Review by: David Antrobus on Nov. 29, 2012 : (no rating)
Don’t let the cover/title combo fool you into thinking this memoir is *only* about gambling and boxing. Plenty more is going on here. “Early Out” is both a celebration of life and a subliminal wish for that break at the end of a long shift that gets you out of there before your time.
Again, superficially, this is a long account of a life spent both struggling with and embracing the twilit worlds of addiction, abuse, rootlessness and the sheer pain of being alone in a world full of edges. Told without any need for pyrotechnics in the language itself, this is nonetheless a true writer at work, honing and whittling the margins, training upfront, sometimes circling the canvas to return and re-examine a moment from another angle, always moving, jabbing, waiting.
The chapters are more like short vignettes than true chapters, not chronological yet intuitively logical all the same. But when you view them as a whole, you see the painfully honest account of a life unvarnished by sentiment, one in which reflection has illuminated some of the contradictions of a life lived between the leatherclad fist, the layout of a casino table, the glass pipe and the low track stroll.
A full life is stitched together from countless episodes of transient restlessness, ranging from the east coast to Saskatoon to Los Angeles to Vegas to Vancouver to Victoria and all the way up island and covering more than fifty years.
I never say this, normally, but it’s a surprisingly addictive pageturner that despite its considerable length, never overstays its welcome, unlike the author in the various communes, crack houses, and cheap motels he briefly haunts, only to move on, keep moving on, while figuring what it means to be a man in a world that dealt him a rough hand in many ways. Highly recommended from a writing perspective and a life perspective.
—– Original Message —-
I’ve gone to SFU and collected all the feedback submitted about your manuscript,
“Early Out.” These comments come from our reviewers (all SFU The Writer’s
Studio grads) who read your manuscript and nominated you for both the long and
the short list.
“This protagonist is fascinating — he writes in an original voice (the
manuscript reads like a transcribed monologue), has a compelling story, and just
seems like a genuine, interesting human being. I think the manuscript could be edited down to a less onerous length and would have broad appeal as a book.”
“This manuscript takes you places you’ve not quite been (surprising, informative, original).”
“Convincing and coherent structure.”
“Clear setting consistent with overall theme.”
“Solid and well-considered points-of-view.”
“Engaging characters with clear motivations.”
“Consistently strong and well-paced.”
“Very strong perspective — as a reader I really felt I’m with the narrator (even through the quite violent, sometimes awful situations he gets into). I can’t help but empathize with the narrator — in many ways he’s not likeable, but I like him and have compassion for him.”
“Fresh use of language and images.”
“Skillful use of sentences.”
“Nearly a wow!”
“Excellent read — distinctive voice (reminds me a little of Hemingway maybe), fast paced, tells his story well, has humour, conviction, sincerity. I enjoyed it a lot. Definitely a contender.”
I hope these help (as you can see, we really liked your work) and again, I want to congratulate you on making the short list — it’s really something to be proud about. I also want to tell you — keep at it — never quit. This is a strong manuscript I believe has what it takes to get published. Take care, John