A SHOT OF MALARIA by Charles Souby


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A musician copes with addiction, mental illness, and dreams of recovery in this novel.

Daniel Martin at first appears to be an archetypal character. Living off the meager earnings of his street-corner banjo playing and the periodic release of savings bonds left to him by his grandmother, he believes his heroin habit isn’t a big deal. Despite his 15-year addiction, he explains to his counselor at the methadone clinic, Elsie Schwartz, that he just needs a little short-term help to get back on his feet. But while parts of Daniel’s life may seem like familiar tropes, the depth of his characterization should strike even the most jaded readers. Daniel’s story reveals his profound, driving need for connection and companionship. He yearns for a girlfriend and the comfort and closeness of a relationship, especially over the upcoming holidays. But his feelings for Elsie can’t go anywhere, and when he meets a woman named Caroline, she falls into a recognizable pattern for Daniel—most of his friends are addicts. With Caroline enabling him, her dealer husband breathing down their necks, and his best friend, Cody, suffering from terminal cancer, Daniel has plenty of reasons to keep using and to follow that instinct to his death. His abiding Aunt Teresa and his few clean friends and loved ones try to pull him out of his addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts, but it ultimately comes down to whether Daniel will allow intervention to succeed. Complexity and uncertainty fill the pages of Souby’s (Winifred, 2014) tale. The open, blunt first-person narration provides a thorough sense of Daniel’s character, and it’s difficult not to feel for him and to understand the bleak twists and turns his mind takes on a regular basis. But what makes the story stand out are its descriptive prose and sense of place. The highs and the shaking lows are palpable. (At one point, he muses about mixing cocaine and heroin: “A nice concentrated blast of coke rocketing my soul to the stars with the dope dropping me back down like parachutes guiding a space module.”) But even more tangible are the fog-swept San Francisco streets and the sights and smells of dead-end bars and vomit-streaked clothes. While Daniel’s world is not for the faint of heart, it delivers a rich, revealing darkness unlike what readers encounter in most books.

A powerful, empathetic study of place and character with great depth.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2005
ISBN: 978-1-4958-0147-1
Page count: 454pp
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2018


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