This J. David Osborne guy has got some fucking chops, dear reader. I just blew a Sunday afternoon inhaling his latest, Low Down Death Right Easy, and don’t regret it in the slightest. It’s the story of some hard-luck sons of bitches in small town Oklahoma that’s told in such a sly, beautifully stripped down way that I was on board right off the fucking bat.
Danny Ames is known around town as a guy you don’t fuck with. He bounces at a hoppin’ club for his straight gig, but most of his income comes from ripping off local dealers with shit connections. So when his supposedly-on-the-straight brother Thomas goes missing, you know Danny Ames isn’t about to take that shit lying down.
Arlo Clancy and his wife Jen aren’t killing it finance-wise in these tough economic times but they do alright, can at least help Arlo’s younger brother Sepp get back on his feet after doing time for coke possession with intent. Though Sepp’s not a total shithead, he’s finding it hard to justify busting his ass at his shitty moving job when his boy Lucas is raking it in dealing an illegal Chinese plant fertilizer that can get you good and fucked up.
When Arlo and Sepp are out noodling for catfish one day, they find a human head that once sat atop the shoulders of a one Thomas Ames. Though they had nothing to do with the boy’s murder, this discovery sets them on a course that you better believe will find them meeting Danny Ames toot-fucking-sweet.
It’s a strong story with a nice sense of place and complex characters that leads to a wonderfully handled ending, but what really struck me almost immediately with Low Down Death Right Easy was the words Osborne “didn’t” write. (Jesus, sorry folks – I feel like Lisa Simpson telling that jazz dick in the audience with her that he has to “listen to the notes she’s not playing” right now.) Like a filmmaker who knows how to tell their story visually instead of through lame expository dialogue, Osborne masterfully gives you just enough information with his spare prose to let you tie the threads together yourself.
The novel also brilliantly finds a nice balance between a classic noir novel, something slightly surreal and something approaching a classic American realist work. There are scenes of intense violence and suspense butted up against curious moments of outlandish insanity, but overall this is a story that ultimately feels (for lack of a better word) “believable.” It’s a fucking feat, dear reader, and I for one wanted to clap aloud like a goddamn goofball when it all came together in the end ever-so-beautifully.
So if you’re up for some dark shit that doesn’t hold your hand or hit the same, tired beats you’ve read in a million lesser crime novels, the Nerd fucking implores you to pick up Low Down Death Right Easy.