John Albert: Stranger than Fiction

John Albert has played drums in the band Bad Religion and written articles for magazines like LA Weekly, Hustler and BlackBook. Albert’s memoir of his personal struggle with drugs and finding his salvation in baseball, Wrecking Crew: The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates, was derived from an LA Weekly article that won the Best of the West Journalism Best Sports Writing Award in 2000. It was published in 2005 to great acclaim. John currently resides in Los Angeles.

Wrecking Crew was your debut book. What compelled you to write it in the first place?

I was actually compelled because I was offered a publishing deal to write it. It started out as a cover story for the LA Weekly. The story was optioned by Paramount Pictures at the time, and my new movie agent made a deal to do a book. I thought there was no way there would be enough material for an entire book, but it was an opportunity so I took it contrary to my doubts.

I know that when you’re publishing a novel you’re forced to rewrite the rewrites and edit and rearrange the rearrangements. It’s a long and arduous process. Do you think this process differs when publishing a memoir?

I am not sure what it’s like with everybody. One of the things I did, which I can’t recommend enough, is that I joined a writers group. So before I turned in chapters I would have already read and discussed them with other people. I think my reading chapters about sex and drugs to these dear old ladies really made the work with my editor a whole lot easier.

It’s been seven years since Wrecking Crew was published. Do you think putting out such a personal story has changed the way people interact with you?

Maybe initially they were aware that everything said and observed was material for story. I have done it again periodically with short stories that detail the lives of friends. But I think people love that, they really want to be talked about. We offered to take things out of Wrecking Crew and or change people’s names. Nobody wanted that no matter how depraved their activities were.

When writing fiction I know that you’re free to take creative liberties with the story and descriptions. How faithful do you feel you have to be when you’re writing nonfiction?

This is a great question. I know quite a few people who have written high profile memoirs and confessed that they seriously embellished events. I did not. Even when it was suggested by people in my writer’s group, I stayed very true to the events. I think that came from working as a journalist. Lucky for me the truth was – to quote your dad [Brett Gurewitz], “Stranger than fiction.”

Do you think you’ll ever delve into fiction?

I have two short fiction works being published in the next month. So the answer is yes. I found the process to be freeing and requiring less homework.

I heard they might possibly making a Wrecking Crew movie? True or False? If so, would you be up for a starring role?

They are continually trying to make it into a movie. This is the fourth time. Right now the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman owns the rights. And no, I would want a big movie star to play me because I want the film to be both successful and good. I have no talent or draw as an actor.

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