Brian Salmi bills his e-book Booze Up and Riot as “a free-wheeling, fire-breathing manifesto of funarchy and filth.”
The title is the headline from a column Salmi wrote in 1994 for Terminal City, an underground paper from Vancouver that paid Salmi $4 per hour to churn out “potty-mouthed gibberish that chased scores of advertisers away.”
It was the year Vancouver made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Salmi’s column urged Canuck fans to get loaded, take to the downtown streets and unleash their aggression on its stores and banks.
Although he was arrested for smashing in a bank window, Vancouver police tried, and failed to pin the riot on Salmi.
“Riot, Schmiot, I Deny It,” read the headline on a column he wrote in reaction a week later.
These two pieces, plus plenty more previously published, can be found in the book.
The average reader will require only a few pages to understand why Salmi chose to self-publish and self-promote his manifesto. It is unlikely any publisher would have touched Booze Up and Riot.
But it is a sure bet Salmi, a lone voice since his earliest days of raging against the machine, would have published his own damned book, anyway.
The reader will not find the elements of a novel in its 260 pages.
Instead, the title barks its command from every page.
Through a series of loosely strung but deeply related events, Salmi provokes sadness, laughter and outrage.
Much of the book is a volume of his greatest hits, satirical and otherwise, written while working for Terminal City.
They take a cold, hard look at Vancouver’s downtown east side, a wasteland of drugs, prostitution, crime, violence and death.
They expose the city’s municipal government for its elitism, and the apathy that laid the groundwork for the death of the east side, and allowed for the butchery of dozens of prostitutes.
Salmi’s observations, perversely amusing, sometimes nausea-inducing, are easier to swallow than those of the cops and politicians; he knows the neighbourhood intimately, having returned to the living following a brief but intense relationship with crack, and a whore or two who ended up in the slop pail on the pig farm of accused serial killer Robert Willie Picton.
Although he does not necessarily let the facts stand in the way of a good story (Salmi, Vancouver’s own gonzo journalist, is generously gifted in the art of satire), he exudes a political astuteness that reveals naked truth, if only philosophically.
In a world of factoids and data, Salmi’s information stands apart.
Ideas fertilize thought, emotion and discourse.
And few can write about municipal politics and elections with his double-edged mastery of call-to-action and high entertainment.
No reader will accuse Salmi of disingenuousness, and the juicy narrative tidbits of his raw and deeply personal confessions are astonishing.
He fled the country when Vancouver police kicked in the door of his marijuana grow operation.
He was addicted to crack.
His office was dubbed the “snort and squirt room,” for reasons the reader need not imagine.
His one true love, a stunning beauty of a she-devil known only as Yummy Girl, turns out to be far more than Salmi, too old and too fat, can sexually sate.
She dumps him, sending him into a deep depression.
He mourns his upbringing in a loveless home, and recollects shamelessly but tenderly how his mother was subjected to shock therapy sessions on a psychiatric ward.
An internet relationship with an underage girl, whom Salmi chooses not to pursue sex with only because the relationship lacks chemistry, is cleverly woven throughout Salmi’s loose narrative and collected works, serving nicely as a sub-plot of his quest for redemption and eventual salvation.
Booze Up is a little self-aggrandizing, but it likely comes only from a desire to have his wit and wisdom read by a wider audience than Terminal City could provide, and to be appreciated for his accomplishments.
They are many.
And underneath all of them is Salmi’s desire to light a fire under an apathetic electorate; a call for all to booze and up and riot for truth and democracy and happiness.
If readers find nothing humourous, moving or entertaining about the book, they will likely gain a fresh insight into what democracy means.
And if they find the book revoltingly offensive, they may be reminded that Booze Up has exercised its democratic right to free speech on almost every page.
Booze Up and Riot is available for download at briangodzillasalmi.com in exchange for a $10 fee; PayPal, MasterCard or Visa are accepted.