This is the second of James Wayland’s novels I’ve reviewed. He shipped me two of his. I shipped him two of mine. Neither of us is under any agreement to be unduly kind. I don’t think insincere, sugar-coated reviews do any good because, as a general rule, they ring false. I enjoyed both of James’ novels, Trailer Park Trash & Vampires and this one, which has no vampires but is similarly irreverent.
James Wayland and I share an affinity for writing about the poor, the uneducated, and the rural. I don’t read fiction to live vicariously through the lives of the rich and famous, the doctors and lawyers, and the rich and affected. Our heroes are flawed, their motives imperfect, but not without their admirable traits. Life where I grew up, and, presumably, where James did, too, is populated with flawed heroes. I doubt there are many heroes who are unflawed.
Call it harsh reality, wrapped in escapism, tied with a golden ribbon.
Dirty Southside Jam is about a couple poor slobs who stumble upon Pandora’s Box. Billie Boyd, a.k.a. “Blue,” is a projectionist at a dying cinema in the town of Bogut. What follows could be synopsized into the saying, “Watch what you ask for. You might just get it.”
It’s practically a proverb in towns like Bogut.
Blue and David Blanchard, a war-scarred drifter with a penchant for weed (marijuana variety) and speed (as in, a fast car) happen upon a small fortune after an automobile accident leaves the driver of the other vehicle dead. Blue has made a habit of staying out of trouble and rolling with the punches thrown at him frequently by life. This time, though, the money seems a godsend. It’s theirs for the taking, and it doesn’t appear as if anyone need ever know. They managed to shove the other car down a boat ramp into a watery grave. So convinced are they that this is their lucky break — the opportunity to escape the ignominy of their lives — that they think they can get away with it.
The villains of Dirty Southside Jam are not too dissimilar from those in Trailer Park Trash & Vampires, which is to say they are murderous, ruthless, and amoral, but they don’t happen to enjoy eating their victims. The feeding frenzies are merely symbolic. Both works are full of campy, over-the-top caricatures that complement the blackness of their souls.
To summarize, Dirty Southside Jam and Trailer Park Trash & Vampires might gross out the reader if he or she weren’t laughing so hard. If I’m going to read gore, this is the way to do it.
Dirty Southside Jam is really a novella, shorter and less fully formed than its predecessor. It’s a simple story that is perhaps a bit too simple. No attention is given, well, the attention such body counts would inspire. On the other hand, the author doesn’t let exterior details water down his story. They may strain credulity, but the story moves along, simple and direct.
The underdogs Blue and David, before they can but mildly enjoy their money, find themselves arrayed against a drug-peddling sociopath, a killer prowling around to retrieve the money, a corrupt lawman, and an accompanying cast of thugs, most of whom don’t last long enough to get to know.
I can relate to Dirty Southside Jam. My first novel, The Audacity of Dope, featured a likable, pot-smoking protagonist. What I hope will be my fourth, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is enlivened by corrupt, bloodthirsty lawmen.
Bottom line: It’s an irreverent romp, if, well, you can romp through blood. A few loose ends are left hanging, but James has a knack for knowing how to keep it simple. It’s a great book to read on a plane, that is, if you’re not sitting next to a nosy old lady.
The shock has a surfeit of value.
You can buy Dirty Southside Jam, as well as James Wayland’s other works, here: http://www.amazon.com/James-Wayland/e/B002BLL9KQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1429024866&sr=1-1