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Book Review

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Book Review: The Pole Dancer

by Lang Reid

A very weighty novel this week, almost 500 pages. The Pole Dancer by R. D. Lawrence (Dragon’s Mouth Press, 2004, ISBN 988-97752-1-2) is what I would call an ‘Airport’ novel, the genre being one that you can pick up and put down at will (every time the hostess asks you if you would like an orange juice).

It is set in today with the US bombing Iraq and fomenting unrest in Malaysia occasioned by the continuing incarceration of the previous Malaysian deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim. It is also set in the UK, Bangkok, Krabi and Kuala Lumpur.

The book is written in two parts, with very short ‘sub-chapters’ taking the reader from one topic to another. I must admit that in the early part of this book I had a problem retaining all the very disparate characters, as they are made to appear as very distinct stand-alone beings. Some are in the UK and others in Bangkok. Some are titled English gentry, others appear shady individuals, more popularly known in Thailand as ‘dark influences’, while others appear to have no real reason to be in there at all!

There is, especially in the first section, a very good sketch of the character Joy, a pole dancer in Soi Cowboy (Bangkok), after whom the book was named. The life of these girls is obviously well understood by the author, including the importance given to seers and other fortune divining. In the other world of the pole dancer, the only way for many to continue is to keep asking the fortune teller if they are going to get out, and ‘when’. They all know ‘how’ - through the pocket-book of a customer. The ease with which Joy goes from seeing her man Simon as a customer, to a lifetime partner shows the renowned shallowness of her ‘profession’.

In the second part of the book, author Lawrence brings all his characters together and shows their true natures. Some remain as fairly ‘make-weight’ and honestly could have been dispensed with. Robbie and Chutima for starters, whose entire function seemed to be just to attempt to bring other characters together. However, the baddies get their just desserts, the goodies triumph and the pole dancer finds Nirvana.

The review copy was made available by Bookazine, with an RRP B. 395. As an airport novel, it is a passable example. You can pick up and put down, it is not too taxing of the brain cells, and it does have a definitive ending. However, the ending I found the least plausible part of the book. In the attempt to bring all the characters together, author Lawrence overstretched my credibility quotient. However, it remained a good read.

Incidentally, there are no notes about the author in the book, which I did find unusual, and a ‘Google’ search only turned up a Canadian author R.D. Lawrence who died last year following Alzheimer’s disease, so he could not have been the author of The Pole Dancer. However, this R.D. Lawrence obviously knows Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as well as I do, if not better. I look forward to more.

Mott's CD Reviews: The Story of Mott - Part One (the Band not the Dog)

Featuring in Part One ‘Drive On’

Weaved by Mott the Dog Unravelled by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Once upon a time in Rock ‘n’ Roll land there was a band called Mott the Hoople - well, actually from 1969-1974. After the loss of their original lead guitarist Mick Ralphs to Bad Company, they recruited Luther Grosvenor, who was re-christened Ariel Bender on joining the group by English singer/songwriter Lindsay de Paul - and has lived with the pseudonym ever since.

But the boys in the Hoople soon started to get bored with Ariel’s fancy ways, and weaving of magic spells all over Ian Hunter’s songs (who had now taken over the sole leadership of the band after Ralphs’ departure). So poor old Ariel was given the boot only to re-appear later in his own band, the fine Widowmaker. A rescue call was sent out and was answered by what was thought to be the only man for the job, the platinum haired ‘Spider from Mars’ Mick Ronson.

Mick had already been involved with the Hoople in helping to produce their ‘All the Young Dudes’ album in 1972. Everybody expected this to be the lighting of the fuse for the Hoople to fire into Superstardom, but of course life is never that straight forward. After their one single ‘Saturday Gigs’, which plotted the band’s milestones of success and failure, was a chart flop (but a great song), and a few warm-up gigs on the European continent, Ian Hunter collapsed in New York on a publicity trip and was diagnosed with mental and physical exhaustion. Hunter recovered, but the band never did.

Ian Hunter stayed in New York, taking with him Mick Ronson to start work on his first solo album. Then forming the Hunter/Ronson Band to promote said album, plus Mick Ronson’s second solo album ‘Play Don’t Worry’. Very successful they were, too.

This left the backbone of the band, Overend Watts of the thunderous bass and the multi-coloured hair (Overend had a year before he turned down the position of bass guitar in the formative Bad Company. Oh! You foolish loyal dreamer you, Overend), and one of the rock world’s great drummers Dale (Buffin) Griffin.

Mott the Hoople’s keyboard player, Morgan Fisher, had cleared off to Japan as soon as Mott the Hoople demised, but second stage keyboard player, Blue Weaver, had stuck around, and as the nucleus of a band, they started recording demos.

This turned out to be a bit of an uphill struggle as the only person in the burgeoning group with any writing experience was Overend Watts. His sole recorded ditty had been 48 Crash released on Mott the Hoople’s last studio album. Not exactly a long pedigree. To make matters worse, Blue Weaver was then lured away by the American dollar of the Bee Gees touring band, who were on the crest of a wave after the disco sensation ‘Saturday Night Fever’. Hey, you can’t knock back a lot of honest bucks when you have a wife and kids to feed.

On a lick and a promise Morgan Fisher was coerced back into the fold and Ray Major, who was formerly with British rock band ‘Hackensack’, came in to lend his great axe work to the combo. Major had supported Mott the Hoople on their Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus Tour, and should perhaps have replaced Ralphs the previous year.

Over 200 audition vocalist tapes were listened to, 60 of which were auditioned. After the false start with Terry Wilson-Slessor, who joined the band one day, and after the welcoming party that night joined Paul Kossoff’s Back Street Crawler the next, Mick Ralphs recommended they take on Nigel ‘The Dome’ Benjamin (one look at him will tell you how he got his nickname).

Miraculously by then, through all the turmoil, Overend Watts had come up with ten suitable little slabs of pure rock ‘n’ roll, and the band went straight into the studio and recorded their debut album with Ray Major’s adding a short little instrumental. Against all odds they came out with a little classic.

Opener ‘By Tonight’ sets the tone with its strident beat and ringing guitar riffs. Morgan Fisher, very sensibly, sticks mainly to piano all through the album, and there is nobody else that can tinkle the ivories quite like Morgan Fisher, who is probably the world’s most unlikely looking rock ‘n’ roll star with his twirled moustache and penchant for flat caps. The rhythm section is obviously rock solid. Helpfully, Nigel Benjamin’s vocals are as far removed as possible from Ian Hunter’s monotone delivery, which further helped them to distance themselves from their past.

The single from the album is a dance floor classic called Monte Carlo. The album is chocker block full of kicking rockers and contains the stage favorite ‘The Great White Wail’ with its intense riffing, heavy backbeat, and some of the most varied vocal wailing ever put on tape. So, with the album - aptly titled ‘Drive On’ - available in the shops, and the band deciding to drop the Hoople bit from their name, ‘Mott’ went shouting and pointing out onto the road with fame and glory. The target the World awaited. You will have to wait till next week.

Nigel Benjamin - Vocals
Overend Watts - Bass and Vocals
Dale Griffin (Buffin) - Drums
Morgan Fisher - Keyboards
Ray Majors - Guitars


By Tonight
Monte Carlo
She Does It
I’ll Tell You Something
Stiff Upper Lip
Love Now
The Great White Wail. Here We Are
It Takes One To Know One
I Can Show How It Is

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]