EXISTENTIAL THIRST TRAP (ESSAYS BY ROBERT DEAN) Reviewed by both Mark Jenkins and Myles Thomson


Reviewed by both Mark Jenkins and Myles Thomson

(This doesn't happen ever, we usually argue over who will review an album, book etc. But we both loved it immensely and decided to both review it. That's right the book is a straight-up banger!!!!)


This is a killer and very solid read, as edgy as the fine calibre of music he is deep into and serves as a wild observational take on his life and an acidic reflection on life in general. It flows like a great adventure novel interwoven with awesome stories about nights with your best friends. Also the utterly disastrous ones. Thus Robert easily creates a collection of essays or tales that are unconditionally free of dull monotony or tedium.

I am a musician and a music reviewer, but I am an avid reader. Now this was the quickest 162 pages, I have ripped through in some time, now this is certainly not due to simplicity or boredom, the damn thing simply gripped me from the very start. Robert has an innovative style of writing that definitely bounces between Hunter S Thompson, Charles Bukowski and some old beat poets or some wise straight-up old punk sitting at the end of a local bar with all the war stories. Gritty, urban appeal with no nonsense. The same as music, it in my view requires emotion, deep tone and guts to it. Robert for some reason hangs around many comedians and this is another outstanding feature of his vivid writing DNA-he is humourous as hell, whilst being that genuine go-to guy in your circle of friends that you always debrief with. Fantastic human being and a stunning master of his craft.

The book or collection of solid stories is broken down into three parts and all these gripping and emotive tales are not linked, but the emotional flow is like a cult movie in black and white. The collection ardently speaks of the fun times we often witness as music lovers, degenerates or people that need some excitement in our life. The writer absolutely writes with heartfelt and robust energy, and this observational style resonated well from start to the very end.

This book is instantly appealing in a multitude of ways: it focuses on the real drivers of life, no not solid relationships, a quality resume or a property portfolio; but defining what passion is. Be it love for the written word, a few too many whiskeys, a solid thought-out mixtape vs a shitty playlist and often just how life unravels or unfolds in our misadventures. Often this is the thread that holds it all together, the nights that mean so much and the regrets in between. Robert adds no glamour to this and I loved that approach. The hot takes on life you can relate to and it's free of any mucho bravado. This was refreshing as hell.

But it is not all fantastic music deep dives, or wild drinking tales. These deep stories talk about how hard life can be; financial constraints, marriage breakdowns, anxiety, suicide, the craft and the torture of writing. Reflective, realistic and also relatable; Robert has remarkable skill in drawing you in.  Heart on your sleeve is a well-used cliché, but instantly he has your attention and it’s all genuine.

Robert lovingly touches on places he has lived, spirituality, the heartfelt importance of real food and bonding over hot chicken, the brilliance of Anthony Boudain and even a scammy work trip to Australia. Again it has a thread of underground documentary-style observations, free of corporate interference and it has the charm of being able to bounce back to random tales from this book and be thoroughly entertained. Looking forward to whatever he publishes next, as per this glorious curated collection:

Life is dark, it’s stinky and it’s fucking weird

Highlights: the whole shebang, it’s all killer, no filler.

Ok, here's Myles's take:

Tangerines, Tragedies And Blokes Down the Pub, An Existential Thirst Trap Review:

By M H Thomson

Robert Dean is a self-proclaimed “journalist, raconteur and enlightened dumbass” and author of many books, none of which I’d read let alone heard of until now. His most recent publication Existential Thirst Trap is a whimsical caterwauling rollercoaster of tales of drink, debauchery and crazed but insightful anecdotes Dean has collected throughout his time thus far on this planet. He’s split the book into three sections of roughly equal length, having titled them Free State, Rotten Heart and Good Men and Gatos respectively, all references to the last story in their corresponding sections. These divisions do little to classify their respective content as it varies wildly throughout each of them, but it does work well as a means of breaking up the ebbs and flows of the book, however arbitrarily.


All of the stories tend to revolve around the things and experiences that have profoundly affected Dean the most, for better or worse. From the downright absurd but enjoyable side of life to the fatally grievous. One such absurdity that rather peaked my attention was an early entry titled “Grease and Grim”. Dean recalls us with the tale of taking some of his friends from his native Chicago to a grimy New Orleanian strip dive called Dixie Divas. His description of the stripper's breast “enhancement” as looking like “the surgeon had rammed two tangerines under her skin and sewed it back twice as tight” perfectly captures the tone; that of it being the last place in town and probably the cheapest. Proving that even when you set the bar so low you could trip over it, there is still great fun to be had even if it is only out of grotesque curiosity. On a more serious note his apologetic story of the hollowing sense of shame he felt for scaring, harassing and bullying an innocent child purely out of perceived peer pressure from his friend Brian, really humanises his own humility. The fact that such an event still instilled a pang of dread in him when thinking of it so many years later attests it to be a tellingly formative experience. 


Grief and loss are tragically common themes throughout this tone, although I do appreciate Dean’s openness in discussing his feelings about it and how loss affects his depression and anxieties. Be it the death of his grandmother to cancer, his childhood best friend or favourite rock icon to suicide, or the breakdown of his marriage, he mourns they're coming to pass equally for the major contributions they made to his life. Regularly driving home the point of just how much more it hurts to lose those kinds of people or relationships because of how much they meant to him.

Dean’s writing style itself is a breath of fresh air, written in plain enough English that you’re never struggling to comprehend but not at the cost of a creative description or metaphor. His lexicon is hardly that of Charles Dickens and his writing is all the better for it. Witty but never overbearing, he never makes himself or the reader look a fool, rather enlightened dumbasses instead. His warm and casual tone genuinely makes you feel like he’s just telling you these stories over a pint down the local pub. This makes the reading experience all the more enjoyable and just as engaging as a good story from a friendly bloke at the pub should be.


Through all its ups, downs and many sharp left turns Existential Thirst Trap is a thoroughly entertaining and congenial read. From Louisianan strippers to Chicagoan Barber shop turf wars (another delightfully mad saga) there's something in here for everyone to laugh and learn from. I cannot recommend this book highly enough and I am excited to read all Mr Dean has to offer us in future, although I might want to get onto reading all his other already published books first.

So we both loved it so stop wasting time and get a copy either directly through Robert(remember this is a self-funded book and he is an independent/proper writer) or via Amazon:

Out now:


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