Burn this book

Hillsboro-based author Ace Collins isn't the first writer to tackle the Dixie Chicks' story: Scott Gray and Cathy Repetti's Chicks Rule: The Story of the Dixie Chicks was in stores just a few weeks before Collins' tome, All About the Dixie Chicks, will be on September 18. And he surely won't be the last; the band's recent success is sure to spawn enough knock-off paperbacks to fill a few shelves at Borders. Yet after skimming through All About, we're not entirely sure Collins should be credited for writing about the band at all. Whatever St. Martin's Press paid him for the book, it probably barely covered his copying fees at Kinko's.

After all, the only real writing Collins does throughout the book's thin 182 pages is the transition paragraphs that string together scores of newspaper and magazine clips, many of which were culled from back issues of the Dallas Observer. We had long suspected that the amount of space we had devoted to the subject over the years was approaching book-length, but we had no idea how right we were. You can't say Collins -- who has given similar treatment to the careers of Lorrie Morgan, Tanya Tucker, and Pam Tillis -- didn't do his research. That's all he did.

That is, unless you consider sentences such as "Chick Power is a great thing!" (the last line in All About) to be insightful commentary on the group and its music. Or how about this passage: "But could they get any hotter than they already were? The answer appeared to be 'Yes!'" Nice work, Ace. Collins may dress up his book like a tell-all, but he does little more than tell how to kiss ass without looking like it...much. He at least earns points for including the story of Robert Brooks. Brooks, if you recall from reading past Street Beats, was the Chicks fan who set up a Web site devoted to the band -- The All-Inclusive Dixie Chicks Page (www.dallas.net/~totoro/dixiechicks), complete with downloadable audio clips of the Chicks' first three albums -- and received a cease-and-desist letter from the group's attorneys for his trouble.

Of course, Collins didn't do any investigating for himself on the matter, preferring to rely on quotes from a story about Brooks' legal troubles that previously appeared in the Observer ("Teaching a (history) lesson," December 12, 1998). Not that we mind at all. Glad we could help. It saves us the trouble of writing our own book about the band, which we had been planning on doing in a few years, sometime after the inevitable backlash hit. We could still do it anyway; it's not as if Collins' book will ever be considered the definitive work on the subject. Tentative title: From Street Corner to Street Corner: The Rise and Fall of the Dixie Chicks. Kind of has a ring to it, huh?

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