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American Junkie Paperback – March 10, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Emergency Press (March 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0975362364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0975362365
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

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

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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I appreciated Tom's writing style and dry sense of humor.
maureen riley
Anyone who has struggled with addiction should read this book.
Margaret Wolfinbarger
I read it from start to finish over the course of two days.
Shelly420

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Joe Daly on August 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the wake of addiction memoirs by everyone from grizzled flat-lining rock and rollers to intellectually-overbearing college girls, lately the genre has felt tired and unoriginal. In fact, it is hard to find a reason to buy one more book about someone's struggle to find physical and spiritual redemption after a prolonged bout with a needle, pipe, or bottle. With "American Junkie," Tom Hansen breathes both life and hope into this genre with his compelling memoir "American Junkie."

The book begins with two journeys that run parallel through the book, converging in the final pages. The journeys both belong to Hansen- one beginning in a seedy drug den, where paralysis, malnutrition, and giant gaping holes in his body mark the starting line; the other begins with Hansen's youth, growing up in rural Washington state with his hearty, well-intentioned, and caring parents. Though his narrative points out instances where these qualities are somewhat diminished by his parents' own challenges as hard-laboring immigrants, his relationship with them is ultimately satisfying, as he casts an eye of compassion and love on both of them.

People are going to pick this book up because they see the word "Junkie" in the title and will likely expect a string of guns-and-money vignettes, with a deep look into the seedy underbelly of narcotics trafficking. These people will be surprised to read that Hansen's ascent from user to dealer is relatively non-violent, save for the punishing drug abuse he inflicts on his own body. However, his business model for dealing, his opinions of his product, his clients, and the inevitable entanglement with law enforcement makes for gripping reading. Hansen writes in a plain, fast-moving style that is nothing short of captivating.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
What drives those who spend their lives in the criminal underworld of drugs? "American Junkie" is a memoir of a man who has spent most of career and made his life in strange and unfortunate world. Saying that it isn't as bad as people make it out to be, Tom Hansen offers a very different perspective. "American Junkie" is a strong choice for anyone trying to gain a greater understanding of America's drug culture.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Dietz on March 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
American Junkie captures what it's like to face the void and it doesn't wimp out.

Holes in the body so deep the bone is showing? It's just a fact of life, and the author, Tom Hansen, doesn't bother glorifying it. He doesn't need to dress up the details to make them captivating.

You might think that it's a depressing book, but it's not. There is humor, insight, and life. Life in a book about someone that was barely alive? Yes!

In Star Wars language, this book is about a world where there is no mysterious "Force" (yet Darth Vader is still around, and just as deadly). Luke is still the main character, and the book chronicles his journey toward facing Vader, without the Force. Or a lightsaber. Also, Luke doesn't whine all the time.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Loretta on March 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Beautifully written. A brutal look at a man's quest for meaning and purpose. Holding nothing back, Tom takes you through actions and consequences as he studies pain and comfort both mentally and physically.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Patrick O'Neil on January 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There's nothing glamorous about American Junkie. It starts out an oozing abscess and it just gets darker and darker. Tom Hansen isn't trying to make the reader comfortable. He isn't trying to make people like him, or feel pity, or empathy, or tell a tale that folks will find inspiring. He's mainlining scorching black tar prose and the syringe is clogging and the reader better be ready to help him tie-off while he finds a vein. Don't be squeamish, don't be judgmental, and don't flinch. Read the book, and see where it takes you. You won't be disappointed. The world is knee deep in recovery memoirs about drug addict rockers finding their higher power and staying clean. Go to any AA/NA meeting and you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some yahoo that thinks they got a book in them - a book we've already read. American Junkie isn't that book. It takes a different, less understood, less popular route. Hell, I'm no stranger to abscesses, dead strippers, and hotel room floors fulla used rigs and I still got a twist in my stomach every now and then. One of those moments where you see it and remember and it's not pretty, but it's the truth. There's a reason some people grow up disenfranchised. There's a reason some people check out. There's a reason we're not all the same and this book's defining moments make that very clear. There are many ways to suffer, survive, and live. If we all took the same path it'd be crowded and boring and some malcontent hack wannabe James Frey would have tried to write this book and it would have been trite. Hansen's no wannabe and I thank him for his brutal honesty.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Wolfinbarger on December 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Tom Hansen has taken his heart and splattered it across the pages of this book. Anyone who has struggled with addiction should read this book. But it's not just for addicts. This book addresses the human condition. For it is not really about heroin addiction, it is about what a broken heart can drive any human being to. Sometimes when a person is hurting, they will do anything to numb the pain. That is what Tom did and he survived to tell the tale.

This is also not typically written. I have read many books on addiction as I struggle with my own demons. The writing was so tight and so achingly real that I felt every single word. This does not happen by accident. This is the work of a writer who cares enough about his story to take the time to make it perfect.

I knew when I read Tom's description of his mother that this was a special story. "She has the best qualities a person could have--patience, empathy, perseverance, devotion, forgiveness, faith." The picture he paints of her as she loves him through everything is incredible. I wish I could meet that woman.

For that matter, I wish I could meet Tom. Not to have some eloquent discussion about addiction, not to gush about his book, but just to look him in the eye. Just to say, "I know." And to thank him. Sometimes a story is so powerful that it crosses a great divide. It puts words to a feeling someone didn't know they had. Sometimes, a story is so powerful the words in it can heal. This is that kind of book. This story has changed me. And I am grateful he wrote it and shared it with the world.
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