What the authors have achieved in this book is a depiction of the many roles John Holmes played out over the course of his life. Hero or villain, colorful character or pathetic loser, nice guy or monster; he portrayed a different persona to each person who crossed his path and we read of the John Holmes each of them knew; an enigmatic life told from many perspectives.
Interestingly in terms of the burgeoning porno-scholarship literary genre, the consistently reliable and authoritative non-judgmental perspective with which Sugar and Nelson have structured this astonishing book a combination of oral history, socio-cultural irony, political analogy and filmographic analysis follows on from the pioneering study of the origins of the adult movie industry in The Other Hollywood. Both The Other Hollywood and John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches personalize and humanize an industry and its participants which have been traditionally treated with either repugnant disdain or objective remove to the point of absolute impersonal indifference (necessary perhaps in such scholarly accounts of the porn genre as that presented by Linda Williams in the pioneering study of porn as a genre Hard Core: Power and Pleasure in the Frenzy of the Visible). Sugar and Nelson have researched their subject considerably and it is evident on every page John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is the distinctive Holmes biography, sorting through Holmes tendency to fabricate the truth in his own accounts of his life with actual biographical fact and first-hand accounts of the man and his life presented uncut in the actual words of those who knew and interacted with him from Sharon Holmes (the wife he kept secret to his adult industry business partners) to Bob Chinn (the Chinese-American UCLA graduate turned pornographer who in tandem with Holmes would birth West Coast US porn in the Johnny Wadd series of films, meticulously described in the comprehensive filmography which closes this remarkable book). In so doing Nelson and Sugar create a biographical portrait which functions simultaneously as 1) a deconstruction of the myths surrounding both Holmes and the adult industry in general; 2) a historical chronicle of the evolution of West Coast adult film as it centred on Holmes (and the Johnny Wadd films); 3) a biography which restores humanity to a man often stripped of such and condemned because of his lifestyle choices; 4) a socio-sexual portrait of American culture and morality in the wake of the sexual revolution and its impact on American standards of decency, obscenity and moral propriety; and 5) a pro-sex feminist critique which examines a traditionally male oriented genre with due attention to womens responses to, judgements of, pleasure in and personal gain from viewing adult film (on this note Nelson and Sugar echo such as Wendy McElroys XXX A Womans Right to Pornography and Angela Cohen & Sarah Gardner Foxs The Wise Womans Guide to Erotic Videos). By doing that, Holmes tale here emerges as quintessentially American: although an idol for men, his influence on womens responses to male sexuality as denoted by pornography as a genre also informs this work (especially the concluding filmography where Sugar and Nelson allow a hint of personal response to beautifully counterweight the preceding objectivity). As such, John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is both a biography and a valid social document exploring an epoch which has never gotten its full attention due to the hypocritical moral quagmire that still surrounds any objective account of the adult film industry and the people who live it. Holmes infamous association with the Wonderland murders dramatized in the Hollywood film Wonderland starring Val Kilmer as Holmes is subsequently chronicled, with confessions from adult industry personnel, surviving participants and investigating police officers juxtaposed (in reference to actual court transcripts) for a comprehensive account of both the available facts and the many suppositions put forward in the case. Rounding out the books chronological development are Holmes fugitive from justice period and his re-entry (so to speak) into the adult industry, through to the facts surrounding his death from AIDS after knowingly having sex on film when HIV positive and risking infecting his partners (who included Italian porn star later turned politician Cicciolina). A distinctive and essentially demythologizing and humanistic portrayal of Holmes emerges in the account of his actions and the account of him constructed throughout the cumulative oral history in John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches. For those who are aware of Holmes either through reputation, viewing of his filmography or outrage over the Wonderland debacle John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches puts many rumours to rest and presents a rounded, well-researched account of the human being behind the screen icon. In stripping away any accountability to the imposed morality of those who demonize pornography and its participants what emerges is, as the book slowly segues from the vice squad anti-porn activities to the Wonderland investigation, a simultaneous exploration of the moral hypocrisy of those American authorities who have traditionally demonized pornography and sought to have it deemed illegal and suppressed as a form of either fantasy or generic discourse, both of which it inherently is. In this, John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches carries the broader frame of moral hypocrisy towards the suppression of the adult industry so well documented in The Other Hollywood and re-locates it from the macrocosm of the porn genre in total to the microcosm by focusing specifically on Holmes.
The authors make use of copious source materials (all of the DVD documentaries released to date, the Porn King autobiography, Exhausted, the Rolling Stone piece, hundreds of John's surviving films, etc) and supplement their reconstruction of (and conclusions about) the King's life with interviews (new and previously published) of people who actually knew him.
So, he makes new friends and they happen to be a bunch of junky thieves. Eddie Nash is a Palestinian drug dealer and night club owner to whom Holmes has pimped out his youngster girlfriend a couple times for coke money. The junky-thieves rob Nash who then figures John Holmes has something to do with it. John Holmes ends up going to jail for a bit because he doesnt want to spill the beans about Eddie Nash and his goons being drug-murderers. But not to fear, after he gets out of jail he meets a new teenage girlfriend and starts making pornos again. Then the next one is like John Holmes was a lying cokehead thieving AIDS skeleton.