Doug Piotter’s memoir, Fixed: dope sacks, dye packs and the long welcome back, is an eye-opening account of the author’s dysfunctional and seemingly hopeless existence as a young man. Fueled by almost every illegal substance known to man, he stumbles through bank robberies, drug rehab, and has many encounters with a whole host of crazy characters. When he starts his “long welcome back,” his tale turns into a positive one and he embarks on the beginning of a life of hope and productivity.
With no conventional parental guidance to speak of, Piotter quickly slides down a very slippery slope into the seedy world of drug addiction and crime. His life is going nowhere and he can’t see a way out of it – then a 115-month prison sentence is dished out to him, and he has no choice but to use this as his turning point.
The first thought that springs to mind when reading this entertaining memoir is: how on earth can the author remember anything? Luckily for the reader Piotter somehow, through what must have sometimes been an almost impenetrable drug-induced haze, remembers an awful lot of interesting details from his colorful life. That he survived it all is nothing short of a miracle, but to have survived it and still have his sense of humor intact is perhaps even more astounding. His snappy writing style, laid out across seventy-seven short chapters, draws the reader irresistibly into his world of junkies, hobos, and criminals of every kind.
The book begins in a somewhat unclear way, and it certainly takes some time to get going. The book would benefit from further editing – with a bit of paring down it would pop even more. There are a fair few spelling mistakes and grammatically it is occasionally clumsy. The generous smattering of similes is a little incongruous, and gets in the way. Some readers may also find the short story style of each chapter makes the action hard to follow, but then again this is a memoir and this device can also make us feel that each chapter is being personally, intimately recounted directly to us by the man who lived it.
Strong characterization is key to Piotter’s style. The portrait that emerges of his father is finely drawn, and his fellow inmates with whom he shared his hair-raising long term stint behind bars jump off the page. The irreverent accounts of other prisoners’ habits is often very funny, and the fact that he can now look back and laugh at such episodes as being taken to “the pump house,” a Seattle hospital where he ends up after mixing his drugs and alcohol, shows us how successful he has been in putting this empty life behind him and becoming an inspiration for others in similar circumstances.
As an inspirational, cautionary tale, with plenty of black humor, this will hit the spot for many readers.
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