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Book Review

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Book Review: Gambling on Magic

by Lang Reid

Another new book from Christopher G Moore, the prolific Canadian author, but resident in Bangkok for many years. Gambling on Magic (ISBN 974-92942-5-4, published by Heaven Lake Press) is due to be released in paperback in October this year, so you can be first in the queue if Moore is one of your favorite authors.

This book revolves around a mysterious Joey Balfour, an American gambling exponent and former TV talking head who in the opening of the book is running an exotic flower shop in Bangkok. That alone should be enough to start the reader thinking, “Why?”

It turns out that Joey does a little more than sell flowers, but also rents out space for a little gambling action, which as everyone should know, is not quite legal in Thailand. Yet.

Joey is also a collector of Errol Flynn memorabilia, which in turn takes him into one of those webs of conspiracy theories, though this one seems to be a little more than just a theory.

The book gives a good insight into the hierarchy in the gambling dens of Las Vegas, a culture that we have all heard of, but most of us know little about. Such as there are tiers in gamblers, and the poker players stay within their own levels or cash their chips very quickly. For the professional gamblers, life and death are predictable odds, and the trick is keeping the odds on the life side. This is Joey Balfour’s constant need.

One of the other central characters, Howard Boggy, reminded me very much of Milo Minderbender from Catch 22, but this time throwing and catching the balls via e-commerce. Keeping all the balls in the air very well, until he tries just a little too hard with Errol Flynn and finds he has been throwing hand grenades. And the pin is missing in one of them.

In fact, all the characterizations are excellent, with the reader able to explore the emotions of each of them as they circle around looking for the weaknesses in each other, a weakness that can be exploited.

Moore also used the flash-back technique, taking the reader from the events in Joey Balfour’s young teenage years in the 1970’s, through to Bangkok today. This way the different characters are introduced, and the connections between them all are explained, with the grudges or allegiances becoming obvious. Even the way that another of the principal characters is introduced as having a heart condition which forces him to sell old betting chips to pay for his operation, brings the motley collection of souls together is skillfully done.

Moore has the ability to take factual events and weave them into fictional fancy, in a most believable way. This book is written in the present tense, bringing the reader right up to and through the tsunami of 2004. I believe it is his attention to detail that gives his writing the believable immediacy, which in turn keeps you turning pages. And turn pages you will. This is another of those books that will hold your attention right to the last page. An excellent read.

Mott's CD Reviews: The Rolling Stones - A Bigger Bang

mott the dog

5 Stars *****

The Rolling Stones come back with ‘A Bigger Bang’ (2005) and a new world tour taking them right the way through to the summer of 2006. Who would have thought that when the band were formed in 1962, that forty three years later they would be still going and even more incredibly the biggest grossing rock ‘n’ roll band in the world? The Stones hold the record for the top 2 most attended North American tours of all time.

It’s been a long, sometimes arduous, but mostly magical journey. Including many internal fights, mostly between the self titled Glimmer twins Jagger and Richards, although sometimes involving the others. The dapper Charlie Watts was once summoned from his bed as Mick Jagger wanted his drummer at one of New York’s prestigious parties. Charlie got dressed, arrived at the party, decked Jagger with one punch and informed him that Jagger himself was purely the singer in Watt’s band.

Founder member Brian Jones was fired from the band, and then mysteriously found drowned in his own swimming pool soon afterwards; marriages and divorces have been commonplace, except for the long lasting marriage of Mr and Mrs Watts. Original keyboard player Ian Stewart met an untimely early death. Charlie Watts has recently recovered from throat cancer. As well as to many runs in with the law to mention.

Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones on lead guitar but after five years just faded away, to be replaced in turn by Ronnie Wood who, after over thirty years in the ranks, is still looked upon as the new boy. The bass player retired.

When the band hits the road these days, there are over thirty active musicians on stage, with a support crew of hundreds. All the world tours are sold out, and all albums go straight to number one, and are certified platinum, although all efforts at solo albums have met with disastrous commercial results. To cap it all, to the world’s disbelieve, particularly that of Keith Richards, the singer in the band is now officially known as Sir Michael Jagger.

