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SICK CITY by Tony O’Neill


by Tony O’Neill

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-178974-8
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Another slice of drug-inspired ultraviolence from O’Neill (Down and Out on Murder Mile, 2008, etc.).

The author once again plumbs the depths of his dope days with this inspired comedy of errors. A bigger cast this time lends his acid humor more room to grow, as he brings a motley crew of addicts, charlatans, TV whores and desperate johns together in a send-up of Hollywood capers. Our protagonists are Jeffrey and Randal, two deeply flaky addicts from different sides of the scene. As the novel opens, beta-male Jeffrey has found that his sugar daddy, Bill—ex-cop, kink connoisseur and witness to the worst of the '60s—is as dead as disco. With the paranoia that only primo stuff can inspire, Jeffrey empties out the old man’s safe and makes a run for a celebrity rehab center. The center, Clean and Serene, is run by the most scathingly funny character in the book, Dr. Mike, a TV-addiction guru who trades drugs to transvestite prostitutes to feed his own little jones. And no one writes about detox like O’Neill, who knows this territory firsthand: “As the dope worked its way out of his system, he sweated and twisted on the thin mattress and his dreams were vivid, full-color nightmares of pure, white Chinese heroin, Bill’s shriveled-up old corpse dancing as if suspended on marionette strings, and rocks of crack the size and shape of boulders.” The book picks up momentum when Jeffrey meets Randal, the son of a legendary Hollywood family who smoked his way past his own father’s funeral. Together, these two disgraced junkies start planning their retirement score—the unloading of a long-forgotten sex tape featuring Sharon Tate, Steve McQueen, Mama Cass and others in full legendary bacchanalia. Chaos ensues, infused with enough humor black to make Bill Burroughs choke on his apple.

A post-punk crack at Hollywood’s legacy that’s funnier than its predecessor, and just as cringe-inducing.