Monday, April 30, 2007


Call me Steve

The LATBR just posted my review of Steve Geng's Thick As Thieves. To a large degree, this is a tale of diverging siblings--the author spent most of his adult life as a bottom-feeding junkie, jailbird, and thief, while his sister Veronica went on to a glamorous (if erratic) life as a New Yorker editor and contributor. Geng has a weakness for Runyonesque cliche: parts of the book sound as if he actually wrote them out of the side of his mouth. But he does deny us the easy consolations of a recovery narrative. Which is to say, he knows that he destroyed his life and doesn't try to dodge that fact with cheap epiphanies. I began this way:
Calling all middle-class rebels: Here's the life James Frey wishes he had lived. Steve Geng is an ex-thief, ex-junkie, ex-jailbird and ex-actor (who specialized in playing thieves, junkies and jailbirds during his hot streak on TV's Miami Vice). Now 64, and lucky to be alive after decades of methodical self-destruction, he has chronicled his scarifying odyssey in Thick as Thieves.

Geng isn't, of course, the first author to recount his descent into drugs, petty crime and pointedly bohemian dissolution. Born in 1943, he was just old enough to catch the tail end of the Beat era and lucky enough to live in Paris (as a teenage military brat) during the height of its postwar funkiness. The heroin-ravaged Chet Baker was his idol, and there's a definite whiff of Beat-like hedonism wafting from the book's pages.
You can read the rest here.

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