Friday, June 19, 2009

Unfinished Friday: Don't Call Me a Crook! by Bob Moore

Don't Call Me A Crook! A Scotsman's Tale of World Travel, Whisky and Crime, by Bob Moore.
Published May 2009 by Dissident Books.

Reviewed courtesy of Lisa Roe, Online Publicist.

Click here to buy Don't Call Me A Crook! from your favorite indie bookstore.

I didn't dog ear the pages, so I can't tell you exactly how far I got into Don't Call Me A Crook! before I gave up on it, but I think it was somewhere around the end of chapter three. Don't Call Me A Crook, originally published in 1935, is the autobiography of a drifter, petty criminal and all-around scamp named Bob Moore, a Scottish man who starts out stealing diamonds after working on a ship, and, so I'm told, moves on to bigger and better things from there. The reader is invited to follow his picaresque adventures from Scotland to America, back to England and Australia and onwards.

Two things made this book a little difficult for me. First of all, Mr. Moore is dishonest and heartless in a way that, for me, was not appealing or likable. Instead of seeing him as a charming rake, I just thought he was a jerk. The second drawback for me is the writing. It's pretty terrible and robs Moore of the only thing that could have redeemed the book- charisma. With the caveat that the book I read was an advance reader's copy, here is an example:
My wife did not seem very pleased with that first attempt of mine to get work in Chicago, and she used to cry so much that I found it very depressing, so I decided I would write to my people and ask them to pay her fare home. I said that I had had bad luck and lost my £700 in a deal, but that I would soon pull up and then she could come back, if I had only myself to fend for for a while.

So after I had written quite a lot of letters and told them how things were getting worse, and how she was looking ill, and the baby might have to be born in a charity hospital, they decided after all that it might be a good idea for them to pay her fare home.
Nice guy. Here the reader can see his narcissism (his wife's unhappiness depressed him so he cast her and their unborn child off like an itchy sweater) and dishonesty as well as his tendency towards rambling instead of narrating his story.

Having said all that, even in the small portion I read that the book is not without its redeeming qualities. Moore's casual tone and relaxed vocabulary could make the book appealing to reluctant readers and those who like the ripping-yarn sort of book; I could see young adults (i.e. adults 18-30) connecting with his fancy-free lifestyle of adventure and petty crime. He's no Jack Kerouac but Moore's book falls squarely within the genre of "outsider lit" and I could see Kerouac's readers enjoying it. Moore is like a Scottish pre-Beatnik, and I wonder if that was his appeal for Dissident Books. I'm sure Dissident will find plenty of admiring readers for Moore, but I won't be one of them.


bermudaonion said...

I've read some good reviews of this - sorry it didn't work for you.

Anna said...

I haven't heard of this one, and I'm not sure it's my cup of tea either. The writing style isn't something I would enjoy.

Diary of an Eccentric

Lenore said...

Guy sounds like a real piece of work...

Literary Feline said...

I've read a couple of reviews of this one. It certainly sounds interesting and so I can see why you gave it a try. It's too bad it didn't work out for you. Hopefully you've read something much better since then. :-)

debnance said...

I admire those who are willing to give up on a bad book. Forge on. Too many good books out there to spend time on a bad book.

Zibilee said...

I really like your take on this book, and I certainly agree that the writing style was very amateur. One of the reasons that Moore's personality didn't bother me so much was because most of the story seemed fabricated. I was never sure if I could believe him or not, and eventually I stopped trying.

Nymeth said...

I did finish this, but the more I read, the less I liked it. It was an entertaining enough read, and I don't necessarily mind reading about unpleasant characters (or in this case, real people). But without a captivating voice, the book didn't completely work for me.