Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't Call Me A Crook! - A Review

by Bob Moore
Afterword by James Kelman
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Dissident Books, May, 2009

Bob Moore, a Glaswegian, was a marine engineer, building superintendent, and moonshine runner. He traveled throughout the U.S., Australia, Egypt, South America, Japan, and China. He also conned women, fought with pirates on the Yangtze, and set a coffee shop ablaze.

Moore might have appropriated things that belonged to others, but he was not--repeat, not--a crook. "I am not a crook at all, because a crook is a man who steals things from people, but I have only swiped things when I needed them or when it would be wasteful to let slip an opportunity." You got that?

The 1920s didn't roar for Moore. They exploded. And whether he was snatching jewelry or in the thick of a New York high society orgy, he embraced the age with a bear hug. And nothing--not Prohibition, marriage, or the police--was going to stop him from having a good time.

Don't Call Me a Crook! is picaresque, perverse, and darkly funny. With its unforgettable characters and strange plot twists, it reads more like a novel than a memoir.

Originally published in 1935, Don't Call Me a Crook! is a mysterious and overlooked treasure. No critics reviewed it. To date, only four holders of original editions have been identified. Only a handful of people seem to have ever known of the book.

Bob Moore is a mystery... literately. Don't Call Me's original publisher has no records of him or his book in its files. No used-book dealers offer Don't Call Me and only a handful of institutions hold it in their collections. Despite intent research, what became of Moore after the publication of his story is unknown.

James Kelman is author of the Booker Prize-winning novel How Late It Was, How Late.

What did I think? That's a good question because I'm really not sure. If I'm completely honest, were I not reviewing this book I probably wouldn't have finished it. Not that it wasn't interesting...it was very interesting. It was fascinating in parts, even. The fact that I was reading the autobiography of a man who lived and experienced the early 1900's made this book informative. And it's not that I'm not glad I read the book, I am. But there was something about reading how this man conducted his life and the way he wrote about it with little to no remorse that was hard for me to take. Sometimes I thought things were funny, sometimes I even cheered for him, but others I found myself mildly shocked and maybe even a little sad and disgusted. Because I knew it was true.

Besides his abundant use of the word "but", this book was very easy to read. I also appreciated the notes added to the bottom by the publisher...they really did help as I was reading it. Probably my favorite part of the book was the afterward by James Kelman. Which makes me want to read his novels. I may have to look him up.

You have to admire a man who is willing to be as honest as Bob Moore was in his memoirs. He had to have known that his autobiography couldn't have painted himself in the best of light. Yet, it seems that he was pretty honest about his actions...good and bad.

So, if you enjoy this kind of thing, you'll likely enjoy this book. But if you're sensitive about things or take offense easily...I'd stay away.

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