"Junk is not, like alcohol or a weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life."
In his debut novel, "Junky," Burroughs fictionalized his experiences using and peddling heroin and other drugs in the 1950s into a work that reads like a field report from the underworld of post-war America. The Burroughs-like protagonist of the novel, Bill Lee, see-saws between periods of addiction and rehab, using a panoply of substances including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, paregoric (a weak tincture of opium) and goof balls (barbiturate), amongst others. As he navigates the crime-ridden streets of New York, trying to convince doctors to give him a prescription for opiates and doing his best to avoid the police's "pigeons" who are given a steady supply of heroin to inform on drug dealers, the narrator describes the physical experience of getting high, and the visceral need for another hit that haunts him every day. From the tenements of New York to the queer bars of New Orleans, "Junky" takes the reader into a world at once long-forgotten and still with us today. Burroughs's first novel is a cult classic and a critical part of his oeuvre.