Category: Cody James

book review: The Dead Beat by Cody James

“It clouds your vision of the present, of what you have, of what you’ve made of yourself. It colours everything with dissatisfaction. It points out every instance in your life where you have been disappointed, hurt and heartbroken. it jumps on every word out of place that you hear people say and shows you the bruises and bumps it has suffered along the way, demanding that you do something about it. It looks around and tells you that it can’t handle things this way, that things weren’t supposed to be this way, that this isn’t good enough. We’re always being told to hold on to our innocence. Well, let me tell you what I’ve learned: innocence is a dirty, conniving whore.”

How do you make a reader willingly and avidly read on about the lives of four house mates who are dragging themselves deeper into the dark depths of drug addiction? How do you make the reader care about these people and their black world even when described in all its horrific detail? Good writing with a solid voice and a cracking pace is the simple answer.

Cody James clearly knows what she is writing about and can portray the world of the falling apart without coming down on either side of the fence. She can tell you about Adam and his friends in graphic detail with humour and pain, but it is up to you to decide how you feel about them.

And feel about them you do. Adam, the main character, is heading for death and doing a very good line in self destruction. His friends Sean, Lincoln and Xavi are all gripped by the same addictions and sense of desperation. They each show it differently with Lincoln putting his hopes into a relationship that seems to have only remote prospects of lasting. Sean swings through bisexuality looking for satisfaction and Xavi trys to control his environment to bring some sort of sense of calm.

As Adam falls apart and takes his failings out on his friends and women he is involved with it would be easy to be turned off and hate the guy. But there is a part of you, perhaps all of us, that refuses to turn away until the light has completely gone out. You want to believe that Adam will sort himself out and recover some stability.

A few years ago now I stayed up late one night and watched a film with a young Michael Hutchence taking one of the main roles. Dogs in Space was the title, if I remember rightly, and it centered on a collection of misfits sharing a house and trying to find happiness. But excess and tragedy mar the group and it is a movie with a lot of self reflection and growing up in its tale. Had expected this to perhaps go in the same direction but liked the way James left the characters open to your interpretation.

Ultimately Adam and company could go either way. That is perhaps the greatest irony of drug addiction as so well portrayed by James that even until the end there is a chance of pulling out of the nosedive. Would Adam have done it? You would like to think so but this story pulls no punches and so you are well prepared to accept that he wouldn’t.

Thoughts at the half way point of The Dead Beat

This book is almost cinematic in the way the scenes are so well described. You can so clearly picture the world of drug use and squalor that Adam and his three friends inhabit. even though you would walk, no run, to the other side of the street rather than get involved with these people James manages to pull you into their lives and struggle.

As the story develops you want Adam to kick the drug habit, which is so destructive, but as the other characters point out so frankly, what is the point life for these guys hardly looks attractive when played in real-time and horrible realism.

But accompanied with a controlled use of time and space there is some wicked writing here with some lines that stick in the head:

“Trying to decide what to do becomes a nightlong activity in itself, like some lousy postmodern joke.”

A review to come on completion…