The Heroin Chronicles by Jerry Stahl et al.
~Post by Scott
Of all the illegal drugs, heroin seems to have the most dangerous aura. Pictures of track marks and junkies over-dosing in ghetto hallways litter the public consciousness. It also has an odd allure: no one uses the term “meth chic”. It comes as no surprises that Akashic Press would tackle the dragon for the third installment in their drug anthology series with The Heroin Chronicles.
As with all Akashic anthologies, The Heroin Chronicles has a wide array of talent. There’s a mix of crime and general fiction writers, both established and new, males and females, and various ethnic backgrounds represented within this volume. It also includes work by former users, like editor Jerry Stahl.
The book starts with an unsettling tale, “Fragments Of Joe,” by Tony O’Neill, the author of great heroin novels like Down And Out On Murder Mile and Sick City. Two addicts meet in a support group, which obviously fails when they find themselves in the middle of a fatal score and that’s just the beginning. With a twist I won’t reveal, O’Neill shows how limitless addiction can be. If you can get through this one, you can handle the rest.
Other authors use heroin in their stories to look at the nature of addiction itself. Stahl’s “Possible Side Effects” is a character study of a high functioning user who writes side effects jargon for different companies. It’s black comedy about how we’re all addicts. Eric Bogosian gives a tone poem with “Godhead,” equating addiction with religion. The piece comes off like a denser version of The Velvet Underground’s song, Heroin.
We also get some straight up crime tales. “Gift Horse” is a slice of Compton criminal life with author Gary Tervlov echoing Donald Goines. One of the standouts, “Black Caesar’s Gold” by Gary Phillips, has a rich nerd obsessed with a legendary gangster finding his inner Superfly when confronted with real bad men. In “Monster,” John Albert uses a man looking to score on a violent LA day in order to give a poignant look at failure in life.
Humor is pervasive in many of the stories. Lydia Lunch makes seedy living funny and Michael Albo gives us an addicts shaggy dog explanation of how a duck ended up dead on the freeway. As a whole The Heroin Chronicles conveys the sentiment that a life of heroin addiction is a human comedy, but it will usually end in dark or, even worse, banal tragedy.