I really wanted to like this book. After all, “A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whiskey and Crime” sounds right up my alley. I love colorful memoirs, adventure stories, all that, and I thought I would really enjoy this one.
I didn’t even make it through 100 pages.
There are a lot of reasons I was disappointed in the book. First off, the writing is clunky. It sounds much like you would expect a Scotsman to sound, sitting in a pub, telling you a story after a couple of pints. I didn’t, in this case, find that charming.
Second, I don’t care what the title says, he’s a crook. Here’s his explanation, given very early on:
“Though really, 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. Because I think it is very wrong for a man to waste his opportunities.”
So, he’s not a crook because he “swiped” things, instead of stealing them. That’s perfectly logical, right? And what about his train trip to Chicago? He started drinking with a married woman, got her drunk, seduced her, asked her to spend a week in Chicago with him. When they arrived, he didn’t want his friends to see her, so he convinced her to wait at the station while he went to pawn her engagement ring. He did come back for her – a week later. I suppose she was just an “opportunity” that he didn’t want to “let slip.” That’s a load of crap, if you ask me.
Now, I don’t require that every book be a morality play, but maybe I’ve just had enough corruption and rationalization lately. I just didn’t find this charming; I found it insulting. Someone who was perfectly willing to take advantage of you if he got the chance, so as not to let an opportunity slip, is not an adventurer, he’s a criminal. The rationalization just makes it worse.
There were a couple of things about this edition of the book that bothered me. First off, the cover. Looks like a dashing fellow, right? Well, it’s not Bob Moore, the author. I don’t know who it is – it’s just some guy that the publisher and cover designer thought “conveyed the book’s cheekiness and rougishness.” What? I honestly can’t say why that bothered me as much as it did. I was also unhapy with the editing. I understand adding footnotes to clarify certain points, but editor Pat Spry apparently thinks readers are unfamiliar with modern language, as well as Moore’s more antiquated expressions. I do not need footnote definitions of fathoms, galley, fortnight, winch, squall or subway. Come on! There may be expressions that are less common today – such as “on the floor,” which mean impoverished – but defining what should be basic vocabulary words was just annoying.
I think I am more annoyed by this book because I wanted so much to enjoy it. If I had no expectations, I still don’t think I would have finished it, but I certainly wouldn’t have been angry about it.