Heroin, Love, Bank Robberies, Dysfunctional Relationships, and Jail: Hold-Up, a memoir by Patrick O’Neil

It’s not Patrick O’Neil’s fault I haven’t read his memoir, Hold-Up. You see, despite the fact Patrick is about as punk rock, red-blooded American as you can get, his memoir is only being published in France…in French. I’ve gotten to know Patrick well enough over the past couple of years through social media (you absolutely need to follow him on G+ and/or Facebook–his ongoing “battles” with the TSA alone are worth the price of admission) and his Los Angeles and San Francisco essays, however, that even without having read it I felt very strongly about giving him a platform to talk about Hold-Up, the story behind its publication, and his continuing search for a US home for his story. Patrick, the floor is yours…

Patrick O’NeilI was that kid from a decent yet dysfunctional nuclear family: father a professor, mom a social worker, three children, and nobody communicated. We traveled the world, living abroad. I was always the new kid on the playground, the one that looked different and didn’t speak the language. Finally the wheels fell off and my parents separated.

Along the way a sense of alienation and not belonging became part of my psyche, which readily parlayed into an easy admittance to art school. Four years later I emerged with a budding heroin habit and what looked like a promising career in the music industry.

A quick segue ahead (eighteen years) and believe it or not my life was out of control as a result of said heroin habit. I’d gone from a contributing card carrying member in high standing of San Francisco’s punk rock movement to so strung out I couldn’t even hold down a menial labor job. My girlfriend (who I call Jenny to protect her identity) and I had ended up homeless. In an attempt to save me, my mother rented us an apartment in her upscale Marina district neighborhood. A neighborhood, with the help of my friend Sal (another pseudonym), I begin systematically robbing.

As my life became a whirlwind of shooting drugs, scoring drugs, armed robberies, overdoses, and friends dying, I dove deeper into depression and instability. Lost in a world from which I really saw no way out, I envisioned my future and its inevitable possible conclusions; arrest, incarceration, death. Even weekly sessions with a therapist didn’t seem to help as my already chaotic life fell further and further apart.

“There’s genuine grief at the loss of a number of friends and running companions, but no self-pity, and no happy ending, either; the only indication in Hold-Up of O’Neil’s eventual sobriety is the fact that he lived to write the thing down, and beautifully at that. And for that we can only be grateful.” ––Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest

Hold-Up by Patrick O’NeilMy memoir basically centers on the last year and a half before it all came to a crashing end. No longer an artist, or even a member of society, my addiction had escalated into the proverbial “monkey on my back,” the cost so dauntingly immense it changed me into a gun-toting street thug. Only I still had a conscience and was plagued with guilt and remorse. Tortured and feeling responsible for my much younger girlfriend, I turned to armed robbery to support our habits. But inside I knew it was going to end, and badly. I just couldn’t stop, I didn’t know how.

“There aren’t many books that when you finish them leave you silent and unable to reenter the world for a while—and Patrick O’Neil’s Hold-Up is one of them.” ––Rob Roberge, author of The Cost of Living, and Working Backwards From the Worst Moment Of My Life

Hold-Up is my story, a story I felt needed to be told. I don’t glamorize or romanticize, just tell it as I remember, the dark noir of my former life. And maybe that’s why I’m big in France. Actually, I have to wait and see if that statement becomes true. Hold-Up is out March 20th 2013, and like most first time published authors I’m anxiously awaiting the date. Only my book isn’t being released in the United States, or even in English. My publisher, 13e Note Edition is in Paris, France. My memoir will be in a language I do not speak, and cannot read. However, if you feel so inclined, lisez les Français, just want a beautifully designed book, or support great French indie presses – Hold-Up (ISBN-13: 978-2363740304) will be available wherever fine French literature is sold.

Of course I’m still looking for a press here in America. My memoir, like my childhood, had to go to Europe before coming home.

Patrick O’Neil is an author/filmmaker/musician. His memoir Hold-Up has been published by 13e Note Editions, Paris, France. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he is currently working on a second memoir recounting his time as a roadie/road manager for several major punk rock bands (Dead Kennedys, Flipper, TSOL, Subhumans) in the early eighties. O’Neil currently resides in Hollywood, California, holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles, and teaches at a local community college to students whose idea of literature is a text message. You can find more of his writing, music, and films online at patrick-oneil.com

– Hold-Up by Patrick O’Neil –


  • Jacqui

    March 29, 2013 - 10:16 AM

    I can’t wait to read your book (though maybe could ask my mother in law to translate!) — My sister’s in a rehab now. It’s the most positive I have seen her. Thanks for being a source of hope, Patrick – and thanks for your amazing writing. I’ll share your book with my sister the moment that is possible!

  • Heather Luby

    March 29, 2013 - 8:57 AM

    For the first time in my life, I really wish I could speak French! Your books sounds amazing. I’m really glad you are around to share your story, even if the road was dark, maybe telling it gave you a bit of light.

  • Patrick O'Neil

    March 21, 2013 - 4:02 PM

    Thanks everyone. I hope to find an American publisher soon. And yes, Scott Phillips along with Rob Roberge wrote forwards for the French publication of Hold-Up. Hope to hear from all of you again when it is out in English, but like Sabrina said, having one in French is pretty cool too.

  • Jedidiah Ayres

    March 20, 2013 - 2:35 PM

    Oh man, I’ve been hearing about this book for a long time. Scott Phillips has been telling me about it – I think he wrote the introduction. Sounds fantastic.

  • Josh Stallings

    March 20, 2013 - 1:43 PM

    Sounds like a kindred bother. Survival is some days the only victory on the table. Great post. I want to read this beast. I guess I’ll have to learn french.

  • sabrina ogden

    March 20, 2013 - 11:27 AM

    Amazing! Wonderful guest post, Patrick. I’d love to see this publish in the U.S. – but having one in French would be pretty cool, too.

  • Charles Wingfield

    March 20, 2013 - 10:49 AM

    Wow! Sounds intense. Wish it was in English. Hope that happens for you soon…cause I want to read it!

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