What leads a person to find himself involved with criminals and facing jail time? How do we fall down that slippery slope of befriending someone, and then ending in deeper than we planned? These are the tyoes of questions that Barred Justice asks. And the answers may be a bit more uncomfortable than you might think.
Like a lot of people, author John Oliver Green finds himself in trouble with the law without quite realizing it at first. As a friend of a man who seems, from the outside, to be a decent human being — one who’d been in trouble in his early years but claimed to have left that old life behind — Green very understandably finds himself accepting what, in retrospect, are clearly bad decisions for the sake of friendship. As he puts it, “I had given Bob the benefit of the doubt. Looking back, I think I did this because I liked the guy. Naive? Yes, but I trusted him.”
Green’s friend turns out to be smuggling drugs, and naturally, involved in the dicey financial choices that come with taking money for illegal activities.
It’s easy enough to imagine anyone thinking the best of a friend, only to find ourselves discovering later that all was not what it seemed. What’s harder to relate to is Green’s repeated insistence that he thought it was okay to continue doing what he was doing when clearly he should have walked away sooner. As a reader, I found myself frustrated with his choices, though also aware that in similar situations, it’s all too easy for anyone to do the same thing — making excuses, pretending to ourselves that are choices are okay. A slippery slope, indeed.
The story itself remains compelling, in part because of the deep look it takes at the aftermath of a drug-related plane crash, deaths, and all the legal investigations that entangle Green afterward. At times, the book is a true page-turner, which makes up for the areas where it probably could have benefitted from one more editing pass to remove extraneous or repeated ideas. Either way, you’ll likely find yourself feeling grateful you’ve never found yourself in Green’s shows.
Barred Justice is an ideal read for those who enjoy a good crime story, who like flawed characters (real people — this is a memoir, after all).