Sunday, August 26, 2012

Series Two: Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer, Dying Days and Dying Days Two by Armand Rosamilia
Zombie Apocalypse: Zombies, Ghouls and Gods Reborn
Reviewed by Anthony Servante

“I'm trying to introduce you and me in the stories, people who aren't super-human, military elite or any other cliché characters that fill most zombie and horror books. I want the reader to have something in common and understand each character.”
Armand Rosamilia

Armand Rosamilia

It is time to discuss another series from our Zombie Apocalypse authors and examine the manner that this writer furthers the evolution of the genre of the undead. George Romero used the zombie as an allusion for man’s materialistic leanings, opting for a hoard of possessions over becoming a useful member of society. As such, in a lawless society, man’s dual nature is put to the test: will he choose personal wealth and power or promote the rebuilding of society and take control of the chaos brought on by the living dead? Armand Rosamilia focuses his narrative microscope on his characters and the actions they take, the decisions they make, and the rewards and sorrows that follow making such decisions. Let’s begin with Darlene Bobich: Zombie Killer, the prelude to Dying Days, the origin of our heroine.

Dying Days Prequel

Darlene Bobich is a study in decision-making and the unpredictability of its results. Rosamilia wants us to look at the humans and how they react to tough situations. Right off, Darlene kills her infected father. She decided it had to be done and executed the need without hesitation; ironically it was her father who taught her to make the tough choices and live without regret. She then proceeds to kill her neighbor, already turned, as he feasts on his wife in the yard of their suburban home; she promptly kills the victim before she can turn as well. It may seem cold-hearted, but it is merely calculated. To kill her neighbors reduces the zombie hordes by two. It lessens the danger of chaotic situations. Simple as that.

Thus, the zombies are written to provide these situations with an extended threat new to the zombie genre. Rosamilia’s zombies have engorged tongues and penises and use them to assault their victims sexually while tearing them apart. I think back to The ZA Part One (, where I considered the possibility that the undead were creatures of habit, eating the flesh of the living a warped sense of social interaction between fried neural synapses and wired nerve endings firing non-stop from fear and adrenaline. The zombie does not seek nourishment. It follows a neural loop that says eat, interact with people, and show restraint, the cornerstone of civilization; only the memories are all fused together. Eating cannot be distinguished from socializing, and dining with somebody is jumbled with dining on your dinner (it becomes dining on your date). But we’ve limited the debate to eating and communicating, worthy endeavors for a sardonic look man’s excesses. In Darlene Bobich some in the zombie hordes are horny. Some want to eat, some want to rape. This mix adds suspense to the proceedings as you don’t know if the zombie lurching for you wants to eat a hole in you or fill one. And I don’t remember if it were made clear if the satyr-zombies can infect a victim via rape.

But our author does not ignore the human characters and their carnal foibles. Sam, Darlene’s one friend, is cornered with our heroine in a library, surrounded by thousands of “extreme” zombies; well, good old Sam wants to have sex with Darlene as their final act of humanity before they get sodomized and/or eaten by the undead masses. Even as death is upon them, she must decide how to deal with her good friend’s advances in the middle of an undead frenzy. Her choice determines her survival. She has become an instinctual creature who acts on feeling more than consideration. This foreshadows her psychic ability in Dying Days Two.  Earlier a bad decision led her to a gang-rapist red-neck militia. A good decision cost her friend, Jonathan, his life. These humans are still trying to act civilized, but the troubles keep coming and forcing them to make quick decisions no matter what the cost. In a sad scene that seems mimetic for the whole situation with the undead and human animals pairing off with the living and the human beings, Darlene is promoted to Death Squad from Rear Watch, the tail end of the guards that protect the exodus of people looking for a paradise; when it is decided that an old man is too sick to survive more than three days, and needs to be executed. This bad decision cost needless loss of life. They can’t point to the zombies anymore; they begin to blame each other.

Although Darlene likes to find shelter with other survivors of the zombie infestation, she often ends up alone. Her tragic flaw is that her need for human contact keeps getting her in trouble. She befriends the guy across from the library shelter where she lives. Without getting into too many specifics, Darlene keeps taking that path paved with good intentions just before being reminded that the same path leads to bad outcomes. Her need for human contact cost a stranger she was attracted to his life. And with each hard decision she makes, her shell grows thicker. It’s an odd cycle. Find a friend, abandon friend before he abandons you even though you’re not even sure if he was going to abandon you; go back to him, and someone gets killed. No kiss and make-up here. No kissing your boo-boo. Just keep trying to decide the right thing, even as no one has figured out that any decision leads to tragedy. And with this lesson learned Darlene hits the road again.

Dying Days picks up the prequel story with Darlene on the road being bushwhacked by a depraved survivor. Again it’s the humans and their unrestrained foibles set loose in a lawless time. Rosamilia writes: “Most of the property damage she’d encountered since this had begun was man-made, with looting, raping and fires done without the zombies’ help. Man had turned on man. Instead of helping one another they’d decided to kill for that last scrap of food. Safety in numbers? Not if it meant having to share a can of soup. It was easier to bash your former friend and neighbor in the head with the can rather than sharing it.” Darlene survives and makes her share of mistakes but maintains a sense of normalcy with which the readers can identify. Don’t come looking for Resident Evil’s Alice or Underworld’s Selene, so don’t expect tight outfits and martial arts. Though you do get your share of nudity and gore, which is requisite for the genre, but we’re just tagging along with Darlene as she witnesses humanity turning animalistic, but finding pockets of humanity.

It is the little poignant observations that she picks up on that add credence to the storyline. Sure there are zombies and gruesome moments, but Rosamilia has a way of splicing the mundane with the extreme. You get a tear in your eye while you’re gagging down the bile. This is one of those moments: “Darlene’s reality was even more disturbing: blue, clear skies, the smell of the beach, the sound of the pounding surf, and the undead. The waves were strong today, slapping against a horrific sight: a whale, half submerged in the surf, was being eviscerated by a group of zombies. Darlene nearly puked when she saw one of them trying to ejaculate on the dead, bloated creature as other zombies pulled off chunks of flesh. The scene was surreal; gulls fought with the zombies for pieces. She wasn’t surprised when one of the gulls got too close and his head was promptly bitten off.” It’s an idyllic scene with a gory twist, as seen through the eyes of a young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But she walks the edge, neither breaking down nor giving in: “Darlene noticed her hand was shaking. Her nerves were shot and she wondered for the hundredth times today whether all of this was worth it or not. She was physically and mentally exhausted, each day another trial and tribulation.Darlene tossed the cell phone around in her hand and laughed. It was funny what people still clung to, even when they were of no practical use. She reached into her pocket and fingered her keychain. Her house key, her car key and the key to her dad’s house were there, all useless. Yet she had them with her at all times.”

