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Permanent Midnight by Jerry Stahl, Abacus pounds 6.99. Can you have your coke and eat it? Stahl seems to think so. Having flushed his writing career and family life down the toilet under the influence of as many narcotics as LA has neurotics, he attempts to retrieve the soiled remnants as part of an autobiographical detox programme. It's not the shameless cashing-in on the hell-hole that was his life in the Eighties and early Nineties - "writing bad TV [thirtysomething, Moonlighting] and hating it" that irks. It's that having hooked you in with the ultimate tableau of self-disgust (shooting up feet away from where his wife is giving birth), he can only continue in an adjacent vein for the next 370 pages. Inevitably, numb's the word. Stahl confuses his amazing ability to rescue small details from years of self-oblivion with catharsis. Every self-lacerating comment is swabbed with a here-we-go-again flippancy. Admittedly, this style sometimes produces exhilarating comic rushes, both in the reminiscences of a misfit childhood and the relived, excruciating encounters with the likes of Mickey Rourke and Cybill Shepherd.

Dominic Cavendish