In 1986, more than a hundred people crammed into a Minneapolis bar for a surprise 30th-birthday party for journalist David Carr. When the guest of honor opened the door, they were all wearing T-shirts that read "I Am A Close Personal Friend Of David Carr." When Carr later began researching his more than two decades in the grip of alcoholism and cocaine addiction for The Night Of The Gun: A Reporter Investigates The Darkest Story Of His Life—His Own, he revisited many of those people—at least one of whom still had the T-shirt. He had partied with them, screwed them over, beaten them up, suffered through detox with them, wrested away custody of their children, and called them in the middle of the night for bail money or a hit. Few of them remained his close personal friends, but it's because so many of them still answer his calls that Carr was able to write this gripping, fearless memoir.

The conceit is appealingly meta: Carr realizes that his memory of events while high, crashing, jonesing, and in recovery has been reconstructed to fit the narrative he'd like to make of his life now. So he approaches his own story as if he were reporting someone else's, interviewing the sources and putting the pieces back together. Fed up with junkie-memoir clichés, he does his best to scribble over the neat Protestant arc of sin, forgiveness, and redemption, even though the life history he's rewritten in his mind to conform with his present circumstances contains an abundance of that material. The central question is whether all along there was some spark of the David Carr he is now—father, New York Times reporter, recovering addict complete with all the meetings and slogans—or whether he had sunk so low that he wouldn't recognize himself.

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The title of his book refers to an incident when he went to a friend's house to confront him about abandoning Carr during a night of excess. As Carr remembered it, the friend pulled a gun on him, but according to the friend, it was Carr who had the gun. Sometimes the truths he uncovers are degrading, like the beatings he gave one girlfriend. Sometimes they're vindicating, like the twins he refused to give back to their mother because she couldn't stay sober. But no matter which direction the signs point, Carr follows them with a distinctive voice and his best shot at complete honesty.