Emergency Press is based in New York but has done Seattle a lovely service by publishing the first book by Tom Hansen, American Junkie, which is a memoir of a heroin dealer in the days when tiny punk shows ballooned into media-crawling major venue grunge events. Hansen lost his thrill for the music when he was in the Fartz after they locally opened for the Dead Kennedys; then a whole new void opened beneath him.
American Junkie takes you to the gristle-chewing tracks of the gnarly Emerald City before the first wave of Sub Pop-loving kids arrived, back when our dreams here had more to do with New York City and Los Angeles than being known locally. It fluctuates through time like all the best drug stories: From a kid raised in the 1960s, near woods with a father who promised to pay Hansen a nickel for every page he read of the Hardy Boys; flashing to a hospital assessment describing the heroin dependency, abscesses, severe malnutrition, and virulent diarrhea of what had become of him by 1999.
But that's the starting point: It's the period of post-punk fear and desperation that drives Hansen through most of the book that rings true for anyone who lived in the wastelands where the city's clubs would spring up, before The Crocodile and the new wave of club action, back in the days of SCUD and musicians who had gotten used to a music scene where no national bands wanted to play and shows often as not brought cops barreling down. The opiated alternative doesn't seem like such a bad choice in a port city with little respect for its young people; not until your IV wounds are oozing liquid the color and consistency of olive oil and you've long ago forgotten about playing out. --KEXP Radio, April 14, 2010
From the Back Cover
"Heavy like the dark stuff itself." - Mark Lanegan
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