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Monday, June 23, 2014

Author Feature: Oliver Markus


Sex and Crime: Oliver's Strange Journey is an autobiographical book that follows the incredible life of Oliver, a teenage hacker in Aachen, Germany, who is the victim of traumatic childhood abuse and suffers from PTSD. He falls in love with an American girl online, and spends many hours on the phone with her every day for a year, until he moves in with her in New York. After his crazy adventures as a New York cab driver, he becomes a successful cartoonist and goes on to be an Internet millionaire. A painful divorce throws him into a deep, almost suicidal depression, until he falls in love with a heroin addict and he ends up moving to Fort Myers, Florida. As his life spirals more and more out of control, Oliver gets sucked deeper and deeper into the dark world of drug addiction and prostitution.

Sex and Crime offers an unflinching look at the seedy underworld of Fort Myers, that most residents are probably not aware of. It explores the world of online prostitution, the underlying causes and consequences of drug addiction, as well as the shortcomings of the AA 12-step-program and the failure of traditional rehab programs that are utterly divorced from modern medical science.

Along his journey, Oliver encounters a number of female drug addicts and he empathizes with them because of his own traumatic past. He feels compelled to try to help them escape the addict lifestyle, but the end result is always the same. They break his heart.

Despite all its gritty ugliness, there is beauty to be found in Sex and Crime. Oliver never gives up hope that the next drug addict may be different. He never stops believing that deep down every person is good and deserves a second chance in life.

There have been a number of books about drug addiction in recent years, but Sex and Crime offers a fresh, unique perspective. Oliver himself is not addicted to drugs, and yet addiction takes a heavy toll on him, as the addicts in his life hurt him over and over.

His knowledge of addiction is at once intimate and distant. As outsider deep inside the drug world he has a unique vantage point. There's an old saying: "Fish don't know they're wet." Oliver sees patterns and similarities that the addicts themselves can't see.

The book is more than an examination of drug addiction and its harrowing consequences and collateral damage. It is an emotional, deeply personal and often very touching account of one man's struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, addiction in all its many forms, love and loss.

Although it's an autobiography, Sex and Crime often feels like an action adventure novel, because the events described are so far removed from what most people consider normal every-day life.

The book deals with very dark subject matter, but the author's eloquently simplistic prose makes it a breeze to read. His writing never feels pompous or pretentious. He takes the reader by the hand and gently leads you deeper and deeper into the darkness.

Oliver's ability to recognize his own mistakes in hindsight, and his humble, self-deprecating sense of humor make Sex and Crime a very entertaining read, even when his brutal honesty makes you cringe.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: Veronica had been talking so much crap about me in jail, that I decided to set the record straight. So originally I started writing the book to get under her skin. That's why the sex scenes are as explicit as they are. But then after a while, I wasn't even thinking about her any more, and suddenly I was writing the book for myself. To get it all out of my system. And at some point I figured it might actually make a pretty interesting book.

The whole time I wasn't even really thinking about other people reading it. So when the book finally came out, and a bunch of people all over the country read it and critiqued the book, and my life, it was a pretty bizarre experience. Suddenly all these complete strangers knew every intimate little detail about me.

A bunch of people have told me that my book has changed their perception of drug addicts. It makes me glad to hear that my book may make a difference. And I hope it will save some people the agony I have been through. Maybe I can warn some codependent guy not to make the same mistakes I made, and not fall for the same lies I fell for.

And maybe this book will convince some drug-addicted girl out there somewhere to get clean, because she relates to the girls I mentioned, and she sees herself in this book, and sees her life through someone else's eyes, and realizes how much she's hurting the people who love her.

And if she has not resorted to prostitution to pay for her drug habit yet, and she thinks that is never going to happen to her simply because it hasn't happened yet, maybe my book will serve as a glimpse into her future, and convince her to turn back and quit drugs before it's too late.

Q: Did all that stuff in the book really happen?

A: Yes, unfortunately. There's a Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." I get that now. I wish I had spent the last few years in a nice, calm, boring relationship with a special someone. And that's really all I was trying to do, even though I obviously went about it the wrong way.

Q: Why did you keep wasting your time with crackwhores?

A: The short answer: Apparently I'm pretty codependent.

The long answer: Does an addict not deserve to be loved? I guess I didn't do a good job portraying the humanity of these girls in the book. To me they weren't crackwhores. They were beautiful, albeit broken, human beings. Yeah, they had problems, but we all have problems. And to me their problem didn't define them. And they deserved a second chance in life. I didn't see them for what they were when they were getting high, but who they could be when they were sober.

Any time I got involved with one of them, against my own better judgment, she told me that it wasn't fair not to give her a chance, or to hold against her what the previous girl did to me. Each one hated her addict lifestyle and really wanted to change, and told me she would be nothing like the girl before her.

That they all ended up acting the same, and the same story repeated itself over and over again and things became repetitious towards the end of the book, is the whole point of the book. I wanted to show that it doesn't matter who you are, or how nice you are, drugs will turn you into a sociopathic zombie. I learned that the hard way.