Part of the reason Darlene maintains her balance is the people she meets on the road. For every attack there’s a moment of normal living. She cooks a meal for her host after a daring rescue. She has the hots for her host’s son even amid the zombie infestation (it sounds corny but Rosamilia makes it work). It is with these little interludes where she feels that she might have a chance at a civilized world again that we enjoy Dying Days best. Here the narrator tells us, “For the first time in months Darlene had a task besides finding food, shelter, and trying not to get killed. She dropped to her hands and knees in front of the counter and began to wash the floor, one inch at a time.” She finds the simple act of cleaning up a moment away from the apocalypse outside. A basic task such as cleaning the floor gives the reader something to identify with. And that’s what makes her different from the killer babe one might expect to find in an end of the world scenario. Although the sexual tension between Darlene and a female and male character may contribute a touch of the soap opera to the proceeding, it is Rosamilia’s way to take a pause between zombie attacks. Please note that Dying Days ends on a cliffhanger.

In Dying Days Two, however, the zombie action starts the third book in the series off with some gruesome violence and suspense. We are caught up with the cliffhanger ending of Dying Days and the Sons of the New Patriots militia, with whom Darlene Bobich has a history and a vendetta to settle. And a new element is introduced to the extreme undead: Are they starting to learn?

The normalcy that we see through Darlene’s point of view returns as she and her new friends rebuild the ramparts shattered by the latest wave of the recently deceased from a nearby “safe city” that was overrun. We also learn more about St. Augustine, the character Azrael, and get that big lesbian scene our author only hinted at in the previous book. Many more characters are introduced, and the human drama continues. And what of the mysterious bite that Bobich sustained in the prequel? Well, she can now sense the zombies at a psychic level. Since this is the most recent book, I want to minimize my critique of the events that the previous two books led up to. I’ll take it as a given that most of my readers have at least read one of the first two in the series. If not, I recommend you start with Darlene Bobich, the Prequel, then Dying Days, and lastly Dying Days Two.

I’ve pretty much summed up the structure of the storyline and the development of the Bobich character. I won’t surmise on how many more books we can expect from Armand; I mean, hell, I’m still waiting for the other three Star Wars movies we were promised. So, just be happy that the series so far is worth a read and well worth following. Although there are many characters, it is an easy story to follow because all the characters revolve around Darlene, and she is such a three-dimensional character that she has carried the series so far. But as I said, don’t expect Bobich, Super Babe. Instead, expect an exciting time in a Zombie Apocalypse with a fragile but combative young girl trying to cope with a new mankind on the verge of extinction. A grand mix of gore and grace. I look forward to more in the Darlene Bobich Series. I’m sorry, I mean the Dying Days Series…

For more information about buying the Dying Days Series and reading more on the author Armand Rosamilia, please visit his website:

Thank you, readers, for joining us for the second of three of the Zombie Apocalypse series. Look next for the Caldecott Chronicles by R.G. Bullet. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Darkness in the Theater: Don't Look Now (1973

The classic movie DON"T LOOK NOW (1973) has one of the top ten best endings in all film (in my hellish opinion). Directed by Nicolas Roeg and written by Daphne Du Maurier, the movie also boasts an eerie score by  Emidio Remigi. A young couple lose their daughter to an accident. She died wearing a red raincoat.  Just as the grieving couple, played by Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, arrive in Italy, a small unseen figure in a red raincoat appears about Venice as a series of grisly murders have begun. This is one of those movies where patience through the heavy suspense earns you a surprising payoff. Visually engrossing as well: Follow the brilliant use of color as symbolism (particularly RED!) It all adds up to a coherent mood piece dipped in horror.

Grade : A

Monday, August 20, 2012

Roger Hodgson Interview

With Anthony Servante

Thanks to Harmonic Management,

Especially Linda Tyler and Linda Gianotti. 

Roger Hodgson Today

"Roger Hodgson is recognized as one of the most gifted composers, songwriters and lyricists of our time! As the legendary voice, writer and arranger of most of Supertramp’s greatest hits that led to more than 60 million record sales, he gave us amazingly enduring songs like: “Give a Little Bit,” “Dreamer,” “It's Raining Again”, “Take the Long Way Home”, “The Logical Song,” “Breakfast In America,” “Fool’s Overture” and so many others that have become the sound track of our lives. Hodgson co-founded the progressive rock band Supertramp in 1969 and was with them for 14 years. He wrote and sang most of the classic hits that brought Supertramp worldwide acclaim. Roger recently received 2 awards from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) for his songs being in the top played songs in their repertory, proving that they have indeed stood the test of time."

The Servante of Darkness Blog is proud to welcome Roger Hodgson during his 2012 Concert Tour by presenting the most popularly asked questions since his departing Supertramp for family and solo projects. As a fan of Hodgson’s solo work, I often find it disheartening to hear so much old Supertramp music on his tours of the past few years and not enough song-play from his personal works: Sleeping with the Enemy, In the Eye of the Storm, Hai Hai, Rites of Passage (featuring saxophonist John Helliwell), and Open the Door, a wealth of music enough for many solo concerts. But after hearing how Hodgson considers the majority of the hits from Supertramp, the band he co-founded, his own songs that he himself wrote long before joining Supertramp, it’s understandable how he feels their inclusion in his shows reflects his song-writing history from his early days as a musician to today. Still, there is a side of me that would love to hear an all Hodgson playlist from his four solo works, but that’s just me because every time I go to a Hodgson concert with my family and friends, they’re there for the older classics; however, it does my heart good that they can hear the recent classics as well.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about Roger Hodgson, here are some links to a wealth of information, music and chat. Enjoy!

So, let’s get to the interview: Welcome Roger Hodgson to the Darkness.

Anthony: Please tell us what we can expect from your concerts.

Hodgson: I began my 2012 World Tour in Southern California. This year I am performing with an excellent band of four very versatile musicians

You will hear songs that I have written on my life journey – of course I’ll be performing all the songs people want to hear from my time with Supertramp. You can expect to hear The Logical Song, Give a Little Bit, Dreamer, School, Breakfast in America, Take the Long Way Home, It's Raining Again, Fool's Overture, etc., as well as some of my later material – In Jeopardy, Lovers in the Wind, Death and a Zoo,…and others. I don’t play Rick Davies’ songs – only the songs that I wrote and composed.

Anthony: I hear that you have a new album out.

Hodgson: For years, fans have been asking me to put out a CD of my live concerts because everyone tells me I'm singing better now than I did when I first recorded these songs with Supertramp 30 plus years ago. So, on our 2010 world tour we recorded a lot of shows and picked the most magical performances – from Norway, Brazil, Germany, Canada and put together “Classics Live.” The first 10 tracks are available digitally on my website, and on iTunes and you can find physical CD’s at and at my concerts.

Anthony: I am interested in knowing how you started playing and composing music?

Hodgson: The guitar was my first instrument. My father used to play folk songs on an old acoustic guitar that he would never let me touch. When my parents divorced, it was his parting gift to me. I was 12 at the time and the moment I got it into my hands, my life changed forever. I took this guitar with me to boarding school in England where a teacher showed me three chords. After that, every spare moment, even between classes, I would go and practice. I started writing songs almost immediately and within a year, I actually put on my first concert at school of all original songs.

