North & South magazine reviews ‘Lowlife: short stories’ by Michael Botur


Review by Paul Little

North & South magazine, Feb 2018

Low Life: short stories

Michael Botur



In this collection of tales, Botur ambles around territory previously occupied by Bukowski, Wells, Tower and other chroniclers of the louche life and finds himself right at home. The first sentence gives the flavour of much febrile prose (and low-rent subject matter) to come: “Bipan, that dickhead from Nepal who regulates the adhesive levels on each glue gun in the factory, he keeps changing the radio station to R&B and after 20 minutes of R. Kelly you have him against the wall with the nozzle of an air gun in his face and you’re telling the dude, Dude: you mess with Skynyrd one more time, you’re goin home in a ambulance.”

Botur wields this demotic vocabulary, and these agitated rhythms, combined in collages of invective and obscenity, with much skill. It’s a neat trick that’s easy to stuff up, but he consistently gets it right. In the story quoted above, the protagonist quits his job because the songs on the radio tell him to. But once out there, he discovers the world is a harsh place and rock ‘n roll dreams really don’t come true.

Although a lot of the people in these stories are in and out of jail, and freedom of any kind is not something they take for granted, not all the characters are at the bottom of the heap. The “you” at the centre of ‘InsAngel’ is someone who buys fountains and ride-on mowers – so why wouldn’t he become obsessed with a performance/con artist who bludges fags from tourists while pretending to run a half marathon?

“Granny Frankenstein” offers an update on the criminally inclined seniors of Arsenic and Old Lace in a screwball comedy about a little old lady who turns out to have a knack for selling P. It’s a small, comic masterpiece and the perfect conclusion to a remarkably satisfying collection.

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