Mr Nice book review

Mr Nice book review

There is an irreverence the Welsh that can be wily and charming. Well at least Howard Marks’ or Mr Nice’s case. He’d definitely give Catch Me If You Can Frank Abagnale a run for his money. Marks claim is to be one of the biggest hash dealers and money launders of the 60’s and 70’s. His biography sees him churn through fake identities like smokers do fag packets to stay one step ahead of the authorities. Which is how he ended up with the name Mr Nice. He bought a passport off of a convicted murderer (a Mr Nice as in niece). What’s more saying that customs didn’t care much that he was a convicted murderer, because they tend to be a low risk when travelling. Not to say that Marks is a great author. He may be a physicist and craftier than a shit house rat, but a lot of the characters in the book were just ribald cliche. Many of the characters are just so stereotypical and lack depth. What it lacked in imagination though it certainly didn’t lack in audacity. Marks talks of smuggling dope to IRA contacts, working with bent US government officials, dodgy Pakistanis and laundering very large sums of money in a launderers paradise: Hong Kong. At one point he’s literally carrying a suit case with $1M through the streets of Hong Kong during a riot. Somehow still persona non grata. This is a book with plenty of crazy moments like that. It certainly doesn’t lack any complexity either. The fake businesses and setups Marks employed to look legit are at times baffling...
Tokyo Vice book review

Tokyo Vice book review

Firstly let’s not mess about. This is the most compelling and interesting book I’ve read in a long time. Anyone that’s been to Japan will know the culture is a perfect symbiosis of beauty and brutality.  Tokyo Vice is all about this, showing the side that no foreigner would ever see. Author Jake Adelstein was a English teacher of undetermined ambition looking for a better paying gig. He decides to sit the exam to become a cadet journalist at one of the country’s biggest newspapers.  Arguably he’s the first and only gaijin (foreigner) to do so.  Not only does the newspaper grant him the cadetship (a job for life in Japan), but he wastes no time starting work with various crime squads in the Tokyo PD. He quickly finds himself in a world of chain smoking, heavy drinking cops and gangsters. Often the only difference between the cops and the crooks is the quality of their suits or their uniform. For the cops, it’s the hat and badge. For the Yakuza it’s their tattoos.  Adelstein finds himself doing favors for either side and finding out all kinds of dirty secrets. Adelstein finds that to get a scoop, he has to become literally like family to senior cops. He becomes very close to a cop Sekiuchi who was his real mentor and father figure, far beyond any editor.  While he goes Gonzo journalist with other seedier cops to find the seedy and very bizarre world of strip clubs of Kabukicho that foreigners never see.  In doing so he becomes not just a journalist but a Japanese, learning the necessary quid pro quo necessary to...
Neil Young Special Deluxe review

Neil Young Special Deluxe review

Here is what I knew about Neil Young previously. He’s Canadian, old, cantankerous and a bit of a hippy. I care little for these attributes. But when I saw this book claiming to be a ‘life time in cars’ it piqued my interest. So Canada’s given us Allanis Morrisette, Justin Bieber, Tiffany and Nickelback. Oh and he played with 90s bands like Pearl Jam that never floated my boat. What could possibly go wrong? After reading Brian Johnston’s Rockers and Rollers, I’m a fan of this ‘rock and roll cars’ sub genre. That book is massively funny. It’s my go to book when I’m bed ridden, sick and need cheering up. Even if this is only about the second book in it I’m aware of. I bought it on face value alone. So here goes… Turns out Neil Young grew up in an interesting time to be a rev head. His life was about with woody surf vans, Jeeps, big finned Cadillacs, sporty British convertibles and a smathering of big Buicks. Lots of big sexy Buicks. Even the odd hearse or two to carry all his gear around in. Some were dumped reluctantly by the side of the road. Others painstakingly restored but never reassembled. Some were bought just because they looked so sexy just rusting there in the barn. What makes this book unique is that I haven’t finished reading it yet but I had to write something about it. It’s clearly pretty readable. To date I’ve not been much of a fan of Young. That could very well change. He’s illustrated the book himself and it’s punctuated...

