The gifted blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout, who has been abusing drugs for years, hits a vivid new low. At 5am, drunk and impatiently awaiting a delivery of cocaine, he answers a knock on his hotel door. The coke has finally arrived. He and the fellow musician who has brought it set about cooking it to make freebase - "a higher form of crack", as he explains.
They have a glass pipe, a blowtorch and ammonia, but nothing to filter it with. Trout rummages through his suitcase and emerges with "the cleanest dirty pair of underpants I could find". The freebase is consumed, but they end up cutting little squares out of the jockey shorts, fighting over what may or may not be scraps of cocaine residue.
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Several hours later, still awake, Trout answers the phone: it's his then employer, blues legend John Mayall, telling him it's time to head for the airport. Trout looks in the mirror and shudders to think about what he has just done. "That really made me start thinking about what I was doing to myself," he tells his biographer, Henry Yates. "Like, 'What has f****** happened to me?'"
By the following summer, Trout had decided to swear off drink and drugs. Fate, however, wouldn't let him off that hook so easily. In June 2013, while touring Germany, the guitarist awoke to the first signs that he had a liver disease that caused some cirrhosis of the organ. His health deteriorated but he continued to tour. He was eventually told that he needed a liver transplant within 90 days. Just recently, he received that transplant; his wife and manager, Marie, has said that he is doing well.
The Atlantic City-born guitarist, who says at one point that he is a "direct descendant of James Fenimore Cooper", may never have enjoyed the sort of superstardom attained by, say, Eric Clapton, but he is held in exceptionally high regard by many who love blues guitar. Jimmy Page, formerly of Led Zeppelin, thinks his work is "wonderful"; Mayall, in the foreword to this book, says he is one of the most talented rock and blues players on the world stage. 'Whispering Bob' Harris has said Trout is the world's greatest rock guitarist. Trout really ought to be better known than he is.
This book chronicles his life and career in detail: his violent, war-haunted stepfather, who tried several times to kill Trout and his brother; his early days in New Jersey bands; his decision in 1974 to relocate to California; his spells with Canned Heat and Mayall's influential Bluesbreakers. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of his solo career.
The book is a revealing one, partly because of Trout's candid nature. That episode in the Canadian hotel room - jockey shorts and all - has a grimy quality; you're glad, reading it, that Trout finally managed to get clean.
One aspect of the business that dogged him for years, however, was the mercenary greed of others.
His 1990 hit single, Prisoner Of A Dream, made him a lot of money, according to his Danish record label. But when he visited their office in search of a cheque, he found they had disappeared.
On another occasion, a manager said he had Trout's money but that it was in a Mexican bank - "Get a Mexican lawyer and sue me down there." Trout shrugged off the loss. Going down this legal rabbit-hole would just be too exhausting, notes Yates.
The trouble was - and he is far from alone in this - that Trout was much too trusting of people he thought of as friends. It took the sharp-eyed business acumen of Marie, a former advertising executive in her native Denmark, to put him right. The couple married in September 1991, and are still together. Without her, Trout admits, "I'd be dead, or broke, or both." He twists the knife in the back of those who ripped him off, in Willie, a song on his defiant new album, The Blues Came Callin'.
Trout says in the book that music, the blues, was his salvation. He wouldn't necessarily make the same life-choices if he could have his time again. But regret is an elusive commodity.
He goes on, in one illuminating quote, to sum up rock 'n' roll's ever-adventurous creative spirit. "I mean, my liver is fried, through heroin and alcohol, and, of course, it would be nice to have a wonderful, pristine, Disneyland kind of liver. But I don't want to say, 'I regret this', or 'I regret that'. Because I feel like I'm able to put some feeling, emotion and experience - maybe even a tiny bit of knowledge and wisdom - into my music, that if I'd lived a Disneyland life wouldn't be here."