After reading James Leighton’s book Alligator Blood (ISBN 978-1-47111-330-7, Simon and Schuster, 2013) I came to the conclusion that I have lived a very sheltered life.
Alligator Blood describes a player whose play is bold and aggressive (The Poker Encyclopedia). In fact I have only met one person in my life who played professional poker and competed in the World Series of Poker, a rich financial success that has seen nobody’s get to the top and become media personalities.
This book revolves around poker playing, financial dealings ‘almost’ within the law, profligate spending and those who indulge in this on-line fanaticism. Of course, as I live in Thailand, where gambling is illegal, that has sheltered me even further
Leighton’s book describes a Daniel Tzvetkoff who becomes the on-line money processing king, another field that I am not conversant with, dealing with e-money which floats around as electronic ledger items and where percentages get sliced off, without anyone really keeping the books. However, where the e-amounts are millions, even a small percentage is good money.
What is to be understood is that the credit cards and most big banks do not like handling the money from on-line gambling, and so this led to a new industry where the money was ‘processed’ before it went into the legitimate main steam. And this is where Daniel Tzvetkoff stepped into the breach.
In these financial e-businesses, it was easy to make money. Lending to risky customers, the interest rates were between 390 and 780 percent. So a few might go bad, but at such interest rates, who cared?
However, despite shell companies, paying into other shell companies as part of an electronic maze, it was still possible to find out that the money was coming from on-line gambling and lose that money. Like three million dollars frozen for two years, and no guarantee of it coming back. That was then followed by one of 10 million dollars.
Details of just who were involved in the on-line gambling are revealed as well as the fall-out after the FBI caught up with the leading players, including Daniel Tzvetkoff, whose fall from grace and the excesses of money ended up costing him everything.
After Daniel Tzvetkoff makes his plea bargain with the American Department of Justice, the book mysteriously goes into a diatribe as to whether playing poker is really against the law or otherwise. From there we are given pages describing a drug addict’s life and how he goes to Las Vegas and wins a fortune. Quite frankly the final quarter of the book has precious little relevance to the Daniel Tzvetkoff story before it. I suggest “filler” is the most appropriate word. There are some happy snaps as well for your B. 545.
Leighton has written this book in a conversational style, quoting dialogue between people, dialogue that he was obviously never there to record. This I found the biggest let-down in the book, as the story itself was gripping enough without records which were never possible, giving it a fictional feel; however, names like Michael Schumacher, Frank Tyson and Mick Doohan are real enough.
The Story of the Human Body (ISBN 978-0-307-74180-6, Vintage Books, July 2014) and written by Daniel E. Lieberman, a Harvard Professor, has a subtitle Evolution, Health, and Disease. With the world becoming more health conscious, I felt it was a good book to pick from the Bookazine shelf at The Avenue, Second Road.
My education must be lacking. I saw the book Saints of the Shadow Bible (ISBN 978-1-4091-2948-6, Orion Books, 2013) on the Bookazine shelves and the author, Ian Rankin, rang no bells of recognition for me. On opening the book I found he has had 20 novels in his Inspector Rebus portfolio and was a well decorated writer in his native Scotland. Unfortunately there appears to be more American authors with works in Thailand than from other English speaking countries (and we won’t go into semantics over Scottish brogues, or help me the Doric dialect spoken in northern Scotland, but the author does use local dialect with words such as ‘sleekit’)!
Why do I have such a fascination for gangsters? The only reason I can think of is that having been inculcated with the concept of being law abiding, I am just curious to see what is on the other side of the fence? In the post script, authors Capeci and Musrain write about the mail Gotti would receive whilst in jail from all over the world, so I am not alone in my fascinations.
The investigators have not even found the missing Malaysian Airlines plane MH 370, but already there is a book about the mystery on the Bookazine shelves! With a mixture of fascination and dread, I took Flight MH 370 written by Nigel Cawthorne (ISBN 978-1-78418-112-3, John Blake Publishing, 2014).
My first exposure to a rock guitarist called Slash, was after hearing the band Guns N’ Roses which was led by a rather melodramatic and off-the-wall character called Axl Rose.
I did my usual browse at Bookazine in the Avenue, looking for some book or other to jump off the shelves and into my hand. The biographies didn’t excite me, until a serious looking tabby cat caught my eye. Having watched the children’s DVD on Puss In Boots, I must have been mentally prepared for it.
I could have started this review by writing “Bill Bryson’s done it again. Go to Bookazine and buy this book. B. 468 for over 600 pages. Bargain of the year!” However, the editor expects me to write over 500 words, so I shall continue. But if you get bored with my prose, just go to Bookazine and buy it. You will not regret it.
One Summer America 1927 (ISBN 978-0-552-77940-1, Black Swan, 2014) has Bryson researching the events of that era in America, which was not the most powerful country in the world in those days.
This book has history by the gonads, and dealt out in a manner that only Bryson can. For example, did you know that America did not have tabloid newspaper before 1920, but by 1922 a tabloid had the largest circulation of all. When there were regular passenger flights in Europe between capitals, America was still in the barnstorming days with pilots left over from WW1.
Bryson has the ability to lead the reader quite astray, then return to fact, turning everything upside down that he had written before. He describes Charles Lindbergh’ scholastic achievements as “attended 11 different schools before graduating from high school, and distinguished himself at each by his mediocrity.”
I have enjoyed every one of Bryson’s books I have read so far, so it was time to really look at his style of writing and his subject matter to try and work out why he, as an author, is just so popular.
The first that comes to mind is his very detailed examination of his subjects. The early 1920’s are almost 100 years ago, but Bryson has obviously spent much time with dusty tomes in even dustier libraries to give his readers an accurate picture of some of the great characters in that time frame, such as Lindbergh, President Coolidge, Babe Ruth, Henry Ford and more.
His books cover Travel, Language, Science, Biography, History and Memoirs. 20 books written in a span of 20 years.
He writes in a narrative style, interspersed with wit, including much sarcasm, satire and irony. He provides an immediacy between himself and the readership to allow a greater enjoyment of the facts in his books. Almost a wink-wink, nudge-nudge revelation for the reader’s ears only.
In one chapter he looks at America’s social engineering attempt, called the Prohibition, in which poisons were added to industrial alcohol to stop the citizens drinking it, but killed them instead. This was why Al Capone did so well, he didn’t kill his customers.
At B. 468 for over 600 pages with small font (I would prefer larger font, Black Swan), this is a book which will take you more than one weekend to get through, and at the end you will be sorry you have finished it, being just so enjoyable. It is no small wonder that Bryson has received so many awards and honorary degrees from prestigious universities and even the keys to the city of Des Moines (USA) where he was born, and featured in his book The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.
I was sitting having a quiet beer and chatting with Kim Fletcher, the Landlord of Jameson’s Irish Pub, when the subject of books came up. In his opinion, one of the most powerful books from a local writer was Mango Rains by Daniel M Dorothy (ISBN 978-1-905379-66-8, Maverick House, 2010) the 442 page blockbuster. I had to agree.
Outliers, the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (ISBN 978-0-141-04302-9, Penguin Books, 20090) follows on from his books The Tipping Point (How little things can make a big difference) and Blink (The power of thinking without thinking).