Sunday, August 28, 2016

DREAMLAND- The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

Sa 8/27/16

I heard about this book on Marc Maron's podcast, WTF. He was raving about the book and was trying to get the author on his show. I was shocked to find that the library had the book, so I got it.

This is the best non-fiction I've read in a long, long time. It was a fast read and felt like you were ripping through a thriller.

Portsmouth, Ohio- This is a blue collar town in southern Ohio that was ripped apart by the opiate/heroin epidemic that began in the 1980's and continued for a couple of decades.

In 1929 a pool the size of a football field was installed in the town of Portsmouth. One of the shoe companies put up the money. A couple of generations of the town grew up by this side of this pool. Quinones uses the metaphor of people growing up in a community (around the edges of this pool) and when the epidemic struck, people were in solitude. Locked in bedrooms or cars, nodding on downers.

Xalisco, Mexico; in the state of Nayarit. Not too far from the capitol, Tepic. Black Tar Heroin.

Farm boys that only wanted to get quick cash in America and come back and 'wow' their friends and family at the local Corn Festival.

Loved 501 Levis- They marked successful people and showed that 'they had arrived'.

On salaries of about five hundred a week. They would drive around with several bags of Black Tar heroin in balloons in their mouths. No guns. If caught, they faced nothing more than extradition. As soon as one was busted, many clamored to be next.

They offered sales and even gave free samples. And, strangest of all, they did follow up surveys to find out if the customer was completely satisfied. They did not fight among the 'cells', but they even shared product. They tried to gain market strength by offering the cheapest heroin with the best service- just like a legitimate business.

OxyContin  Oxycodone- This was a drug that was marketed as a painkiller that was an opiate, but did not risk addiction. "The pain would block any chance of addiction".

Absolute nonsense, but accepted as truth.

Herschel Fick did a very small study and said that very, very few became addicted after being prescribed this drug. He observed a very small group that were basically people with no history of any sort of abuse (for example- elderly women recovering from hip surgery). He never intended this to reflect any kind of truth in a wider application of the drug (to the general population).

The drug companies employed over a hundred thousand salespeople to convince doctors that this was a safe drug.

'Pain' was changed to become a 'Vital Sign'.
 Before, Vital Signs were merely "the clinical measurements, specifically pulse rate, temperature, respiration rate, and blood pressure, that indicate the state of a patient's essential body functions". But, by the 1980's 'Pain' was now included.

This created a huge market for pain killers.

Pills were up to 80 milligrams; on the black market this equalled about a dollar a milligram.
Oxycontin was pushed and developed by 'Purdue Pharma'.

In the end this company paid billions in restitutions, but it obviously did not offset the damage done.

Pill Mills all over the Rust Belt. After the manufacturing left in the 1940's, the only industry this area got was Prisons, Nuclear Plants, and then, Pill Mills. However, 'Rehab' became big by 2000.

People first became addicted to the pills, and when they became too expensive they substituted the Black Tar Heroin.

The Xalisco Boys drove immaculate, slightly older vehicles (so as not stand out) and would arrange to meet their customers in parking lots or on the street. No turf wars because they were always on the move. Their dispatcher's telephone number was circulated among the clients (junkies).

The best that you can ask of Non-Fiction. To be entertained and enlightened simultaneously!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


August selection for the Contemporary Book Club

The story of Addie Moore and Louis Waters

Cal is Addie's dead husband; Diane is Louis's dead spouse.
Tamara was briefly Louis's lover

Connie and Gene are Addie's children. Connie died in an accident. The two kids were playing with a hose in their front lawn. Gene chased her into the street and she was hit by a car.

Beverly is Gene's wife. They are in the midst of a separation. Their son is Jamie and he comes to live in Holt with Addie and Louis.

Bonnie is the dog that Addie and Louis get for Jamie

Ruth- 82 year old neighbor to both of them

Monday, August 22, 2016

DIRTY BLVD. - The Life and Music of Lou Reed

Finished Sa 8/20/16

This was a library book that I took out when I found that Doug Yule was not included when The Velvet Underground were selected for The Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. I was listening to a tape called, 'Play' by SQUEEZE and I learned that the band's name was taken from the album SQUEEZE. This album had none of the original members of The Velvet Underground and was basically a Doug Yule solo effort. I heard it on YouTube and was not impressed, but shocked that I wasn't aware of its' existence.

HS Band The Jades

Pickwick Records was a musical organization that offered budget prices for bands that were 'just as good' as the top rock acts of the time. "Why pay $4.99 for an album when Pickwick will give you about the same for $2.99"? I was not aware of this and I've never heard music being marketed like this.  Pickwick did have Jay and The Americans. Reed wrote HEROIN while working at Pickwick.

THE PRIMITIVES 'The Ostrich' He first meets John Cale

Bunny, Lou's sister, is five years younger than him. He was always close to her. She maintains that the Reed family dynamic was destroyed after his electroshock treatments at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Queens NY. Parents, Sidney, accountant; Toby, housewife, she did win a beauty pageant when she was a court stenographer in the 40's.

