Review: Wasted By Mark Johnson

Wasted by Mark Johnson started life as a series of articles about his past as a homeless drug addict in London. These were published in the Big Issue weekly magazine that is sold by the currently and formerly homeless people in several UK cities as a job, and has been in print for 15 years and counting.

Johnson suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father and one incident of sexual abuse from an older teenager aged 10, which led to his petty theft at seven, drinking by the following year, building up to his first hit of heroin aged eleven and a downward spiral into addiction and more serious crime. This is the background revealed in the book prior to the compilation of the author’s entire time spent homeless in London and his attempts to escape both drugs and criminal gangs, something he achieved nine years ago.

The hardback version of the book is a 300-page speed read though the limited edition paperback was naturally longer. My sole criticism of the book was that it was overpriced for two years but now the paperback and Amazon third-party sellers have solved this problem, whether you buy it to keep or borrow it several times from the library, the quality of the writing will show you why he was commissioned and then signed up by a publishing house, and the homelessness section to the end reads like one long nightmarish rollercoaster ride. Criminal by Caspar Walsh is the nearest comparison although Walsh’s problems stemmed from his father’s continued presence in his abused addict son’s life, compared to Johnson’s father’s disappearance through divorce.

Now the author is a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper in the UK and works for a charity helping teenagers with problems, which are archived and help give you the “what happened next” angle following the book. You can find those articles here with new content added on Wednesdays in the Society section every fortnight to four weeks.


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