Cover image for East Bay grease
East Bay grease
Williamson, Eric Miles.
Personal Author:
First Picador USA edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 248 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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In a tough portrayal of adolescent survival and life on the edge, a young man growing up in 1960s and 1970s Oakland finds solace in music when he moves into a very tough neighborhood with his near-crazy father.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Williamson's generally impressive debut charts the coming-of-age of a young man burdened by poverty, a dysfunctional family and a violent milieu, but endowed with what may turn out to be the saving grace: musical talent. In Oakland, Calif.'s tough neighborhood of bikers, drifters and Mexican immigrants during the late '60s and early '70s, T-Bird Murphy moves from childhood to his late teen years, developing a vengeful attitude as a protective carapace. When T-Bird's neglectful, promiscuous mother decamps with a Hell's Angels lover, the boy goes to live with his ex-con father in a trailer next to a gas station. His two half-brothers leave foster homes to join them, but the vision of a reunited family is later destroyed by the younger siblings' senseless, violent deaths. In elementary school T-Bird makes friends and enemies as he oscillates between two identities and alliances: nerds and thugs; he makes good grades, but he also steals, smokes, drinks and indulges in other antisocial behavior. His nascent talent on the trumpet is encouraged by a school field trip to Reno for a jazz band competition, but, like most hopeful events in T-Bird's life, the experience sours in drunken frustration. His on-the-road adventures with a Mexican jazz band, Los Asesinos, in high school, invigorate the novel with vivid details of creative development. Yet T-Bird is always tainted by the code of blood revenge that haunts his past and present and commits him to an act of brutality that almost results in a man's death. Later, a specialized construction job sets him on a fateful road trip. A belatedly revealed secret about his parentage leads to a denouement of wary reconciliations. T-Bird's bleak life is depicted with stark and candid details, though at times his auxiliary misadventures dissipate the drama his story could yield. The cumulative and potent portrayal, however, is of a low and ugly corner of contemporary culture, and of a resilient young man who desperately fights and anxiously surmounts the odds stacked against him. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Never has coming of age been depicted in a more harrowing narrative than in Williamson's first novel, the tale of T-Bird Murphy, a white boy growing up in Oakland, CA. When T-Bird's mother isn't abusing him, she is sexually servicing a motorcycle gang. After she abandons him to his ex-con father, T-Bird's challenge is to stay alive, negotiating his way through the Hispanic and African American gangs in his new school while maintaining his GPA and playing the trumpet. In a rapid-fire, unadorned style, the author tells the story of the inner-city youths who have three strikes against them before they walk out the door. While not for the weak-stomached, this unblinking look at the underside of America is imbued with a dignity and sense of humanity that will reward its readers. Recommended for larger fiction collections.‘Andrea Caron Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.