I started playing piano when I was 16. I was primarily self-taught and developed my own piano playing technique. I have always experimented with different sounds. My original demo for Dreamer, for instance, was recorded on a two-track. I was at my mother’s house and did not have any percussion so you can hear me banging boxes and lampshades on there.

At 17, I don't know why, but I was driven to find a pump organ or harmonium as they were called. It's like an organ that you play with your feet. Many churches used to have them before electricity arrived and organs went electric I found one covered in cobwebs in the backroom of this old lady’s house. I bought it for 26 pounds, took it home, cleaned it up and proceeded to write many songs on it – Breakfast in America, A Soapbox Opera, It’s Raining Again, Two of Us, even part of Fool’s Overture and The Logical Song. It has a very magical quality to it – it’s very easy for me to lose myself in the sound of it and go to that place where magic and inspiration happens. I still have it at my studio. The sound on the recording of Breakfast in America is this harmonium and a grand piano combined.

Anthony: How did you get started in the music business?

Hodgson: My first single was released under the made up band name Argosy. It consisted of two of my original songs - Side A was “Mr. Boyd” and the flip side was “Imagine.” I was 19 and pretty fresh out of school when a producer heard my songs and signed me. He put me in a studio in London, which was my first time in a recording studio, with some session musicians. One of them was a man called Reg Dwight, who later became known as Elton John. It was an incredible band - actually, most of the members of the band that he toured with later, Caleb Quaye on guitar and Nigel Olsson on drums, and they did an awesome version, obviously, of my songs and then I sang vocals on top. “Mr. Boyd” actually came very close to being a hit in England. It was played a lot on the radio but never actually charted.

Roger Hodgson Early Years

Anthony: Please share about your process of composing music and writing lyrics.

Hodgson:I do realize I have written some wonderful songs and have an ability for writing great melodies, but I think the reason these songs have stood the test of time so well is because they came from a very pure place and were not contrived. I never sat down to try and write a hit song. Music was where I went to be alone to express my deepest emotions, my deepest longing, my deepest pain and joy and questions. And I think that is why my songs have endured so well over time.

Anthony: Please reveal more of your Spiritual connection with your songs.

Hodgson: For me, music was where I went to express my longing to know God, to know true love, my longing to feel truly at home inside myself. I put this inner quest into my songs and I believe, because they came from such a deep place, this is one of the reasons they have such an enduring quality. They touch that place in everyone who is searching for true happiness, belonging, for God - whatever you want to call it.

So, yes, a lot of my songs have a spiritual theme to them – when I write music, I am always alone and it’s very much an inner communion for me. It’s not generally known that I never wrote with the band, and the other members of Supertramp didn’t share many of the spiritual beliefs that I wrote about – so all my songs – new and old - are all very personal expressions for me.

Anthony: Can you share about the part you played in making Supertramp a success and international phenomenon? What role did you play in arranging the music of Supertramp and producing Supertramp albums?

Hodgson: Supertramp was my dream and passion for 14 years. When people hear my songs they think of Supertramp because my songs were most of the hits that people love, and they are still played on the radio around the world today.

In many respects, I was the musical driving force of the band from the time Rick and I started it until we parted ways in 1983. I was responsible for much of the producing of the albums and tours. It was very important to me back then not to create just a hit single, which most bands were focused on. I wanted to create a whole listening experience where people were taken through a range of emotions -where at the end of the album they really felt like they had been taken on a journey and had a full course meal, if you like. I'd spend days and sometimes weeks choosing the right songs and the right order of songs so one song flowed into the next and the next. I did this for the concerts as well as the albums, and I still do this today.

Roger Hodgson awhile back 

Anthony: Tell us why you left the band.

Hodgson: When I left Supertramp in 1983, it was to follow my heart, which was telling me it was time to make home, family, and spiritual life my priority. I wanted to be with my children as they grew up. I’d given 14 years of my life to Supertramp and at that point I chose to have my primary focus be my family and not my career. I also pretty much left the music industry and took my family to a healthier place to raise my kids - up in the mountains of Northern California. I moved out of Los Angeles and built a home studio so I could continue to create music and although I made a few albums, I never toured behind them.

Anthony: It is great that you are back touring again, will you be playing Supertramp songs?

Hodgson: I don’t think of my songs as Supertramp songs- they’re my songs. In fact I wrote and composed a lot of them years before I recorded them with Supertramp. I wrote them when I was alone, not together with Rick or jamming with the band. A lot of people don't realize this because Rick and I shared the writers credit on all the songs we recorded together as Supertramp. But some of the biggest hits I recorded with Supertramp were songs I’d written in my late teens before I even met Rick and formed the band with him. Songs such as Dreamer, It’s Raining Again, Breakfast in America, Two of Us, A Soapbox Opera and even the beginning of Fool’s Overture, were all written during that time period. These songs are my babies – pieces of my heart and I still love playing them in my concerts today.

That having been said, I still get so many people telling me that when they come to my concerts they hear and feel the sound and spirit of Supertramp.

Anthony: I notice that you have a lot of young fans in your audiences.

Hodgson: Yes, I am finding everywhere I go that my songs are popular with multiple generations. Breakfast in America, Give a Little Bit and The Logical Song have recently returned to #1 in the charts again. Gym Class Heroes had a worldwide hit with my song, Breakfast in America, which took them from an unknown garage band to hitting the top of the charts. Before that, it was the Goo Goo Dolls with Give a Little Bit and Scooter with his techno version of The Logical Song. It’s amazing to me how my songs have stood the test of time

Anthony: What motivates you as an artist?

One of the things that I like most about making music is how it has brought people together from all over the globe and how many lasting friendships have been made through a common love of my songs. It is a very special and personal connection I have with many of my fans and that the fans have with one another. I feel it's because my songs came from my deepest longing and joy and pain and touch those same places in the hearts of the people who listen. At my concerts I’m now seeing three generations singing along with me and it’s wonderful to see more and more young people discovering my music.

Anthony: “Breakfast In America” is a great name for your tour and a great album. What are your fondest memories of recording that all time classic album? Did you have any idea it would be such a phenomenal global success?

Breakfast In America is a great collection of songs. My songs, Breakfast in America, The Logical Song, and Take the Long Way Home, all became hits, as well as Rick’s song, Goodbye Stranger. While we were making it, I felt it could be a big album and spent hours and days trying to come up with the right combination of songs that would all fit together to take you on the best musical journey.

I fought really hard to get it right even though the other guys and the record company were getting very impatient. I was in the studio seven days a week for so long that I ended up parking a motor home in the parking lot right outside of the studio and living in it, even though I had a home 40 minutes away. I was working 16 hours a day every day of the week trying to complete it. I knew we had something good and I could not rest until every song was just right. Talk about being married to your work - I was definitely married to this album, I slept with it, ate with it, and lived with this album until it was completed.

I composed the title track to the album, Breakfast in America, when I was in my teens just after leaving boarding school, before I met Rick and co-founded Supertramp. It was written on an old church pump organ, which my mother and I found in the back of someone’s garage in England. I bought it for 26 pounds. I did not have a girlfriend - I was a late bloomer when it came to girls. I was dreaming of going to America, going to California. Funnily enough, Rick didn't like the song and didn’t want it on the album and even wanted me to change the lyrics. I couldn’t, I liked it and the other guys all liked it, so we went with it the way I wrote it.

Anthony: I heard that you had an accident and broke both of your wrists.

Hodgson: The week my second solo album, Hai Hai, was released, I had a fall and shattered both of my wrists. I could not tour and support my new album, so it wasn’t that successful.

The doctors told me I would never play again. You can imagine how that would be being a musician all my life. At first I was devastated and then I decided not to accept their prognosis. I started working on myself through Spiritual practices and prayer as well as physical therapy, strong will and determination. Now I’m back playing as good as ever. I hope I can be an inspiration for anyone that has been told that they are not going to be able to do something again. When you put your mind to it anything is possible.

Top Ten List of Roger Hodgson Songs:

1. The Logical Song

2. Give a Little Bit

3. Dreamer

4. School

5. Breakfast in America

6. Take the Long Way Home

7. It's Raining Again

8. Fool's Overture

9. In Jeopardy

10. Lovers in the Wind

Thank you Roger Hodgson for gracing the Darkness with your presence. Continued success on your current tour and join us again soon. Ladies and Gentlemen, Roger Hodgson!   


Anthony Servante has just released his new novel, EAST LOS. Set in 1970 East Los Angeles, a serial killer known to police as the Azlan Assassin is killing young boys dressed like gang members. A drunkard sobers up to look for the killer with the help of a Sheriff's Deputy. As the community deals with student protests and walkouts, a rally that will draw thousands of people approaches. County deputies join with city police to try to stop a potential riot. As the drunk detective closes in on the killer, the memory of the events that drove him to drink begin to surface. Social turmoil, murder, gang violence, racism, and demons in a bottle are set to collide. Read EAST LOS by your host, the Servante of Darkness, now available at:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Girlfriend Boyfriend (China Lion 2012)

Reviewed by Anthony Servante 

Girlfriend Boyfriend (Gf*Bf)

This is one of those import arthouse movies that’ll disappear from the small screens as soon as the next blockbuster nudges it from the theaters. I was lucky enough to catch it before it vanished into DVD heaven.

Writer/director Ya-Che Yang’s new film, Girlfriend Boyfriend (Gf*Bf) arrived August 3, 2012. When three rebellious students leave their hometown to pursue their lifelong dreams in the big city, their relationships start to face the pressures of real life as the 1980s Taiwanese sociopolitical reformation movement unfolds in the background.

It is the story of a 30 year long friendship. She likes him; he likes her; he likes him. Which explains the trailer slogan: “Everyone should have two lovers; one that you love & one that loves you.” It means a lot more after watching the film.

Aaron, Liam and Mabel 

It is 1985. Taiwan is on the verge of social upheaval. Students are rebelling against the martial law in effect. Riot police are poised to attack. And love is blossoming. But not your ordinary love triangle. Mabel loves Liam, Aaron loves Mabel, and Liam loves Aaron. But the conflict of choosing partners is the least of their troubles. Adulthood keeps catching up with them. Partnerships and dealing with them become a root metaphor, especially since we see a straight relationship grow alongside a gay one. In the background we witness the early days of gays in the closet and as we near the unfolding democratic burgeoning of Taiwan, we later see a gay wedding. Things have come a long way. I was surprised by the audience’s loud almost unanimous gasp when Liam kisses a gay undercover cop. One couple walked out. They must have thought both guys were going to vie for the attentions of the one girl. Didn’t they read the movie logo?


Of course, this romantic bisexual conflict is mimetic of the growing pains Taiwan is going through, but the director wants to add another layer of metaphoric meaning in case we didn’t get the love triangle symbol. Mabel is pregnant and has a tumor. And she must choose to abort the baby and save herself or have the baby and die. We know what she chooses because the movie begins with her twins staging a protest at their school, just as their mother did in the early years of the upheaval. Since the movie is one long flashback, the flash forward at the beginning serves as a spoiler rather than a “shocker”. But getting to the ending of the flashbacks was half the fun. The plot unfolds forward as the flashbacks reveal how our three friends, especially the pregnant Mabel and the gay Liam, make major decisions about their place in the morphing social stratum.

Conflicting emotions

All things are sorted out after the audience’s emotions are wrung several times in crescendo fashion. There are a few points where the director seems lost and tries to make a Woody Allen type dramedy, but thank goodness these moments are few. I was taken enough with the movie to write about it and to recommend it, not only for its story, but for its history lesson on Taiwan and one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard since The Driver music score. First thing I did when I got home was to try to locate the music CD, but no luck. So go see it, so that it makes some money and the CD makes it to the shelves. Or go see it because it’s a fine way to spend a few hours. Either way, fans of romantic dramas verging on the soap operatic, go see it.

Official Gf*Bf Trailer 

(youtube video from Gf*Bf soundtrack)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Addiction and Horror: The Damage Done

Servante of Darkness: August 2012

Literary Horror in Fiction and Nonfiction

Hammered by G.N. Braun
Euphoria by Lorraine McLeod
Iced by Ray Shell
and More
Reviewed by Anthony Servante


I grew up in East Los Angeles, California, USA. Drugs and addiction are old hat to me. I’ve seen people die before my eyes, mutilated, robbed, stabbed, humiliated and arrested. So death and horror were part of my childhood. I was jaded by the commonplace activities of the drug culture and as a teen indulged in it myself: marijuana, hashish, mushrooms, LSD, and Speed was as strong as I went, but where there’s one, there’s the other stronger stuff: heroin and morphine, downers and uppers. But as jaded as I was about seeing others die, I did not want to die. Paranoia was the reminder for the deaths of those around me: Snowman froze to death waiting for a bus that no longer ran. He had on a t-shirt in the freezing rain. Slow-Mo had a heroin stutter, but he was a veteran, so the kids looked up to him. Rainbow bit off the nose of a man who tried to resuscitate him from an OD. Short-Stuff shot a tecato who tried to rob his store and Shorty went to jail 'cuz the guy was an ex-cop. Chuy sliced the eyelid off a guy who was staring at his girlfriend. Every time I indulged in some high, I became extremely self-aware. I could feel my heart beating, louder, harder, as if it were about to explode. The fear of this self-awareness ended my experimentation with drug abuse.

