Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Crooked Beat

by Drew Gates
published 2010

This was the first of three Drew Gates books I read - I've also reviewed Blockpanda. A third book called Underneath the Stairwell is abysmal in comparison. Avoid. Anyway here's my review for "the Crooked Beat"....

Trainspotting is a good reference point here (the movie more so than the book) - “Crooked Beat” has the similar squalid, hilarious, rolling-disaster vibe. Yes this is a heroin novel, although LSD25 has a strong supporting role and really steals the show in a few places.

This is a story of a drug odyssey into Thailand and India, in what feels like the early 90s. The narrator Dean tells us that he identifies as a “dope fiend” rather than a “junky”, which may be a reason why the story stays up and moving and doesn’t get boring. Mostly Dean is dealing and consuming, moving from place to place and meeting crazy travellers. There hardly seems to be a page go by without someone vomiting out a window. However all the madness is interspersed with some very nice descriptive passages of the landscape and a bit of introspection here and there.

A couple of times I felt Dean was in urgent need of a boot to the face which sadly was not forthcoming. For example he picks on a German girl who understandably doesn’t want to sit next to him and he beats up an Indian dealer for no good reason and it doesn’t seem to bother him afterwards. Mostly though I was sympathetic to the young fiend.

I think my favourite parts here were the descriptions of the Goa trance party scene. I liked that after every party there seemed to be people losing their mind and rolling around naked. It made techno seem raw and risky again.


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