After a decade of making documentaries about offbeat characters on the fringes of US society, Louis had the urge to return to America and track down the people who most fascinated him. It would be a reunion tour, but this time without the cameras and the sense of performance being filmed inevitably brings. It would allow him to get closer to people, to discover what really motivated them and what had happened to the assorted dreamers, outlaws and eccentrics since he last saw them.
On a journey that took him from the porn sets of Los Angeles to the gangsta rappers of Memphis, from a convention of UFO contactees in Arizona to Northern Idaho for a festive get-together of neo-Nazis, he asked what 'weird people' have to tell us about our own secret natures. Had he learned anything about himself by being among them? Do we choose our beliefs or do our beliefs choose us?
Louis Theroux's first book is a hilarious, thought-provoking and at times surreal voyage into the heart of weirdness.
Ten years after hosting a BBC series on weird American subcultures, Theroux decided to make a "Reunion Tour" and write a book about how his interviewees' lives had changed. Theroux's weird Americans were UFO enthusiasts, porn stars, Aryan Nation white supremacists, brothel prostitutes, gangsta rappers, become-a-millionaire scammers, Heaven's Gate survivors and, strangely, Ike Turner. Theroux (son of writer Paul Theroux) likes them because he believes they use weirdness to feel "alive," and that's "more important than telling the truth." Apart from that, what they have in common, 10 years later, is their unavailability the porn star had become a computer programmer, the UFOer was inhabiting a different reality, and the prostitute was either born-again or doing drugs, hard to say. So Theroux settled for talking to others in their communities. Although he sometimes criticizes himself for botching things (trying unsuccessfully to attend the Millionaires seminar as the guest of a blacklisted former adherent), Theroux never criticizes his subjects, confining himself to what he hopes will be inoffensive questions like, have you "ever thought of trying to be less racist?" As their rants become repetitious, these "weird" subjects become surprisingly boring. By the end, readers may wonder why Theroux still finds these people so "alive," so interesting.