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About Tony O'Neill
The Guardian article about the Off-Beats "Surfing the New Literary Wave" caused a controversy in 2006 when it claimed O'Neill as a figurehead for the burgeoning scene. It also characterized O'Neill as someone who had "taken the phrase rock'n'roll poet to its furthest edge," while associating him with a style of writing dubbed "Brutalism." For his own part O'Neill claimed not to care about literary movements and had no desire to be associated with other writers. In an interview with 3am Magazine he said that he was drawn to writing "because it's a solitary activity." He went on to decry "those Brooklyn writers who hang out together all the time drinking soy lattes and arguing about what Miranda July's best book is."
"Surfing the New Literary Wave" was the first place that many readers heard about O'Neill and fellow authors like Tom McCarthy, Ben Myers, Adelle Stripe, Heidi James, Paul Ewen, Laura Hird, Lee Rourke and Noah Cicero. Most of those mentioned in the piece were just starting out in their careers, but would soon go on to write some of the most interesting non-mainstream books of the last 10 years.
SEIZURE WET DREAMS, a collection of short stories and poems was released by Social Disease in 2006. It was followed by a volume of poetry, SONGS FROM THE SHOOTING GALLERY [Burning Shore Press, 2007], a collection that avant-garde legend Dennis Cooper described as "precise and beautiful yet [...] imperiled by the damage in its own world." These three small-press books won O'Neill a rabid fan base, seduced by his gritty tales of junkies, hookers and perilous lives lived on the margins of society. When reviewing these early books, many critics drew comparisons between O'Neill's writing and the work of Dan Fante, Jerry Stahl, Charles Bukowski and Irvine Welsh.
He made the jump to mainstream publishing in 2008 when DOWN AND OUT ON MURDER MILE, his second novel, was released by Harper Perennial. Winning praise from the likes of Jerry Stahl, Sebastian Horsley and James Frey DOWN AND OUT was seen by critics as a big leap forward in terms of style and scope. O'Neill once claimed it was - along with SHOOTING GALLERY - the most personal of his books.
His career in Europe took off around this time with the release of the French-language collection NOTRE DAME DU VIDE (13e Note Press). Since then O'Neill has retained a strong following in France and Germany, where each of his books have been translated to great acclaim. However it was with the release of SICK CITY in 2010 [Harper Perennial] that Tony O'Neill finally seemed in danger of earning mainstream acceptance in the US. This pitch-dark thriller managed to juggle it's page turner ambitions with a satirical heart that took aim squarely at the recovery industry and Hollywood's worship of all things celebrity. Upon it's release SICK CITY immediately earned praise from sources as diverse as Slash (Guns'n'Roses) and Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart). It was optioned for the movies by Jayson Rothwell's Invader Films, who has worked with screen legends Johnny Depp and Julian Schnabel. The SICK CITY movie is rumored to go into production in late 2016. Dr. Drew Pinsky reportedly expressed annoyance that the character of Dr. Mike was seemingly based upon him, but O'Neill claimed in a radio interview with Pinksy's Loveline co-host Adam Carolla that the similarities between the two men were "purely co-incidental."
A sequel to SICK CITY, BLACK NEON made it's debut in Europe and will be released in the UK and US in late 2014. It was here that O'Neill parted ways with Harper Perennial, who - according to O'Neill - found BLACK NEON to be "too weird, too strange" and "not commercial enough" for them. He said in an interview with a French fanzine that Perennial seemed ready to "groom him to become some kind of mainstream thriller writer. Take out all of the drugs and weirdness from SICK CITY, and mould it into something you could sell at drugstores. Instead I turned in a book that ramped the drugs and the insanity to an almost comic degree, and added in a side helping of post-modern surreal artiness. Needless to say, they were not amused. I declined to rewrite it from scratch, and that was that." Instead O'Neill returned to his small-press roots, teaming up with UK indie Bluemoose to release his bizarre tale of pharmacy robbery, lesbian romance, art house cinema and black magic curses.
As well as his own literary works, O'Neill has co-authored several memoirs. He was the co-author of HERO OF THE UNDERGROUND, with Jason Peter [2008, St Martins Press] and "NEON ANGEL" (IT Books) with Cherie Currie of The Runaways, later made into a movie with Dekota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. He lives in New Jersey with his wife ("and muse") Vanessa, and their daughter Nico.
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“Sick City is fun, twisted and brutal….O’Neill could be our generation’s Jim Thompson.”
— James Frey, author of Bright Shiny Morning
“Tony O’Neill works his L.A. people the way Dutch Leonard had his hand down the pants of every degenerate in his great Detroit novels.”
