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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Slim Spires SLIM: AN AUSTRALIAN BIKER’S TALE OF SEX & DRUGS, COPS & VIOLENCE. Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2012 (265 pages).

Publisher’s blurb: Slim Spires was born in England and moved to Australia with his family when he was eight. He has worked in a bank, as a psychiatric nurse, owned a motorcycle accessories shop and worked as a cook. He has done three short prison stints. Slim lives in Melbourne.

This biographical account of Slim Spires’ adventures is a series of loosely connected anecdotes which largely occurred over thirty years ago when Slim was a young and reckless nut-case. The stories are simply and clearly told from Spires’ in-your-face perspective and are often directly addressed at the reader to create a greater sense of intimacy. He inserts about a dozen personal photos to add to the authenticity of his accounts. Many of the stories are highly entertaining and amusing but there is a disturbing, vicious streak in Spires as he is ready to ‘fuck over’ anyone who has the misfortune of accidentally crossing his path. 

SLIM is Spires’, aged 61, first book in which he collects stories he has been telling his mates about his shady past for years. After meeting Andy McPhee the actor from Sons of Anarchy he was referred to the writing teacher Ray Mooney and filmmaker Alkinos Tsilimidos who encouraged Spires to compile this book for possible publication. In the Afterword he hints of more bikie tales to come.  

There are forty-four non-fiction stories in SLIM and the book is structured under five self explanatory headings: 
I Stories From the Road
II Cops
III In Jail
IV Tall Tales and True
V Brawls and Fisticuffs

The language is characteristically shitfaced raw and adopts a smart-assed, ‘fuck you and fuck your system attitude,’ particularly in the first three sections. Some of the better stories in the collection, such as, ‘You’re Wanted on the Phone’, ‘At the Drive-In’, ‘Stand-Off On Tom Ugly’s Bridge’ and ‘Ten Days of Amenities’ show Spires defiantly confronting cops and screws from an anti-authoritarian stance that no one is to fuck with him and that he has ‘nothing to lose.’

Other strong stories reveal Spiers’ reluctance to take shit from anyone and usually results in him giving some poor sucker a savage beating, as in the fellow prisoner in ‘Going to Jail’, the obnoxious driver in “Road Rage’ and the rude mechanic in ‘Can You Change a Tyre?’ This tough guy image is unapologetic, with each of his victims getting what they rightly deserve, apart from the waiter in ‘You Again’ who ducks into a beauty, being mistaken for sleaze bag office worker.

Perhaps the best stories avoid the punch-in-your-face subtlety typical of Spires’ writing. ‘Look Who Came to Dinner’ where the Slim accidentally attends the wrong party and ‘Where’s the Sofa?’ in which the author sets fire to a clubhouse sofa because it stinks of the sweat and grime of an ‘untidy oversized guy’. Both these stories are genuinely humorous and don’t attempt to resort to fisticuffs to get their point across. Also highly impressive are his work related stories, such as, ‘The Paint Shop’ and ‘A Bet’s a Bet’ which would make Bukowski’s ghost drool with excitement.

Throughout the book there is an innovative insert called ‘SLIM SAYS’ where Spires periodically provides us with some of his hard-fought, simple bikie aphorisms. The most memorable include, ‘Psychopaths have feelings too, you know’ and ‘If something’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.’

These stories represent three and a half decades of Spires’ life and as they are propelled by anecdotes you don’t get the sense of continuity you would in a more cohesive work. He is highly selective in the stories he tells. He only indirectly refers to his bikie club involvement and in the book drugs and sex are marginalized. The stories are often more about his personally meted out sense of justice and the satisfaction he derives from it.

Overall, Spires as a young man comes across as a vicious psychopath, but he has redeeming qualities and sometimes reveals his vulnerabilities, as in ‘The Japanese Hostel’ when he searches for a toilet in his jocks pissed and gets lost. There is a wonderful photo of him near the end of the book entitled ‘Who’s cooking? 1995’ which shows a more humane side to Spires. He is replete in chef’s hat and garb. You really have to admire Spires' tenacity in bringing this book together and in Allen & Unwin in taking the financial risk in publishing it.

This is a fascinating and real account of stories which provide a voice for a sub-culture which stereo-typically has remained secret or illiterate.

Despite being published by Allen & Unwin, a mainstream Australian publisher, it is difficult to find previous informed reviews of the book. Nor is there any evidence of Spires ‘hitting the highway’ to help sell his book.

Find a brief sampling from the Preface and the book’s index of chapters here:

 Buy a signed copy of the book here:

Buy an inexpensive copy of the book here: