Paperbacks: You Cannot Live As I Have Lived and Not End Up Like This, by Terence Blacker

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The Independent Culture

Most writers would sell their souls for the apparent success of the late Willie Donaldson, who notched up two bestsellers, The Henry Root Letters and Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics, and enjoyed an active love life with partners including Carly Simon and Sarah Miles. Yet, as the title of this biography suggests, he paid a price for this rocket-like trajectory. His dedication to sex became desperately seedy and his literary success financed a 15-year crack habit. This was somehow missed by his friend and collaborator Terence Blacker, who thought his references to drugs were "one of his elaborate jokes", like the audacious cons in the Root letters. Even when Blacker found him with two girls and a heap of white powder, "I thought he was pulling my leg." Fortunately, Blacker the biographer has put aside his blinkers. His account is consistently enthralling and often astonishing. From youthful glamour on Beyond the Fringe to his seedy death while watching a lesbian porn site, Donaldson refused to accept boredom at any price. Though this mercurial chancer was endowed with a propensity to sabotage achievement, Blacker claims he remained "his normal sweet and funny self" even in the midst of addiction.