Item #39306 Junkie. William BURROUGHS, as 'William Lee'.



NY: Ace Books, 1953. First edition of William Burroughs' first book, written under the pseudonym 'William Lee'. Bound tête-bêche in wrappers with Maurice Helbrant's "Narcotic Agent". Publisher's note by Carl Solomon (not credited).

Ace Books was owned by Carl Solomon's uncle, A.A. Wyn, a connection made by Allen Ginsberg who was acting as Burroughs's agent at the time. The publication of Nelson Algren's novel "The Man With The Golden Arm" in 1949 inspired a trend for books about junkies, many of them mass-market paperbacks sold in newsagents rather than bookshops, and with commercial success in mind Wyn agreed to publish Burroughs. Though written in a noir-ish hard-boiled style, "Junkie" is autobiographical (the "Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict"), and lacks the kind of plot that readers of the genre attracted by Al Rossi's lurid cover art might have expected.

Burroughs's picaresque and frequently humorous narrative, with its hip talk and junkie jargon, is also told from the detached point of view of the hipster-addict, a neutrality which Wyn sought to counter-balance by yoking it to a reprint of Helbrant's 1941 account of his "War Against the Dope Menace". Burroughs was initially appalled at this appendage, but his motivation for writing "Junkie" was, as he later wrote, money and recognition, though neither were forthcoming at first as the book was largely ignored at the time of publication. More significantly, by mixing an orthodox narrative of drug experiences with occasional forays into set-pieces, or routines, "Junkie" also paved the way for "Naked Lunch".

Tiny rubbed spot to upper wrapper near spine, with the faintest of creases to lower right-hand corner; miniscule edge-wear; very short corner crease to lower wrapper; pages slightly tanned; o/w a tight, square, Near Fine copy, with no creasing or fading to the spine.