Thursday, May 22, 2014

Junkie - Jonathan Craig

He was brutal about it, savage with a savagery he hadn't known he possessed. He had never acted that way with a girl before. He didn't have to act that way – she would love him just for the asking, she’d been bought and paid for. But that time wasn't like any other time. That time he was trying to destroy something, trying to burn it out of his heart. 

Lancer Books - Frenzy (originally titled Junkie)
Jazzcats, junkies, whores and murder. Yup, that about sums up this tawdry little tale of love among squalor. Junkie, by Jonathan Craig, was likely written to cash in on the beat craze going on thanks to Kerouac and the gang put the kicks on paper. It's set among the jazz alleys and clubs of Washington D.C. in the 50s instead of the standard hangouts like Greenwich Village or North Beach. Steve Harper is a horn man, one of the best, who's burning a torch for a former call-girl and heroin junkie named Kathy. Kathy came out to the big city to find success but found the needle in a brothel instead. Soon as she meets Steve things start to look up. Sure, Steve has some existential angst and all, falling in love with a prostitute, but damn! Kathy lets Steve have his way with her on their first night together. Well, a bit more than that actually. Steve's big moment of passion is pretty much raping Kathy in the front seat of his car. He figures in some psychotic way that going all caveman on her is what one does to a chick that's peddling it for everyone. A good bout of self-loathing immediately follows. Kathy thinks Steve as something of a lost and tortured soul. Just the sort of cat to kick the needle for, and "toots-sweet", Cupid's flinging arrows at them. There was no mention of how much scratch changed hands, but she definitely leaves some deep scars in his heart. 

Jump ahead a couple months and Steve is mooning over Kathy after sleeping with one of his gal-pals Lois. Lois is a trip. Lois is one of those wound up kittens who like to scratch too. Not only that, but Lois plays a hell of a boogie on the ivories, and once-upon-a-time Steve could have really gone for her. But Lois ups and marries a clown with dough instead. Lois decided that banging the ivories in reefer joints is the slow boat to Endsville, so why not take a short cut and marry some rich moke for his money. That was the plan anyway. But Lois's hubby Mel has a problem with the sauce. He drinks and likes to get rough. He's also got a jealous streak. So it's not long after the wedding bells stop ringing that Lois resumes slinking around Steve's pad, sitting around in her sexy underwear, smoking reefers and playing Steve's records and torturing him about Kathy dumping him. And that's the scene, until one night a cop friend of Steve's calls him up and drops the news that Steve's old mentor Wally Haynes was given the dirt nap. And the chief suspect is...Kathy!

What follows is pretty much Steve running around town playing gumshoe trying to find Kathy, while also trying to nail the gink who offed Wally. In the process he gets mixed up in a triangle between Lois, Kathy, and some kooky chick named Donna, who may or may not dig guys, it all depends on her mood. There's some booze, some hash, some reefer, some round-heeled dames, a couple of swishes and lesbians and a lot of jazz. If that sounds like your thing then you should have a good time with Junkie. I did, but I'm kind of a sucker for that crazy beat stuff. I might have been born too late. A wild night for me back in the day was a Cheap Trick record and a bottle of Boone's Farm Stawberry Hill. Just as well, I guess...

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