So when I decided to do a column on Addiction and Horror, I expected to find horrors beyond my experiences. In some ways I did; in others I didn’t. So I read beyond the nonfictional accounts of addiction and turned to fiction for the horrors exaggerated by the tale tellers. In Eurphoria, the ancient Mexican culture of drugs and sacrifice becomes a metaphor for today’s drug scene. In F. Paul Wilson’s All the Rage, there is a drug that drives men mad; it resembles the effects commonly seen in Angel Dust users. In Iced by Ray Shell, the author depicts the fall of a rising academic star into the throes of addiction and gives us a look at one possible scenario into a realistic drug addict. Maya Angelou praised Iced for its gritty depictions of the streets. On the nonfictional side, we look at De Quincey and his depiction of opium addiction. The chief criticism of his work is that he glamourizes the opium lifestyle, almost painting himself as heroic, an anti-hero so to speak. He added an addendum to the second edition to address the darker side of its usage. The same criticism follows Braun in his work, Hammered. This is a 9 to 5 look at the heroin scene. The horror comes from its complacency, its cold and distant approach to addiction. Forgive me my jaded view on this subject, but it may help to understand how horror for one person is not so for another and vise versa. Loss of control for me is death, but some addicts are in control of death by keeping it close-by. It isn't until death's icy touch reminds them that control is subjective, and then the hard decisions must be made before losing control becomes a permanent thing. .

Addiction and Horror: The Damage Done

An Examination of Drug Abuse and Its Depiction in Literature

By Anthony Servante

Addiction to drugs has been portrayed in literature for many, many years, both as fiction and as nonfiction, from Euphoria by Lorraine McLeod, All the Rage by F. Paul Wilson, and Iced by Ray Shell, to Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, and Hammered: Memoir of an Addict by G.N. Braun. There is that rare book, however, that traverses the line between fact and fiction, capturing the horrors of addiction while involving the reader with the repulsive side of the lifestyle without the glamour often inherent in such fictional accounts. Hammered is such a book and therefore the focus of this article. Although I use other books, both fiction and nonfiction, they are only to contrast drug uses for literary purposes. Your shadowy host will discuss the varying degrees of addiction in the literature of Horror compared with the social and mental horrors found in nonfiction accounts, and try to clarify the line that divides fiction from nonfiction in the lifestyles of addicts.

Addiction is control. The common misconception is that the abuse of drugs leads to a life of chaos for the individual and society. But the control of drugs is meticulous: from the cartels to the dealers to the buyers; and in turn the use of drugs is equally maintained. One acquires the money to purchase the ware, organizes the lifestyle to fit around its use, and enjoys the high knowing that after the comedown from the drug of choice, it is time to start acquiring the funds to resume the cycle. The acquisition usually comes in the form of a steady job, so the highs of the addict cannot exceed the risk to losing the work. That is the balance, the control. Only when the dope is uncut or of a higher quality than the drug user is accustomed to does the user break the cycle, commonly by overdose, which doesn’t always lead to death but to days missed at work or the loss of the job. But this break is not the rule but the exception, for the user does not want to detour from the routine that takes many years to refine and fine tune. In fiction, this cycle is nominalized and the elements of the routine are exaggerated by allusion and metaphor.

Let’s begin with the fictional work Euphoria by Lorraine McLeod. Lorraine has been writing for many years. Her short story 'Parasite' won the July 2010 Story Slam. Her new novel Euphoria has just been released. Summary. “A club drug that makes ecstasy look like caffeine, Euphoria, is an instant hit, but it turns addicts into killers. Each victim brings ancient Mayan demon Grohah closer to physical life. To fulfill the prophecy of a new world in 2012, many must die in order for Grohah, an ancient demon, to walk the earth again. Ordinary people are faced with extraordinary choices. Which is worse, the evil we can see, or the evil we can’t?” Euphoria concentrates on creating a realistic drug to propel the supernatural events of the storyline; it portrays addiction as seen from the point of view of a hardboiled cop, an emergency room doctor, and a drug dealer/demon worshiper.

McLeod metaphorically sees the cartel as old Mexico “demons” as exemplified by Grohah, and the victims as children and their parents. I asked Ms. McLeod, “What drug are you mimicking or is it just a made up drug? Is it crack, heroin, ecstasy, or??” She answered, “I made the whole thing up, but I did base it on two hallucinogenics used by the Mayans and the Aztecs. One was derived from the flower, Morning Glory and the other, an hallucinagenic mushroom. Both of these were from Mexico. I then added coke in there for a bit of extra flavour!” In the books, the drug is described, “This batch was perfect. His secret ingredients included the seeds from a rare flower of the family Convolvulaceae, which was once used by the Aztec civilization to induce hallucinations. The more common example of this species of flower could be found in most garden shops, but he’d travelled to Mexico for just the exact one he needed. Little trace of the substance would be found in the human body once the effects had worn off.” McLeod further explains, “I took a few liberties. I made Grohah a demon from the Mayans, and included some stuff from the Aztecs. This is because the Aztecs did have some culture similar to the Mayans but I wanted to connect both civilzations in the book.” The drug is part of a ritual; the addicts lose complete control of themselves, succumbing to the old gods of ancient Mexico. The story works as a metaphor for the presence of the Latino Drug Cartels via their illegal substance presence throughout the world. The drug euphoria could be any medical substance that is manufactured illegally and distributed via the streets for a higher purpose, namely money. The big picture minimizes the buyer, the addict who supplies the money. These addicts, or victims, lose control of their lives literally, for a metaphoric god.

Lorraine McLeod

The book as fiction is excellent reading. I enjoyed the parallels to the Mayans and Aztecs, especially the 2012 predictions of the end of the world. A hardboiled detective story with a love story subplot, Euphoria mounts a tension filled story that is as exciting as it is horrific. Don’t let Lorraine McLeod’s dainty picture fool you. She wields a mighty pen and tells a tale not for the squeamish. But her addicts are literally sacrifices for the storyline. We are still far away from our depiction of the “real” addict who is in control.

In All the Rage by F. Paul Wilson, Repairman Jack is always in control. "Wilson has written in just about every genre--science fiction, fantasy, horror, medical thrillers, political thrillers, even a religious thriller. So far he has about 33 books and 100 or so short stories in 24 languages" (from Amazon profile). All the Rage takes Jack into the underworld of drug abuse where control is a matter of perspective. As in Euphoria, the drug is not a conventional one but a supernaturally based one: I asked F. Paul Wilson about his drug in the novel and whether it was based on any real medical substance. Wilson answered, ‘”I conceived of Berzerk as one of those drugs that has a good application in the proper dose but dangerous in excess. It's a confidence builder in the proper dose and can overcome social phobia, banishing shyness, allowing one to be more assertive in life. At too high a dose, it has only negative effects. As the dose increases the person becomes overly aggressive, hostile, and prone to unprovoked violence and insensate rage without a thought as to the consequences.” If used correctly the drug controls the patient, but if abused, the patient loses control. In essence, Berserk could be any drug that can be misused. The addict to such a drug would destroy his own self-restraint. Just as alcohol in excess eliminates inhibitions, Berserk provokes a total shutdown of the addict’s control over his own actions, turning him into a lethal weapon. This is the common view of drug addicts—out of control monsters preying on victims for money to buy their next high. They are the outsiders to the world of restraint, of citizens who obey the red lights and walk between the white line cross-walks.

