Soul-baring memoir reveals how rape at 18 drove victim to the brink of self-destruction.
THE words didn't take long to write. The horrific incident that had blighted Jeff Randall's life for two decades, that he'd hardly told a living soul about, now streamed from his pen in a sequence of graphic, shocking and frightening paragraphs.
Violently raped at gunpoint when he was only 18 – a brutal act that helped contribute to 20 years of self-destruction, prescription pill addiction and a string of suicide attempts – it wasn't particularly something he wanted to be reminded about.
But if he was going to tell the truth about his chaotic and troubled life – his way of apologising to all the people he'd hurt – then there was no avoiding events in that Edinburgh house on January 28, 1987.
"I'd never spoken about what actually happened," he admits, "It's not something that ever came out until I started to write it.
"Then when I started to write it down, even I didn't know where I was going to go with it or how much I could put down on paper.
"But once I started, it all came out."
Today, Randall has made his way to his favourite spot near Salisbury Crags, a vantage point from which he can identify the streets and the houses where his life took its most dramatic twists and turns.
He is, he insists, quite a different Jeff from the drunken teenager lured to a sleazy house, hoping for a quick sexual thrill with a prostitute, only to be forcefully sexually assaulted and raped by a man touting a pistol.
And the Jeff Randall who violently slashed at his own body, self-harming in anger and for attention, who downed 120 codeine-based painkillers every single day, who almost succeeded in killing himself more times than he remembers – "three serious attempts, but many more 'playing' at it" – and who shamefully, violently, lashed out at lovers; he is gone too.
Instead, each troubling incident – the suicidal leap from a third-storey window, the bitter relationship with his absent, womanising father and the audacious fraud that netted him tens of thousands of pounds from under his employers' noses – has been poured out in a life story described as a cross between Angela's Ashes and Trainspotting.
"I'm not making excuses for my behaviour," he stresses, turning over in his hands a copy of Love Hurts, the memoir he frantically penned by hand in a matter of a weeks and delivered to his former wife in a desperate attempt to explain the demons that had haunted him for so long.
"The only person to blame for my life is me. My life became a litany of disasters that were self-conceived – because at the end of the day you make choices.
It's not good enough to say 'a big boy did it and ran away', you have to sometimes be accountable for your own actions."
Certainly his life today is dramatically different from how it once was. Having reached the depths of despair fighting for his life in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after throwing away his prescription tablets and shocking his body into massive withdrawal, Randall has turned his life around.
Now 39 and single, he is an MA honours student at Edinburgh University, studying Scottish and English literature, with a house crammed with books, a new "addiction" for the written word and a fascination with a recurring theme in literature based around the duality of good and evil.
"I'll never be perfect, but I've changed," he nods. "I'm a better person now, but it has taken a very long time to get here.
"Writing it all down has been a massive emotional detox. I had to find out if everything in me was inherent or reactive – and I'm glad to say I found it was reactive."
Raised by his mother – his father left when he was little in an act of rejection that would haunt him for decades to come – there were few home comforts in the "squalor" of their first floor flat in St Leonards or the playground taunts at Holy Cross Primary.
Grief-stricken by the death of his grandmother when he was almost eight, with a mother struggling to cope, a dramatic fall down Salisbury Crags resulting in horrific facial injuries when he was eight years old taught him visible signs of pain were one route to sympathy – later he'd deliberately draw blood, slashing at his body. Rebellious at school, he lunged into adulthood with a fearless and cocky swagger only to be shaken to the core by that horrific rape.
"Every component of that evening's events I'd referred to in isolation at some stage down the years, but I'd never recalled it collectively," he admits. "Once I started to write, I couldn't stop."
The brutal attack spans a chapter, detailing the unsuspecting teenager's drunken encounter with a fellow drinker, their car journey to pick up "working girls" and the disturbing moment he watched his attacker remove a gun from a bedside drawer and realised with a stomach-churning jolt he was about to be raped.
Shamed by what happened and blaming himself for the assault, he never reported it to the police.
"What has come out of writing it is that many people seem to have had something similar happen to them," he sighs. "It has made me realise that I wasn't the only person who experienced that.
"As for the man who did it, he probably did it hundreds of times. I don't suppose he even gave it a second thought. He said his name and years later I went looking for him. Turned out that he was using the name of some unfortunate guy who ran a pub and, naturally, he wanted to find this bloke too.
"I suspect he's dead by now – he'd be well over 60. If he isn't and I find him? Well, I might be over what happened and it doesn't matter now, but part of me would still want to rip his head off."
These days Jeff could, perhaps more than anyone, point to his treatment at the hands of others for moulding a life that at times verged on the despicable – and in an age where blame culture thrives, he wouldn't be alone.
But, he insists, he won't. He is the first to admit that when it came to beating and lashing out at a string of female partners, it was all his fault.
"I deplore what happened, I was a self-absorbed ego-maniac and I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted," he says quietly. "My reason for writing about my life was pure, it was to say sorry for what I had done. I did it, it was wrong, and I have no excuses."
• Love Hurts by Jeff Randall is published by Mainstream, 6.99
GRITTY TALE OF PAIN AND MISERY
IT'S Angela's Ashes meets Trainspotting – a gritty, real-life journey through a dysfunctional life that spans poverty, violence, broken relationships and crime.
It begins with one of Jeff Randall's many suicide attempts: a graphic description of his leap from a third-storey flat.
As he swaggers through a rebellious youth, Randall grapples with personal demons, his father leaving and grandmother's death before a vicious rape.
Eventually this develops into an addiction for over-the-counter codeine-based Neurofen Plus. At its peak, he would devour around 120 tablets every day - evenings would be spent counting out exactly 72 tablets, shaping them into a triangle, then popping each one.
"I had the equivalent of an 80-a-day heroin habit, only it was for over the counter drugs," he admits. "I built up such a tolerance to them that I realised I couldn't do them any more and I had to stop."