It’s a cold, dreary morning the day we meet Jason Dean. He wakes in the predawn hours loath to get out of bed, but he has a special date with his daughter, Sophie, waiting for him after work, so he forces himself to brave the sure to be ugly day, one which finds him with a few pieces of business to attend to for his boss, Mickey Archer, before he can keep his date with Sophie.
Mickey’s a right nasty piece of work, one who makes his living in all manner of criminal ways, not the least of which is loan sharking. And though god knows Mickey’s not above getting his hands dirty (Sliced one geezer in half once with an electric bread knife. I was there. I saw it. It weren’t pleasant, I can fuckin tell you.), a guy can only do so much himself. That’s where Jason comes in.
Jason’s one of Mickey’s oldest mates, the one Mickey sends out to knock on doors, and heads. Jason’s three tasks for the day: two collections and, well, one thing a little more extreme. The thing is, Jason’s enthusiasm for the job is fading fast. Like fading by the hour fast.
The bus stops to let a couple of oiks on. Fifteen probably, maybe younger. Hoodies over baseball caps, all twitchin bones and snarlin, givin the driver grief, the pair of em already. One of em shouts back about the driver bein a cunt, and they both head upstairs. Even a couple of hours ago, I’d swallowed em for breakfast, gone up them stairs and give em a piece of me mind. But as the day goes on, the life’s ebbin out of me. Fuckin ebbin away.
You see, Jason’s not just some thick-necked thug. Oh, he spent his share of time as a kid learning how to fight, and he’s never quite shaken the rough ‘street speak’ he grew up surrounded by (if the word ‘cunt’ offends you, prepare to be well and truly offended). But he also spent just as much time as a youth reading poetry and the classics, and as an adult added a love of classical music to his love of literature (don’t get him started about the merits of Shostakovich vs. Wagner). And lately, well, some pretty major events have caused Jason to take a giant step back and reevaluate life. Question everything about it, in fact.
One Day in the Life of Jason Dean, the new novella from author Ian Ayris (Abide With Me), is an amazingly complex and powerful work for such a relatively short piece and straightforward premise. As the title indicates, the story unfolds over the course of a single day, and majority of it plays out in Jason’s head, following his reflections on life as he goes about his increasingly onerous day: how did he get to where he is; why does he do what he does; exactly what does he owe people, himself included; and, ultimately, just what the hell does it all mean in the end? Ayris puts Jason through his paces in such a way that makes it painfully clear Jason is not some pseudo-intellectual engaged in meaningless navel-gazing. His crisis of self is very real, very raw, and very likely to not end well.
In fact, as things progress and Jason’s sense of clarity of purpose increases, so does the reader’s sense of dread that something very wrong is destined to happen. And once Ayris begins to definitively steer things toward the lighthouse Jason’s been homing in on the whole story, well, let’s just say my only thought was, “Oh, no. Please, no.” But, yes. Ayris, like Jason, is not afraid to ask the tough questions, come to the tough answers, and, ultimately, make the tough decisions. And at the end of One Day in the Life of Jason Dean, neither Jason nor the reader will ever be the same again, though because Ayris is such a talented author exactly how things end is cleverly left up to the reader’s interpretation.
One Day in the Life of Jason Dean is available at Amazon US and Amazon UK. [NOTE: This novella was previously issued by another press, but has been unavailable for several years. The new print editions were released on April 15, 2017.]