A gritty collection of true-life stories featuring themes of retribution and comeuppance.
As the subtitle suggests, Bradley (Reflections on Freedom, 2013) writes in a conversational, no-nonsense style that fits the raunchy content of the anecdotes in this slim, autobiographical volume. After a few tales from childhood and adolescence, he turns to his experiences in the U.S. Army, which he characterizes in retrospect as “brutal idiocy.” Gleefully leaving the military behind, he settled first in Walla Walla, Washington, then in Corpus Christi, Texas. Throughout the text, the author demonstrates a low tolerance for bullies of many stripes. Whether he’s targeting a corrupt police officer, a cruel military superior, or a serial rapist, Bradley describes his code of ethics in this way: “I do not respect ‘the law’, especially when it is unjust but I have only ever victimized people who victimize others.” Thus, he dispenses his own brand of justice and imparts cutting nuggets of wisdom: “Place blame on life and see if it cares or stand up and be a survivor. Fuck being a victim of circumstance.” Over the course of 44 brief chapters, he displays for readers a curious combination of bravado and humility and, ultimately, a growing maturity. He discovered a sense of family among people who showed him compassion when he was down and out—battling depression, substance abuse, and dire economic straits. Those people included Wild Bill, a Vietnam veteran fighting cancer; Wheelchair Mike, a homeless paraplegic; and the denizens of Sweet Lips, a topless bar. After Wheelchair Mike is murdered in a cruel, grotesque manner, Bradley elegizes: “If there’s an afterlife, I hope he’s there with two legs, a big bottle of Heineken and ‘a fine assed mamacita’ as he liked to say.” Not every chapter fires on all cylinders in terms of emotional impact. However, there are enough that do for the book to warrant a look, particularly by readers with strong constitutions who can stomach large doses of reality.
A work by a down-to-earth writer who tells it like it is, even when life seems harsh, unfair, or downright bizarre.