Having read the last two Jimmy Barnes books, Working Class Boy and Working Class Man, and being a huge fan of Barnes, himself, it was a given that I was going to read his third book, Killing time.
For those who haven’t read the first two books, both were a chronological look at Jimmy Barnes’s life as he grew up, with the struggles he faced, particularly with his family, as well as his own demons – alcohol and drugs – along with his eventual settling down with a new family life. It is rare for an author to give such a gritty and honest reflection of their own life, but Barnes tells his story in a way that truly reflects the growth and change of this iconic music legend.
While Killing time has further reflections about subjects covered in his two memorable biographies, it is also a compilation of a variety of short stories, about many different things. It is not chronological, but rather a combination of many recollections Barnes has of snippets of his life, past and present. Of course, growing up in Glasgow, touring the world with Cold Chisel and his family, and his trips to Asian countries, particularly, are subjects that feature prominently, though the book doesn’t dwell so much on the past, except to reflect a better present and future for his life and family.
The stories range from sad and depressing to enlightening and funny. Some leave you wondering how Barnes could put himself through everything he has and still be standing. Yet Killing Time shows an optimism for a future that his family have helped nurture. It shows the soft side, the rough side and yet, above all, it portrays a family man who is critical of himself and wants to be a better person.
Of course, this being a collection of short stories, the advantage lies in their easy consumption. I love reading short stories because I don’t always have the time to sit down and read at length. This way I can read one whole and continue when I have time without forgetting details. Here are a few details about some of the stories which I’m sure will long remain in my memory:
‘You’ve given me enough’ – is a reflection of Barnes succumbing to his demons and his first encounters with bargaining in Asia. It shows his compassion and understanding of others despite being as low as he could go himself.
‘Yes sir, whatever you want sir’ – For those that have travelled to countries where you haven’t spoken the language, this one will resonate with you. Barnes talks of a clear misunderstanding when he goes out to get a haircut in Thailand for the first time on his own. It had me rolling around in laughter, having been in a similar situation myself.
‘And in the blue Corner’ – Barnes was a fan of Bruce Lee and martial arts. He actually learned some karate while in Cold Chisel, but Jane, his wife, never liked violence of any kind, and made sure her views were aired. This is a funny recollection of a night out at a professional competition that Jimmy would rather forget.
‘Warp Speed Wayne’strong> – When we love our craft we often think that others must too. This is a funny story about Jimmy and Wayne Gardner, former World Motorcycle Champion, when each wanted the other to try out what they were good at.
‘Sunset cruise’ – Anniversaries are funny things, sometimes life gets in the way, yet it doesn’t mean that you love each other less.
And lastly, ‘Money for Bones’ – the heart- rending tale of Jimmy’s loss of two close family members, his dogs, Oliver and Snoopy, who he loved dearly.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is so well written and full of variety. It ends with a reflection on Covid, the challenge of our current moment, as well as reflections about the future.
Killing Time comes highly recommended by me.