There are books that are easy reading, books that are nice reading, books that are edge of the seat reading and there are books that are essential reading. If it is possible to associate this last criterion with one of the former, great, but that can not always be. Sometimes, it seems, essential is the only descriptor that fits.
Please don’t think me in any way negative when I say this is the way I perceive Shards Of Ice: the true story of a meth addict and murder by Alison Sampson. The book is not nice because it tells the dreadful tale of drugs destroying lives; it is not easy because, as a reader, you have constant – and deep – empathy with those concerned; it is not edge of the seat because there is a sad and certain inevitability about where it is going; it is, however, essential reading, but more on that shortly.
Normie is a convicted murderer. He and his girlfriend, Kate, had a day and night –it was one of many – on drink and drugs. Around 11:30 pm, at their camp site in a caravan park, Kate stumbled out of their tent, appearing to have ‘another psychotic episode.’ In the evidence provided by Normie, she lunged at him with a knife. He grabbed a nearby shovel, swung it and hit her on the head. Kate fell to the ground, dead.
On that day, “…between Kate and me, we had drunk two bottles of rum, more than a cask of wine, and been at the pub for three and a half hours. I couldn’t even count how many pipes (of ice) we’d had … It was all kinda standard for us.”
At that time, befuddled by alcohol and a huge intake of crystal meth, but still aware of what he’d done, Normie bundled his girlfriend’s body into the boot of her car, drove to what he believed an isolated spot along a gravel road and dumped Kate about ten metres off the side of the road.
This is telling because, in the ensuing weeks as Normie disposed of Kate’s belongings, including her car, her body lay there undiscovered and exposed to the elements. By the time it was discovered, surprisingly just outside a local rubbish dump, forensic evidence had diminished, although it was still able to show that she had suffered two hard blows to the skull.
As a person, Normie reckoned he was in control. He saw others around him affected by both drink and drugs but never believed the same of himself. He had tried all the drugs over time but their effect diminished with use. Then he discovered methamphetamine or ice. Instead of controlling his own destiny, the drug took over. A ‘good family man’ became dependent and dysfunctional, spiralling down into a series of failed relationships. The saddest aspect of the whole saga is the influence his drug-taking had on others, especially the families concerned, including children.
Shards Of Ice is sensitively written by Alison Sampson. She and her husband were friends with Normie and his wife many years ago and, although their lives went in different directions, she felt compelled to write his story on the basis of that friendship. The possibility exists that some will look upon the situation and the resultant book as a form of apology. Despite Normie blaming drink and drugs rather than himself, there is no real sense of this.
Sad to say, while ever there are those prepared to produce and push, drugs will continue to be the bane of many. A great number will think, like Normie, they are able to maintain control but it will be otherwise. However, as Normie says, if his story can save just one person from going down the same self-destructive path, then he has achieved some success in telling his story. In that regard, I am unable to overstress its importance.
And thus, back to that word essential: The fundamental importance of this book is that it should be read by every teen in the country; it ought to be an inclusion in every secondary school library, its reading mandated. I believe it crucial that the message it outlines be put before our youth. It is a first class, first hand indictment of the drug ice and its mind-frying effects. A worthy read.
Shards Of Ice, the true story of a meth addict and murder by Alison Sampson is available now from Dymocks
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