In December 2003, D.C.-based Dori Hadar and fellow record collector Frank Beylotte scored the ultimate flea-market find: dozens of obscure albums and singles by '60s and '70s soul singer Mingering Mike. But upon closer inspection, as music critic Neil Strauss notes in his intro to "Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar" ($24.95, paperback), there was no vinyl inside the sleeves -- only "round cardboard cutouts with grooves drawn in marker."
Even better, each hand-drawn album had fake liner notes, and a few "were even covered in shrink-wrap, affixed with price stickers, and labeled with apocryphal quotes from luminaries like James Brown." A little sleuthing led to Mike himself, an obsessive outsider artist. The book, in stores this week, is an oddly touching meditation on D.I.Y. media and good old-fashioned fantasy as willful counterpoints to the dictates of the celebrity-industrial complex.