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poisonedheart.jpgVera Ramone King
Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone (The Ramones Years)
Phoenix Books
6/10

Vera Ramone King’s Poisoned Heart recounts the story of the author’s tumultuous relationship with the Ramones’ core songwriter, Dee Dee Ramone. While the book has some unique and interesting insights into life behind the scenes in the lives of its subjects, it is plagued by repetitive passages and clichés.

I heard the book portrayed Dee Dee Ramone in such a negative light that his estate tried to prevent its release. This fact probably built more hype around the book than was warranted. In reality, the book glazes over nearly every instance of violence or abuse mentioned, and many of the more positive moments as well. The descriptiveness of events is greatly lacking. I honestly think this is due more to its being written by an amateur than a professional biographer. Upon finishing the book I told my editor that it reads like a teenage girl’s diary. This is still the most accurate and concise description I can give.

However, there is another side to my criticism. In an age when most celebrities hire ghost writers to tell their stories in print this work is undoubtedly the work of its author. For that I commend Mrs. King (a pseudonym – her real name is Vera Davie). What the book lacks in storytelling ability it makes up for in character. The author’s personality definitely comes through and it’s rather surprising she’s kept such a bubbly outlook considering the difficulties she’s been through.

Perhaps the book’s greatest asset is its handling of Dee Dee’s mental condition. Dee Dee was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As someone with a loved one with bipolar disorder, I can confirm that Mrs. King’s descriptions of life with someone afflicted by bipolar are extremely accurate. Having experienced the associated mood swings and “everyone is out to get me” attitude personally, I have absolutely no doubt that King’s book speaks the truth about Dee Dee and his behavior.

The real tragedy is that when not diagnosed early, as was Dee Dee’s case, sufferers often turn to self medication in the form of illegal drugs commonly resulting in addictions that can haunt them for life, as long or short as that may be. Studies show that 25-50% of people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder attempt suicide. It has cut many promising lives short; that of Kurt Cobain is one of the more well known cases.

Taken in this perspective Poisoned Heart is really the story of how a man who suffered a debilitating mental disorder, with the help of friends and loved ones, overcame his condition long enough to change the shape of rock’n’roll, and craft one of the largest and most prolific catalogues of rock music ever. In that regard Poisoned Heart is a triumph.

–Luke Toney