— Barry Gifford, author of Wild at Heart
From Tony O’Neill, the author of Down and Out on Murder Mile and coauthor of the Neon Angel and the New York Times bestselling Hero of the Underground, comes Sick City—a wild adventure of two junkies, Hollywood, and the Sharon Tate sex tape. Readers of Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty) and Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) will take great delight in Sick City, “a disturbingly twisted ride through Hollywood’s underbelly with a degenerate cast of colorfully interwoven characters” (Slash).
I wasn't afraid of death.
How could I be? I lived under death's shadow every day. When you swallow eighty Vicodin, twenty sleeping pills, drink a bottle of vodka, and still survive, a certain sense of invulnerability stays with you. When you continually use drugs with the kind of reckless determination that I did, the limit to how much heroin or crack you can ingest is not defined in dollar amounts, but in the amounts your body can withstand without experiencing a seizure or respiratory failure. Yet at the end of every binge, every night of lining up six, seven, eight crack pipes and hitting them one after the other bam! bam! bam! every night of smoking and snorting bag after bag of heroin . . . after all of that, when you still wake up to see the same dirty sky over you as the night before, you start to think that instead of dying, maybe your punishment is to live---to be stuck in this purgatory of self-abuse and misery for an eternity. Sometimes you start to think that death would come as a blessed relief.
Toward the end, I found myself contemplating death again. Only this time I wasn't going to leave it to chance. I was going to buy a gun, load the thing, place the barrel in my mouth, and blow my fucking brains out.
I sat on my parents' sofa as I pondered this. All I needed was a gun.
And then all--
of my problems--
would be solved.
Tony O'Neill's debut novel has become a cult classic since it was originally published by Contemporary Press in 2006. Digging the Vein is the tragicomic portrait of a young Englishman who arrives in LA fresh from an abortive career in rock and roll. His world abruptly changes when he submerges himself in the subterranean world of the Hollywood junk scene. Winning acclaim from the likes of Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting), John Giorno (You've Got To Burn To Shine), Dan Fante (Chump Change), James Frey (A Million Little Pieces), and Jerry Stahl (Permanent Midnight), Digging the Vein's unflinching depiction of Los Angeles' underbelly led to a deal with Harper Collins, who went on to publish a sequel (Down and Out on Murder Mile) as well as several other works of O'Neill's fiction and non-fiction.
Beyond the theme of addiction,Tony O'Neill's debut has an obsession honesty and authenticity - a desire for freedom at all costs that pits the narrator irrevocably and disastrously at odds with the world around him. Our hero has big problems: a wife he had known for only two days, no job, no money and a drug habit expanding beyond all limits. As you might expect, there are wild stories of drug deals gone wrong, friendships lost, suffering, casual sex and unexpected violence. And of course there are lonely nights in rotten motels, withdrawal symptoms, methadone clinics and the constant quest for the high. But Digging the Vein is a novel concerned with much more than the nocturnal world of the junkie: to paraphrase one great poet it's the narrators "Lust for Life" that keeps the reader hooked. This is a tale related with a startling lack of romanticism, and this refusal to apologize and condemn propels Digging the Vein down a far murkier path that lies beyond the traditional route signposted 'addiction / redemption.'
Since it was first published in a limited run back in 2006, O'Neill's debut has been long unavailable outside of the collectors market. Vicon Editions is proud to bring you the definitive e-book edition of the novel John Giorno described as, "mining diamonds for the crown of the King of Hell." As well as incorporating material originally left out of the US paperback edition, this all-new edition of Digging the Vein contains a gallery of covers from the book's various incarnations around the world, an introduction by "Million Little Pieces" author James Frey, and a mixed-media essay on Tony O'Neill and Digging the Vein by Dejan Gacond and Kit Brown (both of which originally appeared in the French edition of the novel, "Du Bleu Sur Les Veins").
After exhausting their resources in the slums of Los Angeles, a junkie and his wife settle in London's "murder mile," the city's most violent and criminally corrupt section. Persevering past failed treatments, persistent temptation, urban ennui, and his wife's ruinous death wish, the nameless narrator fights to reclaim his life.
In prose that could peel paint from a car, Tony O'Neill re-creates the painfully comic, often tragic days of a recovering heroin addict.
NOTRE DAME DU VIDE [first published in 2009 by French publisher 13e Note Editions] is presented in English for the first time in this e-book edition. This short story collection - which introduced Tony O'Neill to French readers - won acclaim from the likes of Le Monde who said, "[with NOTRE DAME DU VIDE] O'Neill stakes his claim as a possible 21st century successor to the drunken blues of Bukowski or the space-age junkie fantasy of William Burroughs," and Bâtard Sournois who compared the book to, "Lou Reed at his most dissolute, Trocchi at his most angry and poetic."