Which brings us to ‘A Bigger Bang’, The Rolling Stones 27th Studio album. There have, of course, been dozens of compilation albums, live albums, and exploitation albums from their Decca days. But this is their first since ‘Bridges of Babylon’ (1997); before that there was ‘Voodoo Lounge’ (1994), both of which, although selling well, were poor albums by the Stones own standards. (Try and name one song from either album...)

In 2002 the Stones went back on the road supporting the release of a double album of greatest hits - ‘Forty Licks’ (with two rather patchy new songs). The tour was enormously successful, and the Stones were in top form, as can be witnessed by watching the ‘Forty Flicks’ ‘DVD. But over 80% of the songs were more than 30 years old. Which proved the point that the Stones could still cut the mustard without having any new product to show off. As three of the main participants were all well into their seventh decade, where also was the point?

Then at the beginning of 2005 a new tour and album were announced. Everybody immediately gets excited by the news of a Stones tour: would this be the last one? Except for us here in Thailand who of course know even if they book a concert it will only be cancelled without reason on the day of the event!

But a new Stones album did not at first generate the same buzz. That was until people started to hear it. The Stones have come out with an absolute corker of a rock ‘n’ roll album. “A Bigger Bang’ is going to rank along side other great Stones albums such as ‘Sticky Fingers’ (1971), ‘Let It Bleed’ (1969) and ‘Emotional Rescue’ (1980). It is also the longest Stones album since ‘Exile On Main Street’ (1972) and, importantly, their most rock ‘n’ roll album since ‘Some Girls’ (1978).

Don Was, who has almost become the fifth Stone, produced the album, keeping the sound very live and in your face. “A Bigger Bang’ is an ambitious wide-ranging collection of songs, hard hitting rock and blues, running to sixteen Jagger/Richards originals. There is not a filler amongst them; all of the songs here could easily fit into the present world tour set.

The album begins exactly as any Rolling Stones album should with a smack straight between the eyes from the guitar of Keith Richards with the testosterone calling card explosion of ‘Rough Justice’, a ribald licentious rocker with Sir Mick getting all bawdy, and Keith Richards’ incendiary bottleneck sliding around like an aroused python. You can hear the sweat running down the frets of the combined guitar necks. Charlie Watts of course commands the rhythm section giving the others a rock solid base to work from.

It is to the Stones credit that they still sound like the most rowdy ramble rousers on the block, and certainly the guys you want to keep your daughters away from. There are plenty of highlights, including the classic blues of ‘Back Of My Hand’, the first single, ‘Streets of Love’, and Jagger sounds fantastic on songs like the bitchy rocker ‘Look What The Cat Dragged In’ or like the dumped sad case on the jilted love tale of ‘She Saw Me Coming’. Only Mick Jagger could sing the ballad ‘Streets Of Love’ with his over pronounced English.

Quite what a bunch of lads from Dartford England are doing preaching to the American President for on ‘Sweet Neo Con’ I am not sure but it is a good tune. Perhaps it is a bit of a sign of the times when rocker ‘Driving Too Fast’ sounds a bit like a cross between ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ and a lecture on road safety. Just for good measure there are also two Keith Richards sung songs. Keith resurrects one of Kenneth William’s finest wordplays on ‘Infamy’ and steals the show with the best lyric on the album “Come on honey bare your breasts and make me feel at home” on ‘This Place Is Empty’.

The Rolling Stones have been top of the tree for touring rock ‘n’ roll bands for forty years now. ‘A Bigger Bang’ will put them back on the top of the recording artists as well. Many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

The Rolling Stones are:
Sir Michael Jagger: Vocals, Harmonica, and a little Guitar
Keith Richards: Guitars and Vocals
Charlie Watts: Drums
Ronnie Woods: Guitars


Rough Justice
Let Me Down Slow
It Won’t Take Long
Rain Fall Down
Streets Of Love
Back Of My Hand
She Saw Me Coming
Biggest Mistake
This Place Is Empty
Oh No, Not You Again
Dangerous Beauty
Laugh, I Nearly Died
Sweet Neo Con
Look What The Cat Dragged In
Driving Too Fast

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