Review: Criminal by Caspar Walsh

Caspar Walsh, it appears, was born to write. Criminal tells you what it’s all about on both the front and back covers but nothing prepares you for the whirlwind fast pace of both the author’s real life and the apparent speed at which it is told, even if the book is 305 pages long, the writing is so carefully edited that I finished the book in two days. I first saw the book advertised in a summer deal last year then borrowed it from the library and as a result, am buying my own copy to keep.

For a memoir with drug and other addictions as an overriding theme, it’s ironic that the reader will want to devour it with such speed once totally immersed in this tortured mutually destructive father-son-drugs-crime-prison relationship. You will read about Mr Walsh’s more bohemian childhood adventures, largely focusing, as the cover will tell you, on his relationship with his father, drugs, crime and then the complete trio at the same time over the course of his 30 years, followed by incarceration and recovery and new found job, which you will have heard about if you’ve followed the Guardian’s midweek news section with its semi-regular coverage of new initiatives to help prisoners.

Best of all about the book, is comprehensive detailing of the various therapies used to help the author come to terms with the past, which is of great help to anyone with the same father-son demons, or CSA, or drugs, or crime, or both. The self-awareness and self-realisations depicted in Criminal for both father and son put this book one small step ahead of Wasted by Mark Johnson, though the latter memoir enjoyed a higher profile release in hardback and Caspar Walsh had the opposite problem to Johnson of a father who was interested in his son when forced, but not quite interested enough to quit crime. Like Our Little Secret by Duncan Fairhurst, it’s a book where once you have blazed through it you can re-read a little more slowly, that’s how I have gleaned more general understanding about addiction from it.

The speed of my first reading allowed me to glance over some annoying typos (fair instead of fare and so on), especially annoying were the ones that looked like they were an attempt to escape copyright (For example, why spell Darth VADAR wrongly, it’s not like George Lucas is going to sue anyone after 30 years). That’s literally my only complaint about the book, which is more the publisher’s fault especially if this sloppy proofreading was carried over from the hardback print run.

So maybe it’s not so bad that it hit paperback relatively quickly (6 months) if it puts the book in as many hands as possible for the lower price, as soon as possible, although market forces in the UK means there’s only a UKP 2-3 difference between hard back and paperback. Whether it’s as addictive to American readers remains to be seen but you can do what I did and get it from the library first.

The author’s official site is here:

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