Danny Bland has some stories to tell. A veteran musician from the Seattle grunge and alt-rock scene, Bland has played with The Dwarves and Cat Butt, and was a road manager for Dave Alvin, The Gutter Twins, Supersuckers and more. But Bland's first book, In Case We Die, published by Fantagraphics, is no memoir of Seattle's 90s heyday—though that’s when it's set and there are plenty of reminiscences—rather it's a love story, a sick and doomed junkie love story.
Charlie Hyatt is the book's protagonist, a leather jacket-clad porn shop cashier and heroin addict, now in his late 20s, desperately in love with his young girlfriend, a manic-depressive punk singer, Carrie Finch, who talks every day of killing herself and makes Charlie promise he won't try to save her.
She didn't really need my permission, of course. It helped her feel less alone, less insane, to have me set the guidelines. She called me M or Master, like Jeannie used to call Major Nelson, but in reality I was the child and she was in charge. She trusted me to know when it would finally be too much for her to take, and I pretended to not know how unfair this was.
That Bland found inspiration for this story after the suicide of his late girlfriend, Amy Farris, makes the book that much more heartbreaking. And there are plenty of lyrically beautiful pages about Charlie and Carrie's troubled relationship—"Hell, we didn't even fall into the wrong crowd. We were starting our own wrong crowd. There was only her and me."
But this is also a redemptive novel, a debauched and hilarious one: along the way there are glory holes and bank robberies, and Charlie finds his way to recovery in the end. "[T]hat’s why people write books about war," Bland told The Seattle Times. "Junkies write books, and it’s the same thing. It’s the conflict we barely make it through. We lose friends, too. That’s part of the trauma, you know. And it's natural fodder for literature."
Late in the book, when Charlie is working the night desk at a rehab facility, he shares some sober revelations with a younger patient, Justin:
"Here's the truth, Justin: it's just us," I said. "And pushing aside all of the steps and traditions and bumper stickers and the book thumpin', we are just a great mass of scared, insecure and seemingly unable fuck-ups who huddle together in our storm of sickness and take care of each other. It defies reason. But we do it and it works and you just have to fuckin' believe me.
"I'll help you out when you're insane, and you help me out when I am. Deal?"
To promote the book, Bland sought the help of friends old and new. The audiobook version of In Case We Die features readings by Steve Earle, Greg Dulli, John Doe, Aimee Mann, Duff McKagan and many more. As Bland told Joe Daly at The Weeklings, "I called in favors and having been a road manager for quite a few years, you know everybody's secrets, so it's hard for people to say no to me."