Don’t worry about saving food. Don’t even worry about toilet paper, electricity, clothing, or a radio. Just protect the booze. In John O’Brien’s The Assault on Tony’s a group of hardcore alcoholics barricade the door of their neighborhood bar and prepare to ride it out as a race riot engulfs the city outside. O’Brien, author of Leaving Las Vegas, locked himself in his apartment and watched the LA riots unfold outside his window. The Assault on Tony’s is his exploration of what men do to survive when the liquor runs out. The men ration alcohol based on who has the worst case of the shakes. The really bad ones get the good stuff, everyone else who is managing drinks out of a vat of liquor combined from hundreds of broken bottles. Inevitably, the men in the bar descend into chaos, power struggles, and the usual Lord of the Flies type of situations, but it’s a damn good read if you can stand O’Brien’s darkness.
O’Brien didn’t finish this book and he never saw it published. After his unfortunate death, his sister Erin was cleaning out his things and came across this novel as well as one entitled Stripper Lessons. Erin wrote the conclusion to Tony’s based on O’Brien’s notes and her work is pretty seamless.
I thought of this novel after New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin stated that the violence and lawlessness in his city was the result of drug-addicts cut off from their supply and “looking to take the edge off their jones.”
Like all of O’Brien’s work, The Assault on Tony’s is incredibly dark. But if you can take stomach that, this is an outstanding read. The New York Times said that O’Brien takes “us deep into an alcoholic’s world that few others have described so well.” Pick up the novel here.