The Cincinnati Post
April 8, 2002
Byline: Rick Bird, Post staff reporter

The Doors’ Jim Morrison faked his death and has been living for the past 30 years on the remote Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean.

That is the whimsical premise of “the Poet in Exile” (Thunder’s Mouth Press, $16), a new novel from Ray Manzarek, the Doors’ keyboard player.

Morrison died in Paris on July 3, 1971, his body discovered in a bathtub. Officially he died of “natural causes,” but it’s generally assumed his death at the age of 27 was alcohol related.

As happens with any rock star who dies so young, the legend and folklore grow. It’s happened most recently with Kurt Cobain, with some claiming he was murdered. Some fans don’t want to believe the obvious. Manzarek, 63, knows the reality, but refuses to let Morrison go.

“People were always saying to me, ‘He’s alive isn’t he? Come on Ray, tell me the truth,”‘ Manzarek said in a recent phone interview. “Finally, I said to myself, ‘Yes, he’s alive, he’s changed his name. And here’s what he has done. The point of this was to give Jim Morrison 30 more years on this planet.”

In the novel Manzarek has slightly changed the names “to protect the guilty,” as he puts it. Morrison is simple called “J” or “the Poet.” Manzarek becomes “Roy” and the other bandmates – John Densmore and Robby Krieger – don’t even get renamed, referred to as “the drummer” and “the guitar player.”

The book opens with Roy getting mysterious postcards from the Seychelles, finally traveling to the islands and tracking down his old bandmate who faked his death to escape the limelight and pressures.

This is where Manzarek’s playful premise turns weird. Roy finds “J” calmly sipping a drink in an island bar. A pretty big leap of faith for a guy with a serious alcohol problem.

“He’s found the answer to life. He’s broken through the Jim Morrison persona,” Manzarek explains about his middle-aged Morrison. “there’s no reason for him to be an alcoholic. He’s conquered all those childhood horrors. So now he can sit down and have a drink with a friend at a bar…. The best part of writing the book was sitting down with Jim and having a planters punch.”

Manzarek is clearly still enamored with his old buddy, casting Morrison as the well-adjusted wise rock god, even referring to him often as Dionysus. Manzarek says he has the pre-Doors Morrison in mind for what the Poet became.

“When we first got the band together this guy was clean, sober. He was the most literate, articulate guy I had ever met,” Manzarek said. “I wanted to take him to enlightenment to his adulthood and finally opening all the way the ‘doors of perception.’ The Poet finds the secret.”

Manzarek emphasizes his book is a work of fiction, but it often reads like a Doors autobiography, frequently referring to real incidents in Morrison’s tortured career. But in one conversation Roy reminisces with the Poet how he “had them in his hand at Woodstock.” Wait a minute. The Doors never played Woodstock.

Manzarek’s little game keeps readers and Doors fan’s guessing what we are to believe. Manzarek even adds to the myth, insisting the idea for his novel really came from Jim Morrison.

“It was Jim who told me about the Seychelles. Two months before we finished the ‘L.A. Woman’ album and he left for Paris, he did mention the islands. He said to me, ‘Ray, the Seychelles.’ I said, ‘the sea shells?’ ‘No, the Seychelles.’ He said, ‘that’s a place a man could disappear.’ ”

Manzarek’s over-the-top writing style refers to Morrison as “the man to be a leader of our new movement of love and respect for the soil of our country.”

Manzarek makes no pretense his book is a great novel, saying he wanted to write a fun “weekend read” and he clearly relished revisiting Morrison’s myth as a true rock god who achieves perfection. And Manzarek does not kid himself about the reality of Morrison’s life.

“Of course I’m mad at Jim. He drank himself to death…. He blew a marvelous opportunity. That shows how alcohol is so addictive. It’s such a devil. It’s a killer.”

Manzarek still talks about a Doors tour, perhaps later this year with the other two surviving band members. The Cult’s Ian Astbury would do vocals.

Drummer Densmore, however, still suffers from tinnitus in his ears and any tour depends on his condition. Manzarek said he won’t tour if he can’t go out with both his original bandmates.