The Art of War and Breaking Bad

The Art of War is of course the book your MBA lecturer tells you that you should read but never do. It never seems to be a mandatory part of the curriculum, but it needs to be. Because if you can interpret it and apply what you have learnt, there’s no stopping you. Anyone can teach you a literal practical skill. But being able to interpret a classic text and apply it to your daily life is a massive skill. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. So I decided to have a little fun with it and contrast hit show Breaking Bad with the Art of War. It’s clearly obvious to me that Vince Gilligan has read the book. Walter’s brother in law Hank the Detective is the biggest catalyst for it. To know your enemy, become your enemy “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Around series one, Hank Schrader gets promoted to a bigger Narcotics bureau. The squad is full of Mexican detectives with statues of Latino gods on their desks. Hank gawks at them worshipping the same gods as the drug dealers. He quickly realises that these Mexican cops are a better cop than him because they fully understand their enemies. This was the first real Breaking Art of War moment of the series. Later in the series, Hank is in rehabilitation and...
Al Jourgensen Bio book review

Al Jourgensen Bio book review

Imagine every cliche of a rocker you can. Snort a bit of blow maybe, a few tattoos, a few track marks, weird clothes… You’re not even getting close to what Al Jorgensen is about. The man is rock star inextremis. As far as pure drug intake goes, even Lemmy and Keith would be gobsmacked. I was intrigued to read this book for a few reasons. When his band Ministry played the Big Day Out in Australia in the early noughties, I remember tour organisers getting pissed off that he was smoking crack in the car! Or so the journalist from Hot Metal magazine observed. There were also rumours that backstage (don’t ask me if they’re true), he was wearing adult diapers so he could just keep partying without breaking the seal. Al is one crazy motherfucker. Normally that would be a tad indulgent but there is no other way to describe him. For a small Cuban boy adopted by a mid-western American dad he may as well have been borne from the depths of hell. You can knock him out and he’ll quite literally gaffer tape himself together again. But what about the book? Jorgensen talks about bands his fledgling stages, even a short stint at Chicago University heading their Electronic Music department. Right up through some early electronica disco type hits, through to The Revolting Cocks and major label success with Ministry. Jell0 Biafra and Lard also get a brief and very entertaining mention. What I like about it is he talks a lot about time in the studio without being laborious or clinical about it. Especially how...
Leaf Fielding To Live Outside the Law review

Leaf Fielding To Live Outside the Law review

The name Leaf Fielding didn’t mean anything to me. What did resonate was the reference to Operation Julie. It was one of the biggest drug busts in British history ever and arguably one of the strangest. Watch this doco below to get the full story. Without too much of a spoiler alert, Leaf was complicit in producing and distributing massive volumes of LSD in the 1970s. But this isn’t some Scarface gangster, ‘the world is yours’ crap. This was way before the days of hip hop gangsters with gold grills and blinged up SUVs. Leaf was an turned on, dropped out hippy that stumbled onto a very big earner. He had a strict upbringing from a military father and the detachment of a boarding school adolescence. The sixties it seemed couldn’t come soon enough for Fielding. What I loved about this book is that it starts where it finishes. He basically starts with being caught up in the massive police raid and being nicked. The book then rather brilliantly weaves the beginnings of his life with his life in maximum security prison. The contrast between the Technicolor eye opening youth, full of reckless travel and discovery with a bleakness of prison. It’s fascinating because all this stuff happened. Way before a chance foray into drug trafficking, Fielding was a penniless vagabond. It’s fascinating because the world was that much bigger and harder to travel back then. It’s outstanding that LSD was both an enabler and a drug. These guys like many others didn’t think their actions were any more criminal than holding a church sermon. His life alone, travelling through Europe, South East...