F. Paul Wilson

Jack represents the fringes of society, society being the conventional law and order system that balances man’s desire for recklessness and his need for restraint. He operates outside the law but with the purpose to balance those illegal or immoral actions that law enforcement cannot or will not deal with. Thus Jack is always teetering on the verge of loss of control, the control he has taught himself to maintain since he was a child, after the loss of his mother. F. Paul Wilson further explains: “Jack carries a ball of smoldering rage around with him. He controls it most of the time, only rarely letting it out of the cage. One of the reasons for writing All the Rage was to see what would happen if someone slipped him a dose of Berzerk.” So, again we see that loss of control is associated with the abuse of drugs; in proper dozes the drug does good and vice versa. The assumption then is that a drug addict is not in control, even violent and a threat to society; and again we see the loss of control being represented by the supernatural, here, for instance, by The Otherness, which basically represents the opposite of balance. The Adversary Cycle books, of which Repairman Jack is part, deal with a world out of balance, a plaything between two great forces. All the Rage represents this great struggle at a human level, using drug addiction to stand in for good and evil. It is one of my favorite books in the series, and the scene where Jack loses control is classic F. Paul Wilson. But, although Jack could represent the addict’s id, our addict in control is still not seen.

Which brings us to Iced by Ray Shell. "Shell is an African American film, TV and stage actor, as well as a writer. He also plans to begin production on the filming of Iced this Winter 2012" (Wiki). In his fictional account of a crack addict, Cornelius Washington, a student begins a downward spiral in his loss of control over a promising future. He has lost control over his life and has no routine. However, as he still clings to some dignity, he manages to find work, but cannot maintain the routines as his control deteriorates. We begin to see a semblance of the addict in control, but for the sake of literary exposition, the hero must fall. He resembles that clichéd drug addict; here there are no supernatural events at work, even though such addicts are referred to as “vampire-zombies”. There is no big picture with drug dealers or cartels. The addict himself is the big and small picture. The drug is crack cocaine, a real drug. Here he simply succumbs to his temptations and degrades himself in sexual and immoral ways in order to obtain crack rocks to smoke from his pipe or whatever handmade device he can put together to puff his ware, his drug of choice. But without any semblance of the cycle of control for this poor addicted character, the fiction here is marginalized into its plunge toward the character’s total downfall, the total loss of control. Cornelius writes in his journal: “I had to face the cold. Cold that clamped itself to your skin and bit until you were blue. Until you couldn't feel anything anymore. Until you wished that you were dead. Afraid to go to sleep at night because you knew you wouldn't wake up. I saw a couple of Vampire-Zombies leave the earth that way during that hellish winter. The dealers who cleaned up the bathroom would haul their bodies out like sacks of sand and fling them onto the garbage dump behind the building.” Then our narrator recalls his last day as a Vamp-Zom. SPOILER! SKIP THIS PART AND GO TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO KNOW THE ENDING OF ICED. The main character in a drugged stupor lifts an infant over his head and throws it off the roof, defying those pleading with him not to. He has become a monster, albeit, a human one. This is as far as fiction can take us into the world of drugs. Demons as metaphors for drugs, drugs as the basis of the loss of self-control, and finally, one’s total loss of self, an addict without human identity, more monster than man. Those who haven’t read it may want to read Iced for its poetic style of writing and the prose depiction of a college boy turned into a Vampire-Zombie, a crack addict who only survived because of his horrific final act as an addict. And here we take one step toward the addict in control that we find in nonfiction literature.

Which brings us to the nonfictional depiction of the addict.

(Please note: A free copy of this book is available thanks to the Gutenberg Organization)

Let’s turn to Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey. De Quincey’s drug cycle, his routine, was so normal, so lacking in any sensational chaos or plunges into fits of self-destruction that critics accused him of glamorizing the lifestyle of the addict. To counter this criticism, the author added an Appendix to the second printing of his book to depict a more horrific side to the routine and its consequences, something akin to the deterioration of the addict in Iced. He writes of his initial encounter with the drug: “Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna or of ambrosia, but no further. How unmeaning a sound was it at that time: what solemn chords does it now strike upon my heart! what heart-quaking vibrations of sad and happy remembrances!” He then goes on to describe the ecstasy of his first dose of the drug: “…this negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me—in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed. Here was a panacea, a φαρμακον [potion] for all human woes; here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered: happiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket; portable ecstacies might be had corked up in a pint bottle, and peace of mind could be sent down in gallons by the mail-coach.” Thusly, he establishes his routine, informing his reader that the drug does not exaggerate activity but rather it is activity that normalizes the use of the drug: “Thus I have shown that opium does not of necessity produce inactivity or torpor, but that, on the contrary, it often led me into markets and theatres.” The routine has now been established, and his writings soon followed, but the criticism of his exuberance of lifestyle and his description of such met the success of his book. As we will see later with G.N. Braun, De Quincey too underscores his drug use with psychological trauma in youth.

The infamous Appendix to Confessions tries to assuage the reader from any impressions that the lifestyle of an opium addict was anything but glorious: “Those who have read the Confessions will have closed them with the impression that I had wholly renounced the use of opium. This impression I meant to convey, and that for two reasons: first, because the very act of deliberately recording such a state of suffering necessarily presumes in the recorder a power of surveying his own case as a cool spectator, and a degree of spirits for adequately describing it which it would be inconsistent to suppose in any person speaking from the station of an actual sufferer; secondly, because I, who had descended from so large a quantity as 8,000 drops to so small a one (comparatively speaking) as a quantity ranging between 300 and 160 drops, might well suppose that the victory was in effect achieved. In suffering my readers, therefore, to think of me as of a reformed opium-eater, I left no impression but what I shared myself; and, as may be seen, even this impression was left to be collected from the general tone of the conclusion, and not from any specific words, which are in no instance at variance with the literal truth.” So, even in sobriety, De Quincey was still on the defensive. The literary higher-ups were bearing down on him. But it is true that many writers of the day followed in his footsteps and took up the opium habit simply because they read his book. They followed his routine. If he could survive the drug and become a famous writer, so could they. They would become addicts in control and become part of the cycle. Only in this day and age, the dealers were legal pharmacists, making it so much easier to begin the vicious circle of addiction.

