Lets start with a quote, one that appears several times within the text:

Up goes the coke, down comes the caine

A simple enough statement, but one that I found profoundly disturbing. The more I consider it the more worrisome it becomes. These simple 8 words are peppered throughout the text and become a rallying cry for the world of the cocaine user. Each page takes the reader deeper into a world that most of us thankfully know little about.

I read Armando’s first novel What You Are Turning Me Into a few days ago. It also is drug centric and disturbing. Cocaine Memoirs though, is written slightly differently, I sense less anger in the words, and it is a slightly more reflective look at the subject. It is however still a deeply disturbing work.

Our hero, though hero is a bit of a stretch of the imagination, is Anvil. A young man of apparent affluence who seems bent on self destruction through Cocaine use.

Anvil’s father has recently passed away and as a result of a deathbed promise he sets out to locate his fathers ex wife in order to deliver some letters. the journey from Pennsylvania to Key West, Florida forms the backdrop of the story.

His traveling companions are a seemingly endless supply of white powder, death, and his own paranoia which he refers to as the ants. The ants are everywhere, listening, watching waiting to act.

Death is no stranger to the drug addict, that I know first hand from working with addicts. Death is always with you, a companion, often not feared but rather expected. It is not so much a question of ‘if’ merely when.

Armando takes us on many side journeys in Cocaine Memoirs and ‘up goes the coke, down comes the caine’, is the ending to many of these journeys. He encounters old friends and new ones, each with their own story, each with their own burden.

Anvil is a natural compulsive, everything is in the here and now. Life is not about tomorrow, there may be no tomorrow, life is about this very second, whether it is love or hate. It is in the ‘now’. Does Anvil even know the concept of love? Love and lust are bedfellows, love and lust and the yin and yang of the same emotion to this young man.

Cocaine Memoirs while not as angry as What You Are Turning Me Into is still not for the feint at heart. It delves into some very dark parts of the human psyche, places where few of us would like to visit.

I talked with Armando a week or so ago and I have played that conversation back in my mind several times. Although he himself is not an addict, he has known many over the years, in fact a friend died in his arms from an overdose.

The strange thing is, and I am having difficulty in reconciling this, neither book is particularly anti drug, tho nor are they pro. They are a series of vignettes, observations of the phenomena and its inevitable outcome. Up goes the coke, down comes the caine!

I do know that Armando is amassing quite the group of followers with his innovative writing style and I expect this book will do very well. For your vacation reading, forget Tom Clancy and try something a little more experimental like Cocaine Memoirs.

You can order your copy from Amazon.

Simon Barrett

Editors Note – We had a server problem while publishing this article. The visible hit counter is not working at this stage. You are NOT the first person to read this review :) 

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