Review: Junkie Love by Joe Clifford

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

Unless you have been living under a rock in the Atacama desert for the past couple of weeks, you can’t have failed to notice that Gutter gladiator and all round good guy, Joe Clifford has a new novel out. Yes, that’s right another one. Here's why I think you should buy it.
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Buzzcocks’ lead singer Pete Shelly once posed the question: Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with? Joe Clifford did just that, although in his case it was more of a something than a someone. He fell in love with an ideal that only ever really existed in the minds of writers like Kerouac and Burroughs. He chased his runaway American dream across the continent from Connecticut to San Francisco. In the end, it nearly killed him. 
Junkie Love is Joe Clifford’s second novel and as he says in his introduction, one way or another it has taken him most of his life to complete. It is indeed a love story, although not necessarily in the conventional boy meets girl sense; chemical romance is never that straight forward.
This is ten years of Joe’s life laid bare, at times both brutal and horrific, but always compelling. He is not ashamed of his past and nor should he be. Everybody fucks it up to a greater or lesser degree, but not everybody has the strength of will required to pull back from the brink or the stones to write so honestly about it.
It’s a hard book to read and an even harder one to put down. We already knew that Joe could write; that fact was never up for debate. With Junkie Love he does something that goes way beyond just putting words on the page. He tells it exactly like it is and more importantly what it was like to live it. 
His absorbing narrative refuses point blank to glorify or romanticize drug addiction and instead goes a long way towards explaining it for the masses. Joe talks about the things Jack Kerouac conveniently forgot to mention. The infected sores and the collapsed veins, the burned bridges and broken promises, the appalling squalor that pervades the life of an addict and what it is really like to be ground into the dirt under the boot heel of a cruel and needy bitch called heroin.
Now this may sound like the reader is in for a bit of a pummeling and while it’s not all blunt works and bad deals, you are going to have to take a few shots, but roll with them and you will be richly rewarded with a deeply moving and truly amazing novel.  
In years to come this may well go on to be seen as Joe Clifford’s magnum opus. I firmly believe that book hasn’t been written yet. Trust me, there is more to come from a talent as big as Joe’s. That doesn’t mean to say Junkie Love shouldn’t be considered required reading for the human race.
I thought I knew what to expect from Joe’s story. I have witnessed something similar, albeit from a distance. But I wasn’t prepared for the raw power of this novel or the impact it would have on me. If I had a time machine I would go back twenty years, give a copy to a friend of mine and make sure she read it from cover to cover. Who knows, it might have saved her.
Junkie Love is a hell of a book and one I will never forget. When you think about it that really is all you can ask for.