Three Theories on the Murder of John Wily by J David Osborne from Warmed & Bound – review

reviewed by Nick Mamatas

Warmed and Bound“Three Theories on the Murder of John Wily” by J David Osborne is the sort of new crime story I would love to love, but in this case I don’t. John Wily is a meth-dealing lowlife. He’s killed. The narrator suggests three alternative theories as to Wily’s death, but none of them are very interesting. Neither is Wily himself. In most alternative theories, he’s so exceptionally stupid that the real question is not “Whodunit?” but “How wasn’t he murdered years before?”

The writing is rather pedestrian as well. In theory #2, we’re told that “John Wily looked deeply into the black man’s eyes, and said through clenched teeth. ‘Always me before you. Always.'” Looked deeply, did he? Right there at the check-out stand, where the black man was talking to the clerk, and had his earbuds in? How did John Wily manage to do this—grab the other fellow by the lapels, or fly up and around the counter to hover over it?

Indeed, most everything happens in a generic spaceless timeless Methland—there’s a bathtub full of moonshine at Wily’s wake, presumably because Wily’s dad knew to start up the still and fill the tub a few weeks prior. Someone gets his legs taken out from under him with an aluminum baseball bat, but just limps away and returns to his car…where a whore he had beaten for trying to escape is apparently waiting patiently instead of running off. Of course there are deranged rednecks, weak women giving blowjobs for drugs, and the rest of the usual frou-frou of Badass Fiction, but there isn’t a trace of vitality to the worlds Osborne depicts, no reason to care about any of the theories because the facts of life are missing. “Three Theories” is an entirely hypothetical work—why do people about which the author and thus the reader know nothing live and die?

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8 Replies to “Three Theories on the Murder of John Wily by J David Osborne from Warmed & Bound – review”

  1. I happen to know the author and can assure you all of the elements of his story are based on real events from his early 20s, especially the degrading of loose women and uncomfortable conduct toward black people in public. It may be very hard to imagine people living this way for folks who’s closest contact with the sardonically whimsical world of narcotic abusers is drinking Robitussin and watching something Korean on Netflix, but for others the uncouth, antisocial, and downright stupid actions of the characters makes them much more believable for the story. A meth dealer making all the right moves and fantastic life choices just would not keep me immersed in the narrative. Regardless, I read theses jaunty little bastards whilst trying to imagine I’d been on a 3day speed binge, and when you allow yourself to fall into the wretchedly simplistic mind of a human being experiencing reality through the filter of goofy meth brains, the mundane seems strangely alien and we’re more eager to accept fucked-off occurrences without question. Sometimes life loses meaning and all there is to tell is the “what” because they characters gave up on the “why” before the book began.
    Also fuck yourself.

  2. Hey “Charleston”! Oh boy, you “know” the author? Does he hang out with semiliterates much? Maybe you should invite him over to read the review to you again, slowly, so you can understand it. The problem with the story isn’t that the character mouths off to black people, it’s the character looks someone deeply in the eye, when that character isn’t looking at him. Hell, the next sentence describes the black character taking off his earbuds—though he was talking with the clerk and clearly hear him!—and saying “Come again?” Couldn’t have been looking at him that deeply and saying those obvious-to-lip-read words if that’s what happened next, eh? It’s a basic mistake of the sort made by wannabe badasses who don’t spend even a minute thinking about how a scene is supposed to work when made out of, you know, sentences, but there it is, in print, anyway.

    If the story was written from the POV of a methhead, that might have been neat. But it wasn’t—it’s from an omniscient storyteller’s POV. You know, thus the “three theories” of the title. Thus, sentences actually have to make sense in space and time when you read ’em all in a row. I know this is complex stuff—nearly third-grade reading level (“And then what did Ramona do…?”) but try to keep up.

    And, and “fuck yourself” doesn’t really work unless you type in your first name and your last. Otherwise, you’re just another pseudonymous coward.

  3. I think the most outstanding difference between your labors and those of the author is that he writes books that people enjoy reading, whereas you write books people want to be SEEN reading at Barnes and Nobles by the thick rimmed glasses crowd. I hope that when you finally finish “Kevin Smith meets Cthulhu” it will be written in small enough words for me to understand you pompous hipster R.L. Stine. Writing as an author pretending to be a more famous author talking to a character somebody else made up must be a damn rough stretch of the old imagination, and I appreciate you taking time away from all of that to respond at me like a Facebook fight on your little website here. My name is Steven Larkins, hi! I apologize for my outburst at the end of my last comment, I was fighting the urge to call you a cocksucker the entire time and I got carried away.

  4. Oh Steve Larkins, you sure are a dumbshit. Of course, your idiot fantasy or who reads what books is just a way of deflecting from the simple fact that your first comment was five-star grade-a bullshit, but I suppose it’s worth unpacking a bit anyway.

    1. In your first comment, you insist that Osborne’s story was a good one because “all of the elements of his story are based on real events”, then you turn around and complain that what…I used a real historical person in one of my books. You know—not imaginative. So is taking from real life a good thing or a bad thing? Give it a think.

    2. What’s the matter, chief? Some dude in glasses steal your girlfriend? Pee in your mouth at the bus station one early morning while you were “working”? Anyhoo, you know who reads my shit? Well, according to the blogroll on the side of the homepage, J. David Osborne does! (He also links to HTMLGiant, which is Hipster Heaven for the small press crowd.)

    3. Glad you’re a fan of Osborne’s. Hope you don’t have to tear yourself in half when you pick up the anthology DEMONS (John Skipp, ed.) which features a (better) story by Osborne…and one by me! It’s like me and Osborne are smoochy-poo cousins. Believe it, son. Just be sure to run right out of the Barnes & Nobles after you buy your copy. Wouldn’t want anyone to think you read the work of cocksuckers.

  5. What a disaster. None of this is professional and it’s sad to see on this site because I think it’s come a long way in the last few months. The review is fair -but the comments from both parties are ridiculous.

  6. Cannot believe a person calling himself an author would engage in such mindless banter. Way to feed the troll!

  7. Nick Mamatas is a famous Internet troll. No doubt he’ll have something faux witty to say to this comment, too.