Many memoirs lean toward the emotionally devastating or inspirational; a fair number seem aimed at the authors’ personal circles, summarizing notable careers or charting familial sagas. To be frank, a lamentable percentage of autobiographers fail to heed the classic writing dictum, “Just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting.” What about fun? Some recent Indie titles that chronicle titillatingly bad behavior have proven to be crackerjack entertainment, offering windows into wildly exotic lifestyles inaccessible to most readers. Combining voyeuristic thrills with gritty authenticity, these walks on the wild side have kept us turning the pages.

In S. Yerucham’s True Stories of the Philosophical Theater (2023), the author recounts the peripatetic wilderness years of his 20s and 30s, when a combination of drugs, ill-considered polyamory, and mental illness resulted in a stay at Bellevue for near-catatonic depression and spurred a spiritual quest that took him to India, Israel, Malaysia, and Thailand, seeking a balm for his restless soul. Per our reviewer, “the extraordinary quality of the writing” elevates this chronicle of bohemian dissipation and philosophical yearning above similar redemption narratives; Yerucham, in addition to living a fascinating life, is an effortlessly engaging narrator and gifted wordsmith whose prose, our reviewer notes, attains a “gonzo, hallucinatory quality worthy of Hunter S. Thompson” in passages like the following: “Roasting in the heat, he looked as if he’d been hammered and bronzed in hell furnaces for centuries.”

Liar, Alleged (2023), a scandalous memoir by David Vass, irresistibly dishes celebrity dirt as it follows the misadventures of the author, who got his start as a lighting and sound technician working in Baltimore’s Mafia-run strip joints. Honing his skills in that unforgiving milieu, Vass became a whiz at making performers look and sound good, leading to memorable encounters with such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bette Davis. Vass’ unexpurgated anecdotes about these often ill-behaved legends are irresistible (he told an abusive Sinatra to “kiss my gay ass”) and revealing; his sensitive remembrance of Fitzgerald’s insecurities is particularly moving. But it’s the raunch that powers this scorched-earth showbiz narrative; Vass describes a stint in prison as “filled with great sex and life lessons,” and, by his estimation, he had 2,000-3,000 intimate partners in New York City’s pre-AIDS gay scene. Our reviewer calls the book “an exuberant sexual picaresque conveyed in cheerfully lewd prose” and praises its “perceptive examination of the truth lying beneath the entertainment industry’s surface fakery.”

The focus is squarely on narcotic knavery in The Next Run by Tom Jenkins, the story of a U.C. Berkeley student’s path to becoming a major player in the U.S. marijuana-smuggling trade. Beginning as a small-time pot dealer, “when everything seemed so lighthearted and romantic,” Jenkins would ultimately organize large-scale shipments of tons of contraband between Afghanistan, Mexico, Colombia, and the U.S. The narrative is rich with intriguing details—the author describes how pot-laden speedboats would enter Miami towing water-skiers to throw off the authorities. Our reviewer calls Jenkins “a fantastic storyteller” who relates his hair-raising adventures “with terrific energy and a good deal of humor.”

Arthur Smith is an Indie editor.