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Thick as Thieves is the personal memoir of Steve Geng. In graphic fashion, Geng adds link after link to an ever expanding chain of a life dominated by crimes and drugs. Geng also chronicles carefully his relationship with his greatly beloved (and now deceased) sister Veronica ("Ron"). While Geng was adrift perilously in the tempestuous sea of a calamitous life, the cerebral Ron, as chronicled in absorbing detail, doggedly climbed the rungs of the ladder reaching to great professional success as a writer for the NEW YORKER magazine. Geng's hedonistic and criminal self-indulgence, and his special relationship with Ron, are major tributaries of the river of this riveting memoir.
The memoir's substantive body is suffused copiously with captivating details which stubbornly grab the reader's rapt attention, and tenaciously refuse to let go. Contributing importantly to the memoir's animating strength are recollected real life conversations and snippets of actual comments.
From a critical perspective, critics may caution appropriately that recollections of fragments of real life comments and bits and pieces of actual conversations may be faulty. And indeed, in the "acknowledgments" section (following the text of the memoir) Geng notes candidly that the recounted dialogue is mostly from memory and subject to memory tricks.
In enthralling albeit sobering manner, the anecdotal details recounted meticulously by Geng expertly sketch the real life details of a recidivist, drug abusing criminal who kept descending further and further into a lowlife, sleazy world. Geng's deep plunge into life's putrid gutter brought him often in foul contact with: "boosting", or shoplifting (records at first, and later computer software), forging prescriptions for narcotics, kif, mainlining heroin, drug addiction, alcoholism, hookers, repeatedly getting "pinched" (or arrested), and incarceration. The tainted fruits emanating from Geng's adeptness as a thief bankrolled his lifestyle of hedonism.
Geng had a "blood close" relationship" with Ron, an almost unbearable closeness that he would never know with another person. Many of the details recounted engagingly by Geng focus sharply on this special relationship. Interestingly, although Geng and his sister had the same mother and career army officer father, and grew up in the same household in Philadelphia, Ron, in striking contrast to her drug and criminally plagued brother, resolutely chose a lifestyle of legitimate hard work in the professional world of writing. The indomitable will of the bookwormish Ron to ascend the ladder of social respectability and professional success led to a highly distinguished writing career.
The reader is informed also that Geng's customarily debased lifestyle occasionally has been interrupted by forays into the realm of occupational legitimacy. As explained in detail by Geng, his checkered occupational life has included a truncated career as a Greenwich Village saloonkeeper as well as a financially and professionally successful stint as an actor (including being a "day player", for the famous television show MIAMI VICE; doing television commercials; and, also, doing theater).
Readers may also be absorbed by Geng's revelation of getting a positive test result for AIDS, and his sobering account of how AIDS subsequently obsessed his thinking, infected his psyche with terror, and (in tandem with street drugs) ravaged his physical health.
Near the memoir's end, Geng painfully describes the crushing blow administered to him as the result of the early death of his sister, at the age of 56, from a brain tumor.
The entire range of the lay reading public may potentially be held in thrall by the contents of this beautifully and excellently written memoir. Geng's detail laden, personal account of drugging, thieving, living with AIDS, and the dynamics of his special relationship with his sibling, may likewise draw the close professional interest of drug rehabilitation specialists, mental health professionals, social workers, criminologists, and law enforcement professionals.
© 2008 Leo Uzych
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional interest is healthcare.