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Book Review: The Colombian Mule

by Lang Reid

A thriller this week, written by Massimo Carlotto and translated from the original Italian by Christopher Woodall. The Italian author Carlotto has experience of Latin America, having been ‘on the run’ there for several years. He also has experience of the Italian legal and penal system (from the inside) having spent some years as the guest of the carabinieri, although apparently he was pardoned after five years behind bars.

The Colombian Mule (Orion Books 2004, ISBN 0-75286-399-1) is another of Carlotto’s books featuring his central character Alligator who is described as a former blues singer and ex-convict who is now an ‘unlicensed’ detective.

Alligator is hired by a lawyer to assist in collecting information which would hopefully lead to the exoneration of an art smuggler, accused of being a drug baron. Copy masterpieces are admitted, but cocaine is not. This environment is one that Alligator knows well (and Carlotto obviously) and the book proceeds at rapid pace after the Colombian ‘mule’, a rather dense lad, Arias Cuevas, is arrested at Venice airport with his stomach full of condoms filled with the expensive white powder. His aunt, the owner of the white powder is not impressed.

By halfway through the book you have been made aware of the Colombian drug cartels, the Italian drug barons and the Yakuza that run the brothels in Japan which have an insatiable market for Colombian whores (and you thought it was only Thai women). You have also been made aware that the ‘anti-hero’ Alligator, has moral scruples, personal demons that he has to fight with, living as he does in the dark underbelly of Italy. As the lawyer who has hired him points out, “The law is nothing but a cover for petty vendettas and back-stabbing of a collection of state spooks.”

By two thirds of the way through the book, Alligator and his cronies are dicing dangerously with not only the Colombians, the Italian drug world and the Italian petty criminal world, but also the Italian police and the Italian government drug agency. Working both sides of the street at the same time can be hazardous, as Alligator finds out.

Towards the end of the book, you have also come in contact with the Mafia, with some passing references to the Nigerians, the Albanians and the Russians. Oh yes, there is a Thai girl in there somewhere as well. Crime is a truly international occupation!

Carlotto writes well with a descriptive style that still comes through in Woodall’s English translations. Take his description of some European prostitutes plying their trade in a seedy club, for example. “They were all young, from Eastern Europe, all blonde, and all had faces etched with disappointment. Italy wasn’t such a paradise after all.” He also manages to show the essential differences, and yet similarities, in the characters of the three main principals.

A great non-taxing read, and obviously well translated by Christopher Woodall. Since Carlotto has already written five Alligator books, Woodall has his work planned for the next couple of years! At an RRP of B. 295, an inexpensive read on a trip to Bangkok.

Mott's CD Reviews: Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band - Live Bullet

Pawed by Mott The Dog Trying to find a redeeming feature, Ella Crew

Zero Hits

In the seventies it was standard procedure for a band to release a Live album from their latest tour. This formed a dual purpose. One - it was a cheap way for the ever greedy record company to extort more money from their clients, and the ever gullible public. Two - it made it more difficult for the pirate recorders to tape the Record Companies’ artists and put out bootlegs on the ever willing fans, who wanted to hear their heroes in concert. Whatever. The seventies were a wonderful era for those of us that loved the “Live Album”, whether it was a single or a double album, or even a triple in the case of Chicago. Almost anybody who was anybody had a live album put out and most of them caught your favorite artist at a defining moment.

To name them all would be impossible. However, here a few of those gems, not necessarily in any particular order.

Deep Purple - Made In Japan
U.F.O. - Strangers In The Night
Thin Lizzy - Live and Dangerous
The Who - Live at Leeds
Little Feat - Waiting For Columbus
Humble Pie - Performance Live at the Fillmore
Mott the Hoople - Live
Lynyrd Skynyrd - One From The Road
Jethro Tull - Bursting at the Seams
Joe Cocker and a cast of Thousands - Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Peter Frampton - Frampton comes Alive (the biggest selling live double album ever)

Ten Years After - Recorded Live (which was to be surpassed by the release of ‘Live at the Fillmore’ when it was finally released thirty years after the event)

Grand Funk Railroad - Live (oh, come on, admit it you enjoyed it)

I have to include Hendrix - In the West. Even though it was released posthumously, it still really cooks and would leave any present day guitarist’s album in its shadow.

Kiss - Alive - both One and Two (ah, come on, they were fun)
Lou Reeds - Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal
AC/DC - If You Want Blood You Got It
Aerosmith - Live Bootleg
Fairport Convention - Full House
Neil Diamond - Hot August Night (do not ccoff until you have actually heard it)
The Rolling Stones - Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out
Allman Brothers - Live at the Fillmore East

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - Welcome Back My Friends to The Show That Never Ends (now they also had to release a live triple album just to get half their show on one release)

Ted Nugent - Double Live Gonzo
Hawkwind - Space Ritual Live
Uriah Heep - Live
Rory Gallagher - Live in Europe
Genesis - Live (the first one with the classic five piece)
Derek and the Dominoes (also) - Live at the Fillmore East
Slade - Alive
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young - Four Way Street

And I have to include Nutz - Live Cutz, but I refuse to include Led Zeppelin’s - The Song Remains the Same. One listen to the release of ‘How The West Was Won’, released in 2003, will show you what a pathetic live release that was. I apologize for anybody’s personal favorite I have missed out, but as you can see, there were quite a lot of fantastic live albums from this glorious era. One band that is glaringly obvious is Black Sabbath, who did not get to release an approved live album until the turn of the millennium.

One person who nearly had his entire career ruined by the live album was poor old Bob Seger. This album was recorded in Cobo Hall in Seger’s home town of Detroit in 1975, and unfortunately caught this very talented band on a bad night. There are so many bad things about this recording, it is difficult to know where to start. The selection of songs is as good as any. For such a great songwriter as Bob Seger, why! oh why! are there so many covers?

The show kicks off by the band butchering Tina Turner’s ‘Nut Bush City Limits’. What they do to Van Morrison’s ‘I’ve Been Working’ and Bo Diddley’s signature tune ‘Bo Diddley’ should have the band up for musical murder. Not that the band does any favors to Bob Seger’s own songs. The version of the moving ballad ‘Turn the Page’ can give even the hardest cowboy a tear in his eye. The studio recorded version is taken at such a ridiculously fast pace that one can only assume that the band members had one thought in common - going home. Merely the last two songs, Seger’s own classic ‘Get Out Of Denver’ (who Eddie & the Hot Rods covered better anyway) and the final rave up on E. Anderson’s ‘Let it Rock’, when the band finally lets it all hang out, give the album any credibility.

The production of this paper thin album is credited to Bob Seger and Punch. I feel it would have been better off left to Judy. Anybody having seen Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band live in concert will know that they can turn in a good show. Anybody having listened to this album would not believe you. The album cover is also as rushed and as rubbish as the music within.

Musical Murderers on this recording

Bob Seger - Lead Vocals, Guitar, and Piano
Drew Abbott (probably of Abbott and Costello) - Lead Guitar
Alto Reed (Oh, how witty, well at least something to laugh about with this collection) - Tenor, Alto, and Baritone Saxophones

Robyn Robbins (you just know his real name is ‘Robin’) - Organ, Clavinet, Melotrone, and more Piano
Chris Campbell - Bass Guitar
Charlie Allen Martin - Drums

Songs Butchered Here

Nut Bush City Limits
Travellin’ Man
Beautiful Loser
Jody Girl
I’ve Been Working
Turn The Page
Bo Diddley
Ramlin’ Gamblin’ Man
Lookin’ Back
Get Out Of Denver
Let It Rock

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