The Reeds lived in Freeport, NY near Jones Beach on Oakfield Avenue.

Lou ran track and played tennis in High School.

Link to an excellent piece by Lou's sister, Merrill Reed Weiner,  about his early life-

Went to work for his father after The Velvets imploded

Best book to come out about Lou Reed. I own TRANSFORMER and it leaves that book in the shade.

I was surprised to learn of all his work with important jazz and classical musicians. He strived to hire the best in any field for his later works.

This book is probably my second favorite Rock Bio. The first place honor must go to Bob Mould's book, "See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody".

Sunday, August 14, 2016

PAPER WINGS by Marly Swick

Finished Sa 8/13/16

This is a library book that I took out because I loved my copy of  EVENING NEWS.

Set mostly in a suburb of Madison, WS

The Keller Family; narrated by youngest daughter, Suzanne. She's beginning the fifth grade when the story starts. Her sister, Bonnie, is four years older. Father, optician; mother, housewife.

The story begins on the eve of Kennedy's election, and rapidly changes due to his assassination. Suzy's mother, Helen, is enamored by The Kennedy's and his death destroys her life. I guess the novel could be seen as how that single event wiped out the placid Eisenhower Years and ushered in the turbulent 60's.

Cat- Jack
Dog- Jackie
Smoking becomes Helen's raison d'etre.

The move into the Keller's first suburban home is riveting. Product names are spot on and invoke memories if you are of that age.

Deteriorating marriage that's not really anyone's fault. People change and this is rarely seen in literature. Usually there is one to blame or bear the brunt of the breakup.

I loved this novel so much that I'll probably buy it on Amazon (a penny plus postage). I'm surprised this author is not more widely read. She's primarily a short story writer and a teacher of fiction writing.

amazon page-

Friday, August 12, 2016

CIMARRON ROSE by James Lee Burke

Finished Th 8/11/16

According to the flyleaf in the paperback, I first finished on Tu 6/1/99 after taking one 30'- 4 pole to Quincy. Those WERE NOT the days.

This is not a Dave Robicheaux novel, but from the Billy Bob Holland series.

I loved the book. It had an eloquent malevolence. The Bad Guys were so well written- in an almost 19th century style. Reveals the underbelly of Southern/Western Aristocracy.

Garland T. Moon- vicious criminal, sexually abused, more or less raised in prison. Reminded me of a kind of Evil Clown.
Darl Vanzandt- Sociopath and son of one of the community's richest families. Probably suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Lucas Smothers- Illegitimate son of Billy Bob. Holland is  close to this boy. The kid is a gifted musician, guitar. Vernon Smothers is his father (mean redneck).
Deaf Smith- the town. West End- Rich Side. East End- Poor Side
Bunny Vogel- College friend of Darl. Lost his career as a college football player when he got caught cheating for Darl. Slept with Darl's mother, Emma. Involved in the murder of Roseanne, but not really.
Marvin Pomroy- Straight and reasonably honest prosecutor in a town controlled by the Dixie Mafia.
L. Q. Navarro- Federal marshal that died when saving Billy Bob during an illegal raid across the Mexican border. He threw joker cards on his drug mule victims after he killed them.He appears as a ghost visible to Billy Bob throughout the novel.
Felix Ringo- Corrupt Mexican operative. CIA trained torturer.
Roseanne Hazlitt- This girl is the motivator of the story. Her body is found strangled and Lucas is setup as the murderer. Felix did it to cover up for Jack Vanzandt's meth/fake credit card business.
Temple Carrol- PI that works for Billy Bob. She probably ends up with Holland. Friends with the 'smartest little kid in the town' Pete. Holland befriends this young kid. His mother is a wreck and can barely support the boy- Holland steps in.
Brian Wilcox- Corrupt DEA agent. Works with Mary Beth and she dated this man.
Mary Beth Sweeney- Holland meets her as the new deputy in town, but she is working for the DEA trying to sort out the Vanzandt operation.

Sam Holland's diary for the 1890's figures in the novel. Billy Bob reads about his adventures with The Dalton-Doolin Gang in the Oklahoma Territory in 1892. Sam was a born again cowpoke and became a Saddle Preacher. In love with Jennie, the Cimarron Rose who was related to members of this gang. They live like animals in a series of caves by a river.
Virgil Morales- Member of The Purple Hearts motorcycle gang. Friend of Bunny, Darl, and Lucas. Testifies FOR Lucas at the trial. Says he was unconscious when the murder occurred.

Monday, August 8, 2016

THE ADDERALL DIARIES- A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, Murder by Stephen Elliott

Finished Su 8/7/16

I saw the movie starring James Franco and Ed Harris a couple of weeks ago, and found that the library had the book, so I got it.

Set in Rogers Park, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area

Elliott is a college graduate and writer with an extremely troubled past. Runaway, alcohol and drug problems, bizarre history of BDSM sexuality, stripping, prostitution, and a combative and adversarial relationship with his father. The father is also a writer.

