Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't Call Me a Crook by Bob Moore

Don't Call Me a Crook by Bob Moore
Copyright 2009 (Orig. publ'd 1935)
Dissident Books - Nonfiction/Memoir
256 pages, incl. Introduction & Afterword

It is a funny thing about Chinamen, but they do not seem to be able to work without singing. In the towns the coolies call "Yo-he-ho" all the time they pass backwards and forwards with cargo. Even if they work all through the night they make it. You hear it from your hotel or from your ship, if you are tied up close.

"Yo-he-ho," they call, "Yo-he-ho." It is like the voice of China, only you do not like the voice of China when it comes through the window and keeps you awake at night.

--from Advanced Reader Copy -- changes may have been made

Subtitled A Scotsman's Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime, Don't Call Me a Crook is the memoir of a very naughty rogue from Glasgow, Scotland. Originally published in 1935, it describes his years of traveling as a marine engineer and working odd jobs throughout the world while living a life free of morals or obligation, dodging the authorities and avoiding victims in so many locations that he laments his shrinking world, unable to return to the cities in which his crimes occurred. Bob was a rapscallion and, yes, he really was a crook.

But, Don't Call Me a Crook is awfully fun if you just lay aside the swindling, theft, womanizing, irresponsibility, murder, heavy drinking, arrogance, bigotry and such. In general, Bob Moore (most likely a pseudonym) was a man who lived by his own set of rules. He must have been rather good-looking and charming because he was able to con women and finagle his way into employment with surprising ease. The cover photo is not, in fact, a picture of the author but one that the publisher found suitably cheeky and fitting to the time period.

Don't Call Me a Crook is adventurous and wild, a bit like watching a train wreck in that the events are often horrifying but you can't tear yourself away. At least, I couldn't. Fortunately, the delightful Lisa Roe gave me fair warning, so I knew what I was getting into when I opened the book. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart but it's entertaining. I especially enjoyed the peek into the 1920s and the action -- there was seldom a dull moment in Bob Moore's life.

My favorite scene involved a little coffee stand where Bob was employed for a single day. In that brief time, he managed to spill some grease and set the place on fire. Never one to own up to the chaos he caused, Bob promptly left town. The story read like a slapstick anecdote. One minute he's starting a new job and the next minute he's dashing away like a madman.

4/5 - for entertainment value and historical perspective.


  1. I started this today, and it is a bit like a train wreck, lol. He's a horrible person, but the book has sucked me in. And I also find the time period very interesting.

  2. Oooh, I want to read that one!

  3. It sounds like a book I read called A Monk Swimming by Malachy McCourt. It wasn't nearly as good and as endearing as Angela's Ashes. I would put it in the same category.

  4. Nymeth,

    Isn't it a fascinating read? I can't wait to read your review.


    It's tremendously fun reading. I think you'd enjoy it.


    I haven't read anything by Malachy McCourt. So, he was a bit of a hell-raiser, then?

  5. Oh you could say that. lol It's been awhile since I read it but yeah.

  6. He sounds like a train wreck. Does that still pass as dashing?

  7. Carrie,

    He was a train wreck that everyone should have dashed away from. I'll give you another example, since I like ya. He had an affair with a married woman because he knew she was wealthy, but he spent quite a long time hanging out with her before he finally found out where she kept her cash. Once he discovered that she had a roll of bills in her locked desk drawer, he conned her child into giving him the keys to the desk and stole the money (this would be what he called an opportunity, not a crime).

    Then, he took her to London and they stayed in a fine hotel, drinking and fooling around till the money was all gone. They pawned her valuables, drank and caroused some more and then ran out of money, again. At that point, he admitted they'd been partying on her money and she became upset. He thought it was unreasonable for her to complain, since she'd been staying in the hotel and drinking, as well. Bob reasoned that she was the one with money, so they might as well have fun on her dime. What a guy, eh?

  8. With a title like that, it has be checked out!

    everything distils into reading

  9. I know what you mean. I have this book, and have started it, but I thought the writing was absolutely unreadably bad. I'm probably going to do an "Unfinished Friday" review soon, because I promised Lisa Roe I would but I can't - can't- read another word. Which is not to say I'm going to trash it. I just had a slightly different take! ;-) Great review.

  10. Guatami,

    It's a grabber, isn't it?


    He was obviously not an educated man, so the language is rough, but I found it rather compulsively readable. I'm sure Lisa will be happy if you at least mention the book. :)

  11. I just reviewed this book too!

  12. :) The title and the book cover is definitely catchy :)
    I like the sound of this one :)

  13. Jessica,

    I'll have to see what you said about it. I thought the book was a riot.


    It's a fun book, as long as you're prepared. I think if I hadn't known what a horrid man he was, going into the book, I would have probably closed it in disgust.

  14. Well, that cover pic certainly fits doesn't it? I wouldn't trust that guy for anything :)

    This sounds like a crazy fun book!

  15. Iliana,

    Yeah, I think it's perfect. The guy on the cover looks like a trouble-maker, doesn't he?

    It's a really fun read, as long as you know what you're getting into. You'll want to wring his neck. He was horrid!

  16. This sounds great - on the TBR List it goes! :)

  17. Joy,

    I hope he doesn't drive you nuts! When you read the book, just remember the guy was really horrid and expect that going in. It helps.

  18. You know, I've been gnawing away at this one for weeks, and I'm not very far in. Even though I, too, was prepared for what a horrible person the man is, I'm just not getting into it. Mostly, I think, I can't believe that he's done half of what he purports. And I'm finding the voice just a little tedious. Still deciding whether to keep going or not. Leaning toward not.

  19. Jena,

    I've just recently come to the realization that it's ridiculous to force oneself through a book. If it's not working for you, abandon it. You can always write a DNF post about it and describe why you found it a struggle. I'm much happier about my reading since I've given myself permission to abandon books that aren't working for me.

  20. Train wreck, yes, that covers it.

    I reviewed it this week.

  21. Chris,

    LOL Yep. Train wreck.

    I'll have to check out your review (soon). I am waaaay behind on blog-hopping, but I'm also behind on reading and the reading has to come first because I overbooked myself. Sucky.


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