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Archive for the ‘junkies’ Category

Don’t do it.

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So Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty came out in a large print edition. That’s never happened with my books before but then I’ve never written a book about sex and drugs in nursing homes before. It seems kind of apt. One of my favorite words — apt.
Only this message isn’t about senior citizens on trips. It’s about Cranford Nix. Sorrow Floats is about an alcoholic woman who drives around town with her baby on the roof and then hauls a load of illegal Coors to the East Coast with some AA guys. Right after it came out, I got a lot of mail from alcoholics and drug addicts, saying nice things such as the book understood them and AA books usually don’t. A number gave my heroine Maurey the credit for them taking a shot at the sober life. There was very little if any follow-up, so I don’t know what percentage made it. I know a book can change a reader’s life.
One of the letters was from a musician named Cranford Nix. He was a heroin addict who, at the time he wrote me, had cleaned up. He said my book was something he could relate to, then he went on to speak fondly of heroin, as if she was a woman he loved but couldn’t live with.
I wrote back and said he had a cool name and I wanted to use it in a book. He sent me a tape of the most painful music I’ve ever heard. Songs screaming of loss. Unenduarable pain. They were love songs, or lost love songs, to heroin. I knew it was great stuff, but I didn’t see a lot of commercial potential. Then, after a few letters, swapping junkie stories back and forth, he drifted off.
Fast forward a few years and I got a letter from someone, a woman as I recall, telling me Cranford was dead. He’d O.D.ed. For some reason, I don’t remember, I ended up hearing from both his sister and mother. His mother is a sweet woman and proud of her son. She wanted me to know he didn’t die from heroin, but from mixing bad pharmaceuticals. It mattered to her that he hadn’t gone back to heroin. Someone sent me a video of Cranford being interviewed on TV by a Florida junior leaguer type who would have had more in common with a Martian. In musical terms, Cranford was to Gram Parsons what Captain Beefheart was to Frank Zappa. Same direction only a light year farther out past the barrier.
I used his name in Honey Don’t as the poet who was destroyed by a critic. My Cranford was black, schizophrenic, and at the end of the novel he had the President’s head on a paper plate in his hovel of a hide-out under some government building. The Smithsonian or someplace.
Now all this might be interesting, or might not be, but then it goes strange. I wrote this blog last week, after I was telling Tiffanie DeBartolo about Cranford. Tiffanie wrote How to Kill a Rock Star and she collects singers who are in pain and not afraid to let it show. After I wrote the blog and before I posted it, I got one of those My Space comments from Cranford’s wife. First off, I didn’t know he had a wife and second, I hadn’t spoken his name is six or seven years before last week, much less written about him.
My own private Twilight Zone episode.
His wife seems remarkably sane, considering she was married to Cranford. She said he died in the bathroom, and one of my postcards was taped to the mirror.
Right before Honey Don’t came out I Googled Cranford, just in case using a real person’s name might cause problems. (It can and has.) And I discovered he had a much bigger cult following than I do. Or did. The kid was loved. I wish he’d known that.

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