Culture & Criticism Since 2003
“If high in esteem and stature you be
Then worry not of the repartee
But Hark—should your station in life be small
Then, brother, beware of the high gray wall”
Bobby BlueJacket, “From This Corner,” July 1966
I hefted Daley’s weighty book (trade paperback, 773 pages) and wondered what on Earth someone could find to say about a small time criminal in Tulsa Oklahoma. Even Truman Capote might find writing so much about so little to be a challenge.
But the titular character, Bobby BlueJacket, is much more complex and wide-ranging than your common street thug. A child of the Shawnee, he grew up in 1930s Oklahoma, a toxic stew of virulent racism and ineffectual bureaucrats who wondered what should be done with the noble red savages. “Solutions” ranged from genocidal to condescending, particularly in Tulsa, a town notorious for the viciousness of its racial relations.
Out of this mix came BlueJacket: killer, author, politician. The life he led was brutal and cruel – a scene all too common in post-Depression America through the age of Obama. Based largely on BlueJacket’s own anecdotes and somewhat light in corroboration, the narrative may give the subject a rosier and more substantive presence than reality might dictate. Nonetheless, the reality of BlueJacket’s versatility, ambition and malleability is there on every page – this portrait of a man refusing to be ground down by a system that exists for little else.
Bobby BlueJacket is the story of a brave and determined man caught in a dual life of crime and politics. And in the end, the book is a rarity in literature – a history told by the defeated, but still unvanquished. As such, Daley has created an engrossing and unique story that will compel your attention from beginning to end.
Bryan Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Canada and raised in London. He has lived in the Mount Shasta area since 1990, which he regards as the finest place on earth. Jamieson has spent the past 25 years as a graphic layout technician, web designer and writer, with over a thousand essays, a dozen short stories, and two novels – Ice Fall and Snow Fall – to his credit. In addition to his wife of 30-plus years, he normally lives with a dog and several cats, none of whom are impressed by him. Reach him through The Electric Review.