BENDIGO author Geoff Brown’s new memoir Hammered is not an easy read. Plus, we know how the story ends – he's here to tell it – so why is this book so damn riveting?
It’s an honest, brutal account of a 20-year drug addiction. It’s a rare thing.
Geoff says at best, those who’ve shared his experience of hard drugs, crime and slow decay have a five-to-ten per cent chance of surviving it, of coming clean. And even fewer have the desire or ability to write it all down.
“I gave a heap of copies to the detox unit in Melbourne, The Bridge, which is run by the Salvation Army,” Geoff says.
“They were absolutely gobsmacked that someone had made it through and written about it. That’s why I donated copies to the unit, just to show people that you can come through it.
“There’s a little bit [of literature] around but everyone tries to glorify their own life rather than let other people make up their own mind – that’s what I tried to do – put it down as factually as I could and allow others to judge me.
“That’s what I was most worried about, the judgment of others.”
The front cover of Geoff Brown's new memoir.
It’s been a month since Hammered was launched, under Geoff’s writing name, G.N Braun, and in that time it has been judged more than worthy.
“It’s all positive, people absolutely love it,” he says.
“People who don’t even read are reading it in one session.
“Even people who pop up in the book have read it and loved it.”
Geoff has been clean for almost five years.
As the Hammered blurb says, “He dragged his way out of the pit without resorting to God or alcohol or any other the other crutches people commonly use.”
He says writing about his years as a heroin addict was both therapeutic and painful.
“Writing that book was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done. The first hardest was living through it the first time,” he says.
“I had to get myself into the right headspace to relive it, to try and remember all the nitty gritty details. I actually surprised myself at the amount of recall I had.”
The first draft took just six months to write.
“I wrote almost every day,” he says. “Sometimes I found myself procrastinating and putting it off for a week because I didn’t want to deal with what I had to write about.”
Geoff says he originally wrote the book for himself. A life long reader and lover of words, he’d already had a couple of short stories published in the horror genre, but the mantra “write what you know” was nagging at him.
“I didn’t even think I’d submit it to begin with, I just thought it would be cathartic to write it, to put it into perspective,” he says.
“It was … to be able to see, even though it’s hard to believe, I did maintain a certain level of integrity – you can’t maintain a complete level of morals in that lifestyle, but there was a line I didn’t cross … otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.”
Melbourne publishing house Legume Man books accepted the manuscript straight away in the knowledge that is was unique in the Australian market.
“There’s Trainspotting from Scotland and a few meth addicts memoirs from the US, but there’s not a lot of drug memoirs written for Australians,” Geoff says.
Geoff says there needs to be more real-life stories of addictions told and documentaries made to de-bunk some of the myths surrounding drug culture and the proposed ways to deal with it, such as safe injecting rooms.
Geoff’s own blog deals with his insider’s opinion on the "war on drugs".
“As well as promotion of the book the blog is about society’s view of drug culture,” he says.
Today, Geoff’s life is all about the words.
He is president of the Australian Horror Writers Association and is completing a Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing at Bendigo TAFE, as well as building up his own editing business.
And come Sunday, he sells second-hand books at the Bendigo Showgrounds Market. Geoff says it’s time well spent for a writer.
“I just sit back and watch people, because they don’t look behind the tables,” he says.
“They only see what’s on the tables, not the people sitting behind them. It’s amazing what people say – it’s great for character research.
“It’s hard to shock me, but sometimes people do.
“One time there was a five-year-old boy who was looking at the children’s books and he said, ‘Dad, can I have a book?’.
“His dad said, ‘what do you want that for? You’re too f……stupid to read it anyway.’ And he grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away. That shocked me.”
Geoff hopes Hammered will have a purpose beyond his own purging. Beyond the bookshelf. He has a message to pass on.
“Never give up on somebody who you feel like giving up on,” he says. “Every day is a new day for people who seem to be beyond hope and beyond help. You never know what’s going to happen – every day is a new day.
“Every addict, every junkie, is someone’s son, someone’s daughter, a sister, a brother, they’re people underneath all that and somebody still loves them, somewhere.
“I think, there goes but for the grace of God someone who could have cured cancer if it wasn’t for a decision they made once, if something didn’t happen in their life.”
Hammered is available at Dymocks,