Clinton Heylin has authored some of the most intensely detailed volumes on specific aspects of rock history, in particular the life and music of Bob Dylan, on whom he is a prominent expert. There have also been books on the genesis of American punk and new wave, a history of rock bootlegging and a thorough examination of the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks album. Heylin has a fanatical dedication to unearthing facts and offers keen musical analysis, maintaining a fluent and entertaining writing style, although he can become overbearingly opinionated at times. Heylin is the co-founder of Wanted Man, a British organization devoted to studying Dylan's life and work. Such organizations tend to be manned by fans whose obsession borders on the unhealthy, and Heylin is certainly a rabid fan. But he, unlike many such figures, has the ability to write about the object of his attentions in a fashion that is accessible to the general public, and is also willing to be quite critical, as well as admiring, of the singer's work. There are several Bob Dylan biographies available, and Heylin's Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades is not necessarily the most comprehensive. However, it's the most useful and balanced general overview of his career, drawing information and perspectives from many sources, and covering his post- mid-'70s activities with as much attention as the singer's more celebrated earlier life.
In a more specialized vein, Heylin also authored Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions [1960-1994], which both analyzed his recording dates extensively and offered feisty opinions as to what was wrong and right with them. He also did the temporal chronicle, Bob Dylan: Day by Day, and sometimes writes meticulous articles about aspects of Dylan for magazines such as Record Collector. Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids is the most thorough account of the birth and early years of American punk and new wave, breaking up the prose with extended quotes from many of the principal musicians. His most controversial, and perhaps most valuable, project to date is Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry. This nearly 450-page tome is the only lengthy and responsible history of a sector of the music trade that is almost totally neglected by the mainstream media, paying attention to both the fascinating practices which motor bootleg production and the important rock music which has been only available on bootlegs. Heylin was also the editor of the anthology The Penguin Book of Rock & Roll Writing, and the editor of Schirmer's Classic Rock Albums series, to which he contributed the volume on the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks. In 1999, he put out yet another Dylan book, Dylan's Daemon Lover, which concentrated on his musical sources. He was also updating and revising Behind the Shades for a new edition to be published in 2000.