The book is about a strange murder trial that Elliott is covering and it forces him to deal with his past.

Stephen grew up in a series of group homes and foster care. He  feels that he was driven out of his house by his abusive father, but the father saw him as a threat and he threw him out for his sanity and the well being of the remaining members of the family.

Kind of an emotional Rashomon; each one plays 'the blame game' but the other sees something radically different.  I liked this aspect the best in the movie, although it wasn't that developed. Stephen's mother died of MS when he was fourteen. Inexplicably, his father blames Stephen for this.

LInk to Hans Reiser murder case on wikipedia-

Writeup at amazon-

"As a writer stymied by past success, writers block, substance abuse, relationship problems and a serious set of father issues, Elliott's cracked-out chronicle of a bizarre murder trial amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Not long into the 2007 trial of programmer Hans Reiser, accused of murdering his wife, the defendant's friend Sean Sturgeon obliquely confessed to several murders (though not the murder of Reiser's wife). Elliott, caught up in the film-ready twist and his tenuous connection to Sturgeon (they share a BDSM social circle), makes a gonzo record of the proceedings. The result is a scattered, self-indulgent romp through the mind of a depressive narcissist obsessed with his insecurities and childhood traumas. Elliott is an undeniably good writer, but his voice has more to do with amphetamines than the author himself or the trial at hand. Elliott's frustration with himself is contagious; any readers expecting a true crime will be bewildered".

Not an easy read because of too many characters and the extreme sexual activity was so far out that it was truly hard to grasp. SadoMasochistic relationships invert the normal Pleasure Drive for sex. If Pain is Pleasure then everything is up for grabs(my humble opinion).

Writing style was interesting; not quite 'Gonzo' (HS Thompson), but like if LEAVING LAS VEGAS dealt obliquely with a True Crime incident.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

EVENING NEWS by Marly Swick

Finished Fr 8/5/16

This is a book that I had bought from the library in 2002. I thought it was excellent then, and I still do. On Saturday, 8/6 I dropped the book over at the Brandenburgs for Janny to read it.

Teddy shots his sister Trina with a handgun. He's next door at his friend's, Eric, house and they are looking at a gun that Eric's father, a commercial pilot, had bought for his mother for protection when he was away. Eric is handing the gun to Teddy, the phone rings, and the gun goes off, shooting Trina through the heart as she is playing in an inflatable wading pool right in front of her mother, Giselle.  Teddy is nine years old, and Trina is not quite two.

The novel is set in California, but Giselle married and grew up in Nebraska. Ed is Teddy's father and she divorced him and went to California to get a degree. She met Dan, her teacher, and fell in love and married him. Trina is his child.

After the shooting, Giselle sees her life in a much different light, and realizes the weaknesses in her relationship with Dan, and sees the strength and good father characteristics of Ed.

"You're lucky you're not my son". This is what Dan says to Teddy right after the accident. I'm not sure what he meant by this (and neither is Giselle), but Dan never recovers from the death of Trina. She was the love of his life, not Giselle, and he understands that he can never forgive (or forget) Teddy's accident. The hurt is just too deep.

I loved the book and plan to read Swick's earlier novel, PAPER WINGS.

page at amazon books-

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I, DOLL Life and Death with the New York Dolls by Arthur "Killer' Kane

Finished Tu 8/2/16

This is a library book that I picked up last week when I returned A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION, the bio of Alex Chilton. I just looked through it (I had read it before), and watched some youtube videos about the book, Chilton, and the author.

I was actually looking for Marianne Faithfull's autobiography.

Kane's book is an autobiography and he wrote it off and on from 1986 to a year before his death in 2004. His wife Barbara Garrison Kane writes the prologue and epilogue.

This is the only celebrity that I know who was born on my birthday, 2/3/1949.
He also worked for the phone company.
He also liked The Hullabaloos.

Kane was very into fashion- the more outrageous the better. Most of the guys in the dolls seemed to be as good with a needle and thread as they were with their instruments. Especially Billy Doll, the drummer.

Cynthia Foxe was married to David Johansen. She claimed that all of the Dolls great ideas were first spoken by Arthur. Foxe went on to marry Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Kane feels that this is the band that the record company REALLY wanted, and went the Dolls floundered, they went with them rather than giving support to Kane's group.

He went on to work with THE CORPSE GRINDERS. Another band that was way ahead of the curve. Heavy Metal Gore.

Kane makes Johansen the heavy. Reminded me of Elvis's bass player's take on The Singer.

Well written and an interesting bio.
His wife puts him into proper prospective in the epilogue. Seems like he was his own worst enemy. Shocking tales of alcohol abuse and his falling out the window is totally outrageous. Then, he's beaten nearly to death on the streets of LA after attending a Red Hot Chilli's concert. Although, it's not stated, I'll bet he provoked the violence.

Dies less than two weeks after the reunion concert. This reunion was Morrissey's idea.

Worked as a Mormon historian in LA shortly before his death (after he had sobered a certain extent)