Low Down Death Right Easy - J. David Osborne

I don´t know if there is something like Bizarro Crime, if not there should be. Low Down Death Right Easy would most likely fit right in. There is something surreal in this book, especially later on where it´s not quite clear if those are simply meth-induced feverish dreams, or the reality and something more sinister, more nefarious is at work. Or maybe it´s just a different take on rural Oklahoma with people with dead end jobs that don´t go anywhere while trying to keep their heads just above poverty line and trying to get by. Drugs, crime, a dead body, the usual ingredients of the classic tale of Crime Noir are there, and still there is something more to it. A gloom/darkness that swallows everything and everyone.

There are two parallel story lines, those of Danny Ames who desperately is on the search for his younger missing brother, Thomas, and those of Arlo & Sepp Clancy. Ames is a bouncer in a rave club/drug addict, one of those figures who owns a room when entering it simply for being who they are. Police is sort of looking in this missing person case, without much enthusiasm, until Ames takes matters into his own hands. A hysterical mother, always just short of a nervous breakdown, needs to be taken care of too; hardly accepting any kind of bad fate that might have happened to Thomas, the good kid in her eyes. Plus there is Rafe, the sociopathic sidekick, which complicates matters further for him.

Later in the story Ames starts to lose some teeth coz he is simply rotten to the core like that. Which describes him pretty perfectly, but all of those characters have a soft side to them, a realistic one which maybe doesn´t make them likeable exactly, but at least one can feel sympathy for them. For the situations they find themselves in, for the decisions they make in their lives. There is an easy path for them, and another one they take and everything has consequences for any of them.

Arlo struggles through his job, his marriage with Jen and day dreaming of moving to another place, another city to be happy again, and trying to keep his brother out of prison. Easy drug money, failed job applications, it ain´t easy. Sepp has just the knack for finding himself into shaddy deals that sooner or later will go wrong. They know this and kinda shrug it off. There is only so much one can do. You see it, you watch it happening, and maybe you should have done more, and maybe you did your best and failed. And then you see the sadness in their eyes...

The most interesting part is probably when the two back to back story lines are clashing and their different worlds collide. One can see how much influence the older brothers actually have over their younger brothers. Both, Danny & Arlo shape and form their siblings in a way, good and bad, and when things are falling apart they spiral downwards fast and easy. Scary shit as I too have an older brother and if I take the story at face value I am pretty much fucked. Thanks for nothing, I guess? Or maybe everything. Nobody lives in a bubble and whatever we do will affect someone´s else life as well.

Osborne´s writing style is minimalistic, or more like he cut off any meat to the bare bones, so the mere essentials are there, but not a lot more. Nevertheless there is a beauty and an eloquence in his prose which I haven´t read before. The narrative voice looks simplistic even it isn´t but carefully crafted to have the maximum of effect. There is nothing show-offish about it, just pure, rough emotions with a lot of subtext, blanks that needs to be filled in. Everything that is unnecessary is removed. Which also makes it partially tough to get into it, and it´s one of those novels where you simply have to hang on. Neither did I find it easy to understand at times what is happening, but I had to read and reread scenes to get a fuller picture even he describes details, emotions, the world surrounding our characters very well. Nor do the dialogues much to bring the story forward. Still, those are real conversations by couples/mothers/sons/brothers, about everyday life and its problems. But once I got the hang of it I felt spit out/broken/torn.

I still haven´t figured out what the title phrase actually means. Low Down Death Right Easy sounds like a Gospel song, but for me the book itself reminded me more of a Blues song with an almost unbearable melancholy at times. And it makes me think why does this dude in his - back then - mid-20´s has so much insight into the human condition? It ain´t right. That´s not the way it is supposed to be, but at the same time everything makes sense. He writes like someone twice his age/too smart for his own good. I wasn´t even half finished with the book when I went out and purchased three other books written by Osborne. I wanted to know who is this guy? But it doesn´t really matter.

However, one of my fave bands is Deer Tick. There is a fantastic live video on YouTube of them playing their song "Ashamed" and when the crowd kicks in and sings along their singer/guitarist John McCauley just smiles, and with a huge shit infested grin shouts back, "You know what I´m sayin´?". And while I keep thinking back to this video I wanna shake and yell at Osborne, no, I don´t!... but I´m ready to sit down and listen.