Way back when I started this blog, I wrote about my fondness for Paganini and bemoaned the lack of recordings of his compositions. Since then, I have tracked down a few and have really enjoyed them. I also recently finished a biography on him. John Sugden's (presumably) self-published biography, Paganini, His Life and Times is an updated version of his more compellingly titled bio Niccolo Paganini: Supreme Violinist or Devil's Fiddler. It has been republished since then under a different title.
The updated version includes illustrations which is about the sole thing that makes this book good. It is a nice little overview, not very well-written, that relies primarily on other resources, especially Geraldine de Courcey's biography which is regarded as the biography on Paganini's life.
The majority of the illustrations are sketches of Paganini. There are also pictures of places and peers of Paganini's. There are also some New Yorker style cartoons which Sugden apparently commissioned for the book. The one cartoon I really like a lot which depicts Paganini playing in a cemetery - a free concert for the dead.
The text is greatly lacking. Sugden jumps around, talks about something and then says he'll get into it in later chapters, and does not delve very deeply into any aspect of Paganini's life. He also is overly sympathetic with Paganini, defending his wrongdoings or portraying him as a victim.
It still is a nice little primer on Paganini's life. It really makes me want to buy a copy of de Courcey's biography (there's a nice copy on eBay right not for a reasonable price (for one with a reasonable income (of which I am not))) because Paganini was a very fascinating musician. It does seem, though, that his greatness really was a result of his technical skill and showmanship. Compared to other violinists of the era, his tone was lacking (many critics labeled it thin (and this on a nice Guarneri violin)). He moved violin playing to an entirely new level, though, with his talents with double stops, pizzacatos, etc.