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Book Review: The Family Business

by Lang Reid

Another new book from yet another author who spends his time commuting between the USA and SE Asia. The Family Business (ISBN 9-7483-0375-6, Asia Books) was published in 2003 and appears to be a first for author Byron Bales. Bales is described as a private investigator who is licensed as such all over the world, and in the Kingdom of Thailand, and has visited some 170 countries to carry out his assignments.

With that knowledge of the author, and The Family Business being claimed to be based on a composite of true cases, where “only the names have been changed to protect the guilty” (I have read that line before, so it is not original) one can only presume that the central character called Mike Roth, an insurance investigator, is the paperback version of Byron Bales, drawing on his 170 countries worth of assignments. Roth is also your archetypal wisecracking gumshoe. Is Bales, I wonder?

The book revolves around Rachel (but using many aliases), who is running multiple insurance scams, becoming the grieving widow and collecting the insurance. She is aided and abetted in this by her brother Jordan (also multitudinous aliases), with whom she has had a long term incestuous arrangement. As Roth says somewhere towards the end of the tale, “The family that lays together, slays together.”

These scams involve the Philippines, a country where even death certificates are dodgy, let alone the actual deaths themselves. In the early part of the book you are then presented with a body, apparently insured under the name of Peter MacMillan, a honkytonk girl called Lolita and a missing person called O’Toole. These are all tied together by a cop on the take in Manila, not what you would call a ‘rara avis’ though it takes Roth to work out the connections!

The fraudsters are uncovered by Roth, who then changes sides and uses his street smarts to guide the brother and sister towards the Mecca of the millions, or should that be the MacMillan millions? Throw in a gormless minor diplomat from the American Embassy, an infatuated plain Jane in New York and a dog and you almost have all the ingredients. Almost.

It is an airport novel and at over 300 pages, is a long haul novel for the mind numbingly boring flights from Bangkok (Roth’s home town) to anywhere outside Thailand, no matter how many pre-cooked dinners the smiling attendants will give you. As such, it fits the genre and is written with short enough chapters that it can be put down and picked up at will. The final pages were not really surprising, and I felt that author Bales did not keep Roth’s character constant throughout the book, but this is a minor complaint. The plot is tortuous enough to keep you second-guessing and not get it right all the time. As it says on the front cover, “Greed. Lust. Death. It’s all in a day’s work.” It’s all there.

The review copy was made available by the publishers and has an RRP of 450 baht and should be in stock at most good booksellers.


Mott's CD Reviews:  John Eddie - Who The Hell Is John Eddie?

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Who the Hell is John Eddie? Well, let old Mott the Dog tell you. John Eddie is a rocker from Jersey, very much in the mould of Bruce Springstein, John Cougar, or Jon Bon Jovi, who is definitely over the age of forty and has written the ultimate road album ... and here it is for your perusal.

John Eddie spent the first twenty years of his life trying to be a rock icon, which must have been a bit hard as he was always respected in the music business, although his partying lifestyle was one of legend that will always leave him with a bad boy reputation to live down. However, it was his contemporaries who went onto fame and fortune playing on the large stages of rock & roll stadiums, while John Eddie has not yet made that final step. But I can comfortably predict that this album will change all that.

John Eddie has surrounded himself with a bunch of his mates to form a band who, fortunately for him, include some of the finest musicians that are available in the United States of America. A tighter outfit as they are cannot be improved. John Eddie and his band are now out on the road touring all over the States, promoting the album and recording a DVD for release in 2004 to sold out houses, getting to play in bigger venues as the word spreads. So remember, you heard the word on John Eddie first from Mott the Dog.

Like any road dog, John Eddie has had his ups and downs, kicks, scrapes, and formed views on other beings that have crossed his life. So that’s what you get in the songs, a potted history on life out on the road, sometimes uplifting, sometimes depressing, or full of sorrow, or just good old outrageously funny. Stretched over the twelve songs on this album you run the full gauntlet of all these emotions, giving the whole collection a very well-rounded feeling. The musicianship is superb.

The guitars are played by Kenny Vaughn and PK Lavengood, sometimes belting out the licks and at other times laying down sympathetic simple chords to add emotion to John Eddie’s thoughts. Jim Dickson does a wonderful job with the keyboard arrangements, keeping it simple while not leaving any holes. Kenny Aronoff puts the backbone into all the rhythms, whilst on bass guitar is the wonderful Kenny Aaronson, who adds his own distinctive style to proceedings.

The opening gambit of ‘If You’re Here When I Get Back’ sets the theme for the album.

“Kiss me baby on the curb,

Throw your arms around my waist,

Send me off with your sweet words,

Say a little prayer,

Show a little faith.

These boots are broken in,

from always leaving you,

This road takes a lot of turns,

Each one leads me back to you.”

You are then taken off from song to song into the world according to John Eddie, sometimes interesting, always controversial, heartbreaking if he wants to be, and very irreverent. However, you cannot help but forgive a guy anything who has written two songs such as ‘Forty’ and ‘Play Some Skynyrd’. The later being a wonderful anthem to any band that has ever played and been heckled from the loud mouth in the crowd to hear something he knows, so he doesn’t have to make the effort to listen to something new. ‘Forty’ will put a rye smile on the lips of anybody who has reached that remarkable mile stone. (Mott is 329 in dog years, you work it out.)

In ‘Play Some Skynyrd’ you also get the answer to the meaning of Life, what more do you want for your buck? Well, actually you do get a bit more. If you leave your CD on play after the last official song, it does not take long for you to discover two extra, hidden, un-credited songs tacked onto the end.

Next time you are in Tahitian Queen, ask the D.J. to play ‘Low Life’, then next time you are in your local CD shop, pick up a copy of ‘Who The Hell Is John Eddie?’. So hopefully the next John Eddie album will be called ‘Hey, It’s Me, John Eddie, the Star’.

Musicians

John Eddie - Vocals and Acoustic Guitar

Kenny Aronoff - Drums

PK Lavengood - Guitars

Kenny Vaughn - Guitars

Jim Dickson - Keyboards

and the final Kenny, Kenny Aaronson - Bass Guitar, long side burns, shades and violently colored jackets

The Songs

If You’re Here When I Get Back

Let me Down Hard

Jesus Is Coming

Family Tree

Low Life

Everything

Place You Go

Nobody’s Happy

Shothole Bar

Forty

Play Some Skynyrd

It Doesn’t Get Better Than This

Plus two bonus tracks

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]