In Naked Lunch, William Burroughs addresses the pyramid, the cycle of the addict from the lower depths of acquiring drugs to the leisurely life of the dealers living for the pleasures on the higher rungs of the cycle, living for providing highs to the addicts on the lower rungs. Tom Burgis writes: “The dependency pyramid: Naked Lunch satirises society organised through addiction. Addiction and the desperation it engenders in junkies become an allegory of consumption and of the savagery that ensues when people fall prey to what Burroughs calls ‘the algebra of need.’ The basic point, as Burroughs explained once he was straight enough to write an introduction, is that opiate addicts exist in a pyramid: ‘The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below (it is no accident that junk higher-ups are always fat and the addict in the street is always thin) right up to the top or tops as there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on the basic principles of monopoly. In the novel's dystopian locale, Interzone, these principles of monopoly underpin the dominance of The Pushers, who keep ‘a million screaming junkies’ in thrall by ‘inventing needs.’ In Interzone, power is the only cherished thing. As an inhabitant explains, ‘control can never be a means to any practical end ... It can never be a means to anything but more control ... Like junk ..." In today’s terms, the lower addicts were the 90 percenters, while the higher level addicts comprised the 10 percenters or the elite. He describes the lower levels as skinny skeletal men who oftimes used longer hypodermic needles in order to find an artery because all the veins had receded into hiding from the probing needle, and sometimes, when using the longer needles, struck bone in search of an artery. The higher levels were fat men with nice suits who were often confused with non-addicts because they had the same routines as straight shooters or squares to use the parlance of the Beat Generation. They still had strong veins that protruded the skin. And in this combination of the junkie pyramid and the routine of the addict, as depicted by De Quincey, do we find the addict in control, the straight shooter, the top of the rung user.

Which finally brings us to Hammered: Memoirs of an Addict by G.N. Braun. "G.N. Braun was raised in Melbourne's gritty Western Suburbs. He is a trained nurse, and holds a Cert. IV in Professional Writing and Editing. He is currently studying for a Dip. Arts (Professional Writing and Editing). He writes fiction untied to any genre, and is the author of 'Boneyard Smack', 'Bubba wants YOU', 'Insurrection' (all available as free downloads from Legumeman Books) and 'Santa Akbar!' (published in Festive Fear: Global Edition, out through Tasmaniac Publications in Australia). He has a short story--'Autumn as Metaphor'--in the charity anthology Horror For Good, as well as numerous articles published in newspapers. He is the current president of the Australian Horror Writers Association, as well as the past director of the Australian Shadows Awards. His memoir, Hammered, was released in early 2012 by Legumeman Books. He is the owner of Cohesion Editing and Proofreading " (Amazon Profile). Braun is all about routine. His work suffers the same criticism De Quincey endured, that it lacks a horrific element, but he dared to show that the cycle he established was itself the horror he lived. Its normalcy resembling Burroughs' higher addicts on the rungs of the pyramid was itself the routine of self-destruction imitating a productive lifestyle. The drugs for Braun were the reward for a life of maintenance. What I found so honest in the book’s portrayal of addiction was the hope that today was the end of the cycle, just as the last pack of cigarettes by the smoker was always his last pack, and the one after that, and the one after that, but this one for sure is the last one. It is a vicious cycle but a cycle nonetheless. That belief that this is truly the last one, the last fix, the end of the routine, perpetuates the routine. Hope is the horror and to face the horror, one must admit that one cannot break the cycle and that this is not the last pack, not the last fix, just the next one before the next, and thereby recognizing something new in the cycle, that there is no hope of quitting. But therein lies the break in the routine. No longer is this the last pack; it is the next pack and I will never quit because I am an addict. Admission is made. The man in the mirror is you, not the quitter, but the drug abuser. And with this break in the routine, this realization, this effusive epiphany, the cycle is broken. I am an addict.

Braun reaches this moment of self-realization and finally breaks his cycle, but this is not a happy ending, for the cycle pulls him back in. He quits, then says, I can quit so I can do one more and then quit because I proved I can quit. And the new cycle begins. I am not in control of tomorrow without carrying the regrets of yesterday or the false hope for quitting. I can only control right now. What I do right now is all that matters, otherwise the cycle begins again. But let’s begin with the creation of Braun’s cycle of addiction and recognize the development and maintenance of his routine.

G.N. Braun

As a young boy, Braun was molested by a trusted instructor. He lost his self-worth. He coped, but as the years went by, he needed help to deal with the feeling of being victimized, of losing control over his own self-esteem. With his first high, he found that help. He could function as a part of the law and order world of society. He studied to become a nurse, found a source of income, and developed a habit to feed. From this routine, he was normal again, the kid who had a second chance, for if he could forget the abuse ever happened, it never happened and his life could resume under these new circumstances, with drugs and highs to balance the forgetting and the moving forward.

In fiction, we saw nature (and often the supernatural) controlling us; euphoria destroyed addicts and the metaphoric dealers (demons) controlled their lives. Repairman Jack was in control, but the drug Berserk unleashed him, thanks to the Otherness. Cornelius succumbed to crack cocaine and became a Vampire-Zombie, a killer without remorse. In nonfiction, however, drugs control by routine and give one the sensation of control; chaos is nature vs control of chaos by surrendering to it, come what may. Be in control of the horror or the horror will be in control of you. The addict in control vs. the addict out of control. De Quincey maintained his opium addiction and became famous for it via his journal of his routines. Burroughs discusses the existence here that is organized with a means and ends. In the nether world, on the lowest rung of the pyramid are the zombie-vampires, in a uni-existence based solely on keeping a level of “highness” rather than keeping a life afloat for which to get high. The fat get fatter, the thin thinner. The goals are different. One for money, the other for the high. The Vampire-Zombies are the means for the money; crime is the means to get high because that is how they get the money. It starts with borrowing, stealing, robbing, and then murder. Braun’s routine was enabled by an enabler, his friend and lover Carolyn, just as her routine was enabled by Braun: I asked him about this relationship, “Hey, G, Got a few questions for you. 1. Do you think you were enabling Carolyn? She seems addicted to you. 2. Do you think you and Carolyn together made a poison mix (or as King Crimson says, Three of a Perfect Pair)? 3. The central conceit I have found in your book is "control" and lack of it. Since you lost control as a kid, you seem to be struggling to regain it, usually over the people around you. You even mock those in control, the courts and the cops. When you control the flow of smack between yourself and others, you seem almost elated with power. Could you expand on this, whether you agree or disagree? Thanks, Anthony”. Braun responds: “Hi Anthony,
1) Yes, as she was also enabling me. I think we were both co-dependant.
2) Absolutely. We were both bad for each other.
3) I can see what you are saying in regard to control, for sure. In that subculture, respect and a semblance of control were everything. I always felt better when I had both.
The loss of control I went through when I was a child echoed down the ages, and I swore that I would always have control of my circumstances from that point, and then turned to drugs, which are almost a dictionary definition of no control. Ironic? I think so. When I was dealing, and I was the one holding the reigns, I felt better than I had for a long time. I was in control of when I had the stuff myself, and to some point, in control of Carolyn's usage, too. When I was busted and I went back to not being in any control, I felt worse than I ever had. At that point, I began to see that the only way to take back some form of control was to get off the stuff.”

