The Night of the Gun by David Carr

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The Night of the Gun by David Carr

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: A brutal and at times, harrowing investigation of a man's life as a drug addict by the man himself, once clean and sober. An interesting read, even if it's only from the standpoint of 'rubbernecker'.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Pocket Books
ISBN: 978-1847396280

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When you decide to take drugs for the first time, according to most, it's rarely a class 'A' variety - usually it's kids messing around with cannabis. This is how David Carr began his love affair with illicit substances, clearly not even for one second imagining what it would eventually do to him and everyone around him.

The Night Of The Gun is an autobiography of sorts, in so far as the author – now clean and sober for some years - undertakes to investigate his life during those years of addiction and actually interview not just his friends and family on the subject, but also arresting officers, representing lawyers and the doctors who treated him from time to time. Now, given that Carr's own memories are understandably hazy, what ensues is more of either corroboration or contradiction of those facts rather than a memoir and since many of his friends also enjoyed surrendering their sensible selves to the effects of illegal substances, their recollections of events are often as unreliable as Carr's.

The title of the book refers to an evening where such irreconcilable versions of events occurs; Carr maintains it is his best friend who pulls a gun on him due to the nature of his state of mind (i.e. out of it) and Carr's best friend recalls that it is Carr, insanely high after a two day bender, who pulls a gun on him. Their friendship understandably falls by the wayside shortly afterwards, to be reconnected many years later during Carr's research for the book.

The story itself is not so much of a story about someone's life, as you would expect in an autobiography, rather a patchwork of recollections about things that happened to him because of, during and in connection with his life as a drug addict; the jobs he won and lost, the money he spent, the women he brutalised and stole from, the family he betrayed and lost and the physical ill-effects the drugs took on his body. As such, it was difficult to read – there was no 'flow' and to be perfectly frank with you I found it all a little bit self-indulgent. Being a drug addict is one thing, putting your life on hold to make a scrapbook of the time you wasted is quite another. Whilst in parts The Night Of The Gun was funny, by and large it was disturbing, disgusting and frightening and if it stands as nothing more than a warning to would-be party girls and boys as to the dangers of the amusements they might contemplate, then it will have done an excellent job.

In summary, I admit I thought The Night Of The Gun would be a lighter read, but my disappointment does not lie with the fact that it wasn't. I did not gel with this book simply because of the jarring leaps from this event to that night, to this job loss, to something else – all of which were more or less one incredible, unbelievable catastrophe or another and of course, I realise that this is probably the way Carr's life played out during those years… jarringly… but I could not reconcile myself to the tale because of it. Thankfully, after everything he has been through, Carr finds his way back to the straight and narrow and astonishingly has not only worked hard to stay there but still has some important family relationships intact. He has a lot to be thankful for in just waking up and hearing the birds sing every day.

If you enjoy a bad boy/life gone wrong but goes right again type bios and autobios, then I'd like to recommend a couple of books to you. The first is Mr Nice by Howard Marks which I read some years ago. The story of how an ordinary bloke from South Wales came to have forty three aliases and twenty five companies through which to launder the proceeds of his world-wide cannabis operation and subsequent stretch in a US prison is told charmingly and with the skill of a real story-teller, which of course in order to have pulled off a criminal operation to such a grand scale, the skill to spin a good story would be just one of your myriad of abilities, but then, that's his angle. I would also point you in the direction of The Autobiography by Johnnie Walker which is your more typical, sex, drugs, rock and roll type tale about a certain radio DJ. Lastly, for the more high-brow among you, a novel we at Bookbag found a bit clever for us - Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman but that takes a look at the subject using a more 'Hollywood' angle in his series of essays.

Lastly, but by no means least, we would very much like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of Night Of The Gun to us at Bookbag for review.

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