Paperback: Leaving Dirty Jersey, by James Salant

Ebury £7.99
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The Independent Culture

James Salant's memoir follows a familiar path. It's remarkable how quickly the contemporary "gritty" memoir has found its form – a tussle between action sequences which invite the reader to stand beside the author and savour the damage being done; and quieter scenes establishing family relationships. You couldn't really get closer to a screenplay – which is probably where this kind of writer sees his work heading. Drug deals, then book deals, then film deals; that's the way it goes, isn't it?

Born into an upper middle-class family, Salant grew up watching his elder brother Joe morph from difficult child to petulant teenager and finally drug addict. Joe's glamorous friends became Salant's first dealers. Facing a potential prison sentence, Salant chose to enter a rehab programme in California but he only spent a couple of weeks there. Instead he relocated a few miles east to the town of Riverside, where he spent a year shooting crystal meth and hanging out with criminals. This isn't a good book, or a bad book, just another fantasy constructed out of somebody's painful addictions. Ask yourself: who's really writing the script?