This extraordinary, immensely powerful debut novel takes the form of a diary written by Cornelius Washington, Jr. – a forty-four-year-old crack addict. The diary, a passionate and gripping stream-of-consciousness confession, captures the harsh realities of Cornelius’s grim present and his vivid memories of the exuberance and turmoil of his earlier life. The product of a strict and loving upwardly mobile middle-class family, Cornelius excelled in school and went to Columbia on full scholarship. Opportunity was rife for this bright, ambitious young black man, and for a time he seized it, personally and professionally. For years he dabbled with drugs, but always just for fun, until, sometime in his thirties, a friend in the music business introduced him to crack. Shell’s searingly authentic account of a man’s self-conscious but helpless submission to addiction documents a tragic contemporary phenomenon. As we follow, mesmerized, Cornelius’s path toward the fate he most fears – becoming what he calls a ”Vampire-Zombie,” one of the lost, dead souls at the end of the addiction line – we experience not only the horrors of an addict’s life but a compelling and often uplifting story of human love and loss.