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About the blogger:
Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)





Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



Moore, Bob: Don't Call Me a Crook!

  Amazon  

3.5 stars

Don't Call Me a Crook is probably one of the stranger books I've ever read. The memoir was originally published in 1935 by Bob Moore, whose real name was Robert Macmillan Allison. The author was a Glaswegian and an engineer who wound up traveling around the world while working on various ships. He was also an incorrigible rogue--a thief (despite the book's title and the author's protestations), a drunk, a racist. He stole from people who trusted him. He abandoned his wife and child. (At least, he apparently never gave them a second thought after sending them back to Glasgow when family life became burdensome.) One is tempted, given Moore's immorality throughout the book, to call him a sociopath, but I don't know if that's right: he does show signs of humanity at times in the book.

The stories Moore has to tell are often fascinating. Here he is, trying to save a woman who's jumped off a yacht, or he's shooting at Chinese pirates, or he's stealing a bag of diamonds or setting a ship on fire or lying to a man about his wife after he's stolen a wad of the couple's cash:

"But I was not to be diverted by such uncouth tactics, so I just said, 'Yes, I think you should, because it is all wrong to say I was seen kissing your wife, Mr. Flight. I was seen doing no such thing. I would not dream of being seen kissing your wife, Mr. Flight.' (And neither I would for that matter, for where is the sense in being seen?) But he thought I meant I had not been kissing her at all so he said, 'Well, I'm sorry Bobby.' And I said, 'Aw, that's all right,' so we parted quite good friends.

"But I did not go back to their house anymore after that because Mrs. Flight and I went away until all her money was spent.

"But she did not know that it was her money we were spending, or she would have been mad at me, but I told her I had been lucky and won some money at the dogs.

"She thought I was taking her for a holiday on my money, and that will show you what a funny woman she was. For why should I have taken her for a holiday with my money, when she was not really young anymore and she had a house where I could go without spending any money at all?"


Moore's life was anything but dull. This, combined with the conversational tone of the book--if Moore wrote this himself, then he was a natural storyteller--make for a winning combination. The book is also interesting as a historical document. In it we see the Prohibition Era from a drunk's eye view. It was a lawless, violent, very alien world that Moore inhabited.

For a while, then, the book is good fun. Sure, Moore is a scoundrel. It's clear from the start that he can't be trusted. But we're willing to forgive him some of his offenses because he has a certain charm. For all his adventures and crimes the book even becomes tedious about halfway through...until we're woken up again. On page 202 Moore does something terrible. And he mentions it almost in passing, as if it were nothing at all. It is so shocking that I had to reread the paragraph to  make sure I'd understood him correctly. What he did thoroughly undermines any positive thoughts we might have had about the man. It's a strange thing, 200-odd pages into a memoir, to find out something like this about the narrator, to have our feelings for the character upended.

So in the end this was a uniquely disturbing book, unique as I've never experienced anything quite like this--the shocking revelation from a narrator I thought I understood, his deadpan delivery, his apparent indifference. A very strange book, but worth reading.

Comments

1.

Well, this has really piqued my interest. I really like the idea of something terrible being casually dropped in - it makes it more shocking, I'd guess - quite a clever device (if it were deliberate!)

2.

My guess is that it wasn't a deliberate literary device. The book doesn't seem sophisticated in that sense. Though reading it one isn't 100% sure that he's telling the truth, either, so I don't know. Just dm'd you about this one, at any rate.

3.

I don't think I want to read the book - I'm sure I'd hate the guy - but I'm dying to know what he said on page 202! If you don't tell me, Debra, I'm going to have to find that book somewhere and read page 202 myself! Oh, the burden of it all...

4.

Heh heh heh. Okay, I actually already typed this out for @medbie the other day, so I'm cutting and pasting here what I wrote her. For anyone who doesn't want this spoiler, do not read on!
===========
Okay, he and a friend are in China working on a boat. And they decide
to take a walk when they've landed on the river somewhere, and they
walk far inland to a village where they've never or rarely seen white
people. And the villagers start following them and eventually spitting
on them and kicking sand on them. But they just walk by, because they
figure if they respond the villagers will kill them. So:

"But we did not lose our sangfroid. We kept walking as if nothing was
happening, and all the time we were bearing round so that we came at
last to the crest of the hill from where the slope ran down to Ichang
and the river.

"When we saw that we knew that we were safe, because the peasants
began to fall back and show that they were afraid to come over the
crest of the hill. All except one boy, who it seemed that nothing
would shake off. He followed us for 300 yards after the others had
dropped back and as he was still spitting at us we thought we were
never going to be rid of him at all.

"'Plug him one!' said Mitchell.

"And I pulled out my gun and shot him. Until that moment Mitchell says
he did not know I had a gun. He says he meant for me to hit him, but I
thought he meant shoot. I had to turn round to shoot the boy, and it
was at such close quarters that half of his face was blown away. But
we did not stay too look at that. As soon as we saw him fall both of
us started to run."

That's it. Then he goes back to the ship and cleans his gun, so when
the police come by they believe him when he says he didn't do it.

5.

All right. I was going to call this one quits, but I'll keep reading just to find out what the creep did that makes him unredeemable.

I'm about 100 pages in and I'm finding it difficult to believe half of what he writes, and his cavalier tone makes me think the editor probably has a point that Bob's personality and moral compass was severely impaired by that early head injury.

6.

There's definitely something wrong with the guy's moral compass! Curious to see what you think in the end.

I see that you loved The Hunger Games. Bloggers were raving about it a couple weeks ago, so I looked at it on Amazon. It didn't seem interesting, but now you're raving about it again. Perhaps I'll take another look.

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