Don’t Call Me A Crook! – A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime
by Bob Moore
Bob Moore was a Scotsman in the early 20th Century. ‘Don’t Call Me A Crook!’ chronicles his adventures across at least 5 continents, and many of the waters in between, during the 1920s. We should be thankful that he chose to tell his tale, the more so that he does so with a flair not just for the dramatic, but also the comic and the ironic.
Moore’s first-person narrative is conversational and expository. He includes enough detail to set a vivid scene, but never lets the description of events impede their momentum. For someone who (as far as anyone knows) was never a professional writer, Moore also has an adept touch with character development.
The overall sensation ends up closer to a carnival ride than a traditional read. There’s blood in the streets, fire in the sky, and a never ending assortment of scoundrels and maidens to be enjoyed during a moment’s repose. But the respite never lingers, scene cascading into scene well before anything has a chance to get stale. Think about how much fun it is to sit with good friends around a heavy table, sipping your favorite spirit and trading increasingly hair-raising but (largely) true tales, and that provides an inkling of spirit of this book.
Moore likely embellished his tales, but this is consistent with his behavior as he describes it. He got through this world by casting an unrealistically large shadow and then forcing himself to fill it. Moore was also most certainly a crook, by any commonly held understanding of the word. That he insists we not call him one belies a moral relativism so deep it is rivaled only by Wukong, the monkey king of Chinese folklore. It might, however, also hint at an underlying sensitivity. Moore is in the end a sympathetic character, and perhaps he would simply rather not have his crooked ways thrown in his face.
In returning this book to publication, Dissident applied a light enough edit to allow Moore’s light to shine with all its original wretched glory, modernizing punctuation, paragraph breaks, etc., to make it more accessible to the modern reader while leaving the words themselves largely untouched. In this light, the explanatory footnotes were sometimes a little heavy-handed, replacing contextual meaning with literal definition. But this is a minor quibble given the overall pleasure derived from reading ‘Don’t Call Me A Crook!’