Book Review: “The Night of the Gun”

Imagine asking a journalist what the darkest story they ever experienced was. Now imagine their answer is their own. That’s the premise behind David Carr’s memoir, “The Night of the Gun.” The story is gripping and unbelievable. It’s entertaining in all the right ways, horrifying in some and …

The book really starts with Carr’s Author’s Note, where he explains how the book was compiled from 60 interviews taken over three years. He warns that not every word of the book is true, reminding readers that “all human stories are subject to errors of omission, fact or interpretation regardless of intent,” but that he tried as hard as he could to make his accounts true.

Then, the action begins. Carr dives straight into the night that is the center of the entire book: the night with the gun. According to him, he and a friend were “celebrating” Carr’s new opportunities after being fired from his job as a journalist. After getting too drunk and too high, they get thrown out of a bar, and Carr’s friend drives off without him after Carr insults him. Fuming, Carr threatens his friend and shows up at his house. His friend is waiting for him with a gun to keep him at bay. After calling the police, Carr makes a run for it, diving into some bushes and narrowly escaping arrest. Years later, Carr is reminiscing about that night with his friend when his friend mentions an unsettling detail: Carr had the gun pointed at his friend that night, not the other way around.

Carr is convinced he is right in how he remembers that night, but this single doubt launches him on an investigation into his own life. Carr leads readers on a disturbing trek into his own psyche, where drugs and alcohol abound, reuniting with old friends, bosses, girlfriends and even old drug dealers. And all the while he has to question himself and the accuracy of his memories.

“The Night of the Gun” moves at breakneck speed, matching the descriptions of Carr high on crack throughout the 1980s. Everything is told with a flair of charisma, as if Carr is actually in front of you, telling you a story about his life. Each chapter is devoted to the interviews he held to piece his memoir together, as well as the memories that brought Carr and his past friends together in the first place. But easily the best part of the book is seeing how Carr has changed. The front cover of the book shows various mugshots of him across the top, but there’s a touching picture of a happy father holding two of his kids below them. Watching him go from a tough addict doing time to a devoted and sober father is really what makes “The Night of the Gun” a meaningful read, not just a fun romp through some maniac’s crazy memories. Although, stories like the time when he missed an interview with the chief of police because he had been arrested by those chief’s men on an unrelated charge are hard to forget any time soon.

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