Sunday, January 19, 2014

Recommended Reading: Life Won't Wait

Mike Essington's new book, Life Won't Wait, was released a few months ago; I wish I had been in a better head space then and could have properly heralded its arrival.  I wasn't, I didn't, and now I'm catching up, but I sure as hell am not letting any more time slip by without taking the opportunity to say that if you don't pick this one up, you are seriously missing out on the work of a gifted storyteller.

I have been a fan of Mike's writing for awhile now, from his weekly Mike Check column over at the excellent Strange Reaction blog to his must-have debut effort, Last One To Die. He has the ability to relate his stories and reminiscences in a way that puts you right there.  You know these characters, you have experienced these same things, or know someone who has. He never shies from nor attempts to dress up the grittier language or seamier situations of some of his exploits, but that's part of the power of his writing.  It may be rough going at times for some, but it's never vulgar just for shock value.

Mike has shown that he can handle himself in the world of fiction as well (check out the recent chapbook done in collaboration with David Gurz, Under A Broken Street Lamp), but the short autobiographical vignettes that populate his column and made Last One To Die such a stunning read are his wheelhouse. Life Won't Wait certainly follows in its predecessor's footsteps stylistically, but that is no complaint.

Once again, Mike's character studies both entertain and provoke.  I found myself in turns cheering him on to beat the hell out of his half-sister's boyfriend, being surprised at how much empathy I felt for some of the folks he met while incarcerated, and chuckling out loud at his efforts to help Eddie Money buy a pair of Levis.  He shares more typically crazy exploits with his friends, talks about his early days of going to shows (Mike was fortunate to have grown up around L.A. and have access to an incredible early punk scene), and allows us along for the ambulance ride when he thought he might be dying. Each story opens yet another window through which we get to learn a little bit more about Mike himself: punk rock kid, angst-ridden young adult, caring father, regular guy just trying to figure out Life. He's seen and done a lot, believe me.

Mike again closes the book with a section collecting a few interviews he has done over the years: James Frey, Texas Terri Laird, and Steve Jones of The Stepmothers.  And just like the hidden track at the end of an album, make sure not to miss the Epilogue.  It's a brief poem that damn near brought tears to my eyes.

Life Won't Wait is available through Create Space or through, as are Last One To Die and Under A Broken Street Lamp.

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