I am not much of a book reader, so when my old mate Terry invited me to his book launch and I pledged that I would get back to him after I'd read it , I thought I would have a bit of a daunting task on my hands. I pride myself on staying true to my word, so I knew I would just have to give it a go...
I was going to have to read on the hoof as Terry's communication came at a time when my life consisted of visiting my friend and my mum in hospitals at opposite ends of the dreaded Northern line. So, on a grey Thursday morning I wrapped up and stuffed the copy of Hell in Barbados into my handbag along with chocolate fancies and sandwiches for the sick. I got on the underground at Camden Town, and by the time I'd got to Bank, I was lost.
Lost in the unfettered primal scream and sweet corruption of London in the seventies that was the playground and nursery for so many of us. I couldn't put the damned book down. Terry's narrative just got you straight there, without effort or pretension.
I was starting to get a bit worried, because the "darker side" was beginning to lap at me ever so slightly with a sort of Pavlov's dog puppy suck.
I had planned on giving a copy of Hell in Barbados to my now hospitalised, hedonistic boyfriend, thinking that this supposed story of addiction and recovery would inspire him to clean up his act. I took a deep breath and carried on reading. However, I did decide to finish the book before giving him his copy, just in case I was going to kill rather than cure him!
By Friday lunchtime, passing through Stockwell and Clapham South I was furiously cured of any unsavory seduction into oblivion and adventure.
The remarkable thing about this book is that it speaks without judgment; it simply speaks from pure unadulterated experience. As you enter into Terry's universe, you feel the agony and the ecstasy. You feel the people around him in the same way, without judgment, but with an acute awareness of the prodigeny of human suffering the unexamined life can create.
As I continued to read this descent into hell, I was becoming increasingly aware of my own personal gratitude for my own life. What luxury to be able to close the book at midnight and make myself a cup of tea and stroke the cat.
It took me under a week of train journeys and late night snatches to finish the book. I thought that was pretty good going for me, the non-book reader.
But apparently not! Eventually my friend got discharged from hospital and I gave him his copy of the book. He sat down on the armchair, didn't go to bed and didn't get up 'till he'd finished it the next morning.
Truth is, I keep telling my friends to read the book, but I don't want to lend them my copy. Who would I recommend it to? Obviously anyone with addictive tendencies, but also anyone feeling depressed or sorry for themselves. Anyone unhappy in love or with bailiffs threatening and definitely anyone traveling the Northern line to visit their loved ones in care. - Coral