” and “Stay Fanatic!!” books are music nerd conventions on paper. They describe his radio show playlists and include a jillion little bits of info on the bands he plays and personal asides and memorabilia. I have a signed copy of “Fanatic! Vol 1”.
Some interesting things to know if you start with the Stay Fanatic!! series first. The original Fanatic! series books are much smaller. Essentially mini-me versions size wise. Fanatic! left – Stay Fanatic!! right.
Also for that matter, the difference between Fanatic! Vol 1 and Fanatic Vol 2. is pretty significant. Vol 1 left – Vol 2 right.
Here are some details about the Stay Fanatic!! series and shots of mine (plus a few other Henry books along the way.
Stay Fanatic !!! – Part 3
Had to have a least 1 picture here. This is my signed “Stay Fanatic Vol 1”.
When Stay Fanatic!! Vol 4 is released I’ll add a screenshot here
THIS SPACE RESERVED FOR MY WHITE WHALE: FANATIC! VOL. 3 Sigh, was beat on an e-bay auction that had climbed to almost $100! But I will have you eventually!
Addendum 3/16/2023: I got you!
I literally did a Google search every day for over 2 months. I was getting discouraged, but stuck with it. Every day… Amazon, nope. Abe books, nope. Half Price Books, nope. Over and over again. Finally, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a paper copy on Amazon! Boom. Mine.
I can’t wait to read about what Y Pants is. That is how I recognized a Vol 3 copy as I endlessly scoured the book sites. If it’s not Y Pants, I don’t want it. On a side note, when my friend Dalton passed I ended up with all his 45’s. He somehow had 2 copies of that “Sleep Vol 2” 45, which I ended up selling for over $50 each and bought most of my Beatle records. Thanks Dalton.
P.S. Otis – check out Egg Hunt on the cover!
My copy of “Fanatic Vol 3” is not signed, but it is a first printing. Again, not sure there are others.
This was the book that was the hardest to acquire for some reason. Not exactly sure why, but I can’t wait to dig into it. After the travel/gig journals, these are my favorites. I like checking out the bands he discusses. I’ve been turned on to a lot of great bands. Anyway, the collection of Fanatic! and Stay Fanatic!!! is now complete.
The “Before The Chop Vol 1” book I am reading on Kindle. There are versions of all 4 to be had. I’m digging the first one. Easily digestible and from a place you would expect from Henry. When Henry wrote these, the editors would “chop” them down to the needed word count to fit in the LA Weekly. Here Henry presents the articles as they were written in full, or before the chop of the editors. Totally worth checking out even if you are only into his journals.
There were 2 final books that I had to check out that were somewhat vague on details and I hesitated, but went for it.
This book was described everywhere as simply photographs and writings by Henry Rollins. It’s a slim coffee-table book. The reviews I read said it was good, dark, but not much else. Here’s the deal. The book has pages of photos, most large, and some writing to go along with it. Most I would say are pretty dark prose. Only one passage is about the photos themselves.
Towards the end of the book there are pages of the photos (smaller size) with captions. These describe the pictures themselves and the part of the book I most enjoyed.
So, Occupants is not hard to come by, but there is again a huge disparity between “normal” copies and “signed” copies. Signed copies I see regularly are over a hundred bucks. I was not interested in opting for a signed copy, I really just wanted to see what it was all about and read it. So I found a used copy on E-bay for about $30 from a book reseller like Goodwill and to my surprise, the copy I received was not only a first printing (are there others? not sure) but also… it was signed!
One From None – I couldn’t find out much about this one either, with the most consistent thing being “writings”. So I had to check it out to get the real story. This is one is a slim volume, not generally expensive and easy to come by.
In terms of what I have described above for other books, this is 85% poetry and prose, equally dark as his previous work.
Then from pages 106 to 143 (the end of the book) there is an interview OF Henry done by journalist Robert Fischer near the end of 1987.
This was the last book I acquired in my quest to get all the Henry Rollins books that I wanted to read or needed to get to understand what it was all about. My journey is complete, until he releases something new which I will no doubt eagerly buy.
I hope that this information is meaningful to help you determine which books you may want to start with and what each is comprised of so you can make some informed choices, and hopefully save you some time/money in the process.
My personal collection:
Here are some other posts I wrote about reading, listening to, and seeing Henry Rollins live.
Go. Go hard. Go more. Go again.
Stay Fanatic !!! – Part 3
Yes, I’m a fan.
For those of you that are getting into Henry’s books, or are looking for that one signed copy to finish your collection…
Great detailed analysis. Very helpful. On my own Rollins book hunt and I found your info to be strangely reassuring.
Glad it helped. Still looking for Fanatic! Vol 3. Then I’ll have everything I am looking to collect. 😉