Carolyn’s story is interesting as it mirrors Braun’s. She risks her kids and her education and her future not on GN but on the lifestyle. GN enables her. Hers is the story of addiction hidden within the allusion of progressing in life: a student, a parent, a lover. Together these two are poison, and we can only imagine what the kids had seen and what they know and live with. The kids are worth the risk of getting high, as he rationalizes that he will quit for the kids. The high is for himself; the girl is angry with him for shooting up alone, without her, “jealous” of his high. Even as she tries to turn him into the police, she promptly takes him back when he eludes the law. She acts oblivious of his presence as she goes through the motions of a normal life, all the while living at the lowest level of the addict, at the precipice with her kids at her side. His disrespect and description of the law enforcement authorities is a form of denial. To depict the cops as slow and incompetent shows him as street smart and savvy. He hides drugs in his cell, he holds stolen books after he is caught shoplifting, and his getting high or selling the books for a quick high right after being released may come across as a savvy guy who put one over on Joe Law, but in fact it shows him as a unrepenting addict who has no intentions to quit. This is the last high, remember? Even when the courts show him mercy and suspend his sentence, his first thoughts are that the courts are incompetent and he is free to get high again. It is scary to think such addicts with such thoughts are on the streets looking at us sober folk as ghosts and shadows to their goals. Seems more annoyed by heroin than addicted to it: The Bureaucratic approach to addiction, as Burroughs describes it.

Burroughs Junkie Pyramid

When Braun “quits” and feels back in control of a sober existence, he rationalizes his new routine: “I felt great after day eight, although I hadn’t really suffered at all during my stay. Between the Valium and the sleeping tablets, as well as the Clonidine to ease the symptoms, I always felt more normal in there than I did outside. I really thought this would make the difference, but I scored within ten minutes of my check-out. It’s like a switch flicks over to ‘stupid’ as soon as I’m loose in Melbourne with money. I don’t think of anything but the rush of the taste. Once I’m stoned, I regret it, but up until then, I just concentrate on getting high.” Braun has the same misgivings attributed to De Quincey—not enough horror and too much of the mundane. But what many critics do not realize is that the routine of addiction is itself the horror inherent in its usage. That a new control has taken hold. This is no glamourous world of noir fixtures; that voiceover is the conscience of survival: what must we do today to meet supply and demand?

The luxuries are described when supply and demand is exceeded as when GN buys in bulk from his new source and takes on the new role of dealer; but it’s a fascade. He is still a junkie, but with a bigger supply. The demand is the same. He has no hardboiled detective out to get him. As a matter of fact, the police, as Braun describes them, are inept to the evasive tactics of the dealers and addicts. Even when GN is apprehended, he still manages to sneak in his supply into the station. This is closer to the real world where drugs are common in the prisons and jails and often used as currency, often referred to as “sucking tit.” For Burroughs, this world has its structure just as any organization does, with administration, middle management and assembly level workers. GN makes the transition to the middle management but finds he is out of his league. Friends turn on him, his enabling girlfriend further enables him, and he comes to rely even more on his adopted mom for support of his lifestyle. There was one friend/addict who fit this bureaucrat junkie: “Tran was one of the better-looking street-addicts. He at least maintained a facade of civility, making a cursory attempt to maintain a level of personal hygiene and dress that didn’t make him stand out to the cops too much.” Braun strived for this level of appearance but the lifestyle had its interruptions, and then it was back to the old routine: “Addicts can justify anything to get another hit. Soon enough we were back to scoring every few days, then every second, which quickly became every day. Finally, we [Braun and Carolyn] got to a day with no cash and started to get sick by lunch. I called Mum and begged for money. Within two weeks, we were both back on methadone. The whole thing just seemed too much, too big a hurdle to be able to overcome without stronger self-control.” Finally, Braun realizes his cycle is his life as an addict, not as a potential ex-addict on the verge of his last injection. He tells the reader: “I still remembered a place of scrawled graffiti and scattered rubbish, of piss-soaked legs sticking out of a cubicle and water balloons blatant in a puddle of vomit. I remember lying in the park afterwards and wondering just what the fuck I was doing. It’s something that will always be with me. I will remain an addict for the rest of my life. I’ve spent so many years feeling nothing that the pain is a way of knowing that I’m truly alive... for the first time.”

Do drugs equate violence?

But there were more relapses. The effusive epiphany only breaks the cycle; it doesn’t end it. Stopping ends it. Quitting perpetuates it. It’s the old Mark Twain sardonic comment on addiction: "Quitting is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times." But to stop. That’s new. Stop today. And stop again tomorrow. Relapse then stop again. This was the new routine for Braun. The vicious cycle was broken. The horrors behind him: the severed finger, the betrayal of a friend/addict pointing a gun at him to steal drugs, the rejection by Carolyn who found someone new to enable (although this last horror was a blessing as that too broke the vicious cycle). Now the next step in this new routine was simply stopping for longer and longer periods of time. Not quitting forever, but stopping a day at a time.

For this article I attended an AA meeting and talked with ex heroin addicts. Their experiences echoed GN’s story. They had jobs. They had routines. For years. They sometimes upgraded the routine by partnering with another addict who was also employed. No one ever downgraded their position by partnering with a unemployed addict because that would threaten the routine by introducing an unpredictable element. Where there is risk, there is possible loss of control. There was no big picture. The dealer usually was a friend they trusted, not some shady character with a thin moustache standing on the street corner. They had families and responsibilities. Addiction was but one of the duties of their routine. Make the kids’ lunch, pay the bills, get high, go to work. Pick up the kids. Make dinner. Kids watch TV. Get high. Like clockwork. I asked them if they’d ever reached a higher level in their routines, like becoming a dealer to gain more access to drugs at a cheaper price. One woman answered: “I couldn’t risk going to jail as a dealer. That’s too much time away from the kids. They’d take them away. When you get busted for being an addict, then you get programs, you get leniency, you get methadone. If you stay low, you’re safe. If you try to reach the sky, you fall bad.” The others in the group nodded their heads in agreement.

G.N. Braun

GN Braun reached for the top of Burroughs’ pyramid and fell into sobriety. The courts were lenient. They were also ineffective. They mistook him for someone at the top of the hierarchy of junkies. He was merely a wannabe. This saved him. But just as he fell through the chinks in the armor of law and order when he was abused as a kid, so too did he fall out by the same chinks that tried to prevent further drug deals in the neighborhood by arresting a user trying to climb the pyramid. Braun thus got that second chance, to stop. He’ll never quit. His horror is a new one: the relapse leading to the cycle and reestablishing the routine again. In Hammered: Memoir of an Addict, G.N. Braun follows in the footsteps of the AA addicts I met with, taking it one day at a time, and also those of De Quincey who changed his routine just long enough to weather the relapses with his writing. Burroughs resigned himself to living the life of a junkie but lived till the old age of 83 leading a productive routine as a writer as well. Braun teeters between the two choices on a daily basis: to go the way of De Quincey or Burroughs. In fictional terms he is Repairman Jack, taking life one day at a time, full of rage, striving for control in the mundane enjoyments of friendships with an assortment of characters and of course in the administrative and proofreading missions he undertakes to keep his rage at bay and help others. But here Braun is his own man. What he decides today is all that matters. We will continue to be his friends. We will continue to read his writings. We will take him one day at a time as well.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining the Servante of Darkness again for another venture into the shady side of literature. We will have a peek into the literature of Horror and the Historical Novel when next we meet. Until then, burn the darkness at both ends.