Richard Jones is a paranoid schizophrenic and recovering drug addict who also seems to be more than a tad bit obsessed with sex. That said, he actually comes off as a relatively likeable guy in Dan Martin's Journey Back, which seeks to explore the impact of schizophrenia and drug addiction. Yet Jones still can't save this debut novel.
When we first meet Jones, he leaves New York City and drives to San Francisco in 48 hours because "they knew where I was and how to find me." Once there, Jones changes his name to Mitch James and embarks on a new life. The story is told in chapters that alternate between Jones and James. James tells his story in the first person. Jones's story is told from the third person.
Martin, an attorney and psychotherapist, is familiar enough with the struggles facing those who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia or addictions to provide sufficient details to make the stories of the impact of those afflictions generally credible. The problem is a significant lack of internal consistency.
Jones was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as a freshman in high school following a mental breakdown. Medication helped control his symptoms and he graduated with few suspecting his illness. Jones, who wants to be a writer, can't afford his medication after moving to New York City. He discovers (or comes to believe) that he is more creative without it. Like so many others, he feels the medicine dulls his senses and intellect. Yet the psychosis into which he descends shortly after going off his medication leads to his arrest. He goes back on medication but, shortly after meeting and moving in with the equally troubled Anna, he quits taking it once more. His obsession with Anna results in him being committed to an institution for the criminally insane.
There, the medication again brings the mental illness under control. Jones quits taking it, however, three days before escaping from the institution. Following his escape, he no longer takes the medicine and quickly descends into yet another breakdown, having only a "tenuous" grasp of reality. His agitation and paranoia increase until he sets off for San Francisco, fleeing the omnipresent "they." And this is where Journey Back goes astray.