Tag Archives: Surly Joe

If I Fall, If I Die – Michael Christie ARC REVIEW

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

  • IFFIFDTitle: If I Fall, If I Die
  • Author: Michael Christie
  • ISBN: 0804140804 (ISBN13: 9780804140805)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: January 20th 2015 by Hogarth (first published January 13th 2015)
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Genre/s: Fiction/Mystery
  • Print Length: 288 pages

From Goodreads – Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will’s art projects. Soon the confines of his world close in on Will. Despite his mother’s protestations, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces Will to skateboarding. Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape, and fall. But life quickly gets complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers. If I Fall, if I Die is a remarkable debut full of dazzling prose, unforgettable characters, and a poignant and heartfelt depiction of coming of age.

REVIEW

Nineteenth century American poet Emily Dickinson wrote:

Doom is the House without the Door –

T’is entered from the Sun –

And then the Ladder’s thrown away,

Because Escape – is done –

In his debut novel to be published in 2015, If I Fall, If I Die, author Michael Christie references this poem to describe the mindset of Diane Cardiel, a single mother who lives with her young son Will. Once a promising filmmaker, she is now completely controlled by paranoia, depression and agoraphobia, a reaction to multiple tragic events earlier in her life. Her world is reduced to what Will calls “the Inside”, a creation designed to keep them both safe. She has named the different rooms of her house after famous cities – London, Cairo, Venice – so that they can experience the world without its risk. She is so fearful of danger that the only kitchen appliances she owns are a slow-cooker and a bread maker because they have the least chance of scalding and the food they create is so soft that choking is almost impossible. Will wears a helmet all day. He calls her depression the Black Lagoon.

But as he grows, Will also experiences the curiosity of regular boys, and when he hears a strange sound from “the Outside”, he ventures from his enforced fortress for the first time. And he doesn’t die. He explores, he meets other boys, discovers skateboarding, and eventually decides he wants to go to school. It is with tragic innocence that he makes his discoveries, learns how to socialize, learns that there is pettiness, violence and racism all around. Will gets hurt, he gets embarrassed. But he doesn’t die.

If I Fall, If I Die is permeated with beautiful, vivid language. Author Christie’s descriptions of Diane’s panic attacks and mental frailty are supremely creative. The evolving relationship between Diane and Will, especially when Will leaves home with more frequency, is fascinating. The novel is engaging.

And then, all of a sudden, it isn’t. If I Fall, If I Die virtually transforms from a work of literature to an adolescent mystery reminiscent of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The writing style becomes more juvenile, following the new plot line of Will and his friend Jonah as skateboard-riding detectives searching for a missing friend while trying to escape the clutches of underworld criminals. It is a completely unexpected and disappointing shift, almost as if the book’s original editor had quit halfway through and the replacement had a totally different idea how to proceed. The inconsistency makes staying engaged impossible.

Nearing the end of the novel, there is a description of Diane’s first panic attack that took place on a subway platform many years earlier and opened the floodgates to her phobias. The language and sentence structure are brilliant, the rhythm of the narration speeding up as her panic increases. It is a bittersweet chapter. It illustrates how good If I Fall, If I Die could have been.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MCMICHAEL CHRISTIE’s debut book of fiction, The Beggar’s Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. Prior to earning an MFA from the University of British Columbia, he was a sponsored skateboarder and travelled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Bay, he now lives on Galiano Island with his wife and two sons. If I Fall, If I Die is his first novel.

WEBSITE


CK

In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

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The Culprits – Robert Hough

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

  • culprits-cover_14Title: The Culprits
  • Author: Robert Hough
  • ISBN: 0307355640 (ISBN13: 9780307355645)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: September 11th 2007 by Random House Canada
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Genre/s: Fiction
  • Print Length: 320 pages

SYNOPSIS – Hank Wallins is a broken man working the night shift in a meaningless job. Tormented by the tinnitus constantly ringing in his ears, he sleepwalks through life, too scarred by a tragic love affair to try again. When a madman pushes him into the path of an oncoming subway train, this scrape with death re-awakens Hank to the world. Craving a reengagement with passion, he reaches out to a young slightly cross-eyed Russian beauty who he locates on a website. He ventures by plane to meet the lovely and mysterious Anna in her hometown of St. Petersburg.

Anna Verkoskova seeks to flee not only the hopelessness of her economic situation, but also the reminders of her own failed love affair with Ruslan, a womanizing Dagastani rock star look-alike from the Chechen region. Finding no particular reason to dislike the kind, lumbering Hank, she agrees to follow him to Canada. But once she has left Russia behind, she is overwhelmed by homesickness and a dread of disappearing into the grey Toronto winter. Then she receives a frightening note: Ruslan has been kidnapped. She races home immediately, carrying a bag stuffed with cash. Hank’s cash.

Held captive and tortured by the FSB, Ruslan has been crippled by his tormentors and injected with N20, a mysterious CIA-developed serum that fills its victims’ brains with the totality of human knowledge, rendering them insane. Ruslan is traded to Chechen radicals and ransomed. As Anna is now associated with a “rich” Westerner, she is now a target for the ransom. Ruslan’s former political disengagement has been replaced by a new sort of apathy, one that renders him a pawn to whomever has control of the omniscient demons in his ears screaming for blood.

Returned to St. Petersburg and reunited with Ruslan, Anna quickly realizes that her former lover has been lost to her forever, as has her nation. With few options, she returns to the safety of Hank and Canada and discovers that, with her passion for Ruslan faded, she has room for new passions to emerge. But she also carries with her a life-altering secret.

REVIEW

As strange as it may sound, getting hit by the subway was not the worst thing to happen to Hank Wallins, and the fact that he survives, barely, provides him with a motivation that he would not have otherwise experienced. As a lonely middle-aged, night-shift-working computer operator with chronic ringing in his ears, his life isn’t much more than day-to-day drudgery. But a prolonged hospital stay and a chance introduction to FromRussiaWithLove.com changes his direction and leads him to Anna, an email-ordered, catalogue-selected, occasionally-kleptomaniacal companion with a long list of her own problems stemming from her life in Putin-age psychotic Russia. She needs a physical escape, Hank needs an emotional and spiritual escape. Their baggage gets in the way.

The Culprits, by Canadian author Robert Hough, is a brilliantly written and completely engrossing novel that travels from Toronto to Russia and back. The characters are sad, desperate and not particularly likable, and the difficulties they experience are tragic, relentless and often violent. The story is perfectly complicated, told by a mysterious narrator whose identify, once made clear, is head-shakingly original.

If Hank and Anna expected their new life together to be more pleasurable and less difficult, only Fate and The Culprits’ narrator knew differently. For Anna, her new home in Toronto leads quickly to culture shock, home sickness, and an amazingly astute and debatable observation: “The people work too hard, and are boring because of it. They live in nice homes, and watch hockey on television. The cities are clean. The people do not like opera or ballet, and they have no famous writers. They are polite to one another, without ever being friendly. They keep their problems to themselves, and don’t know how to laugh properly.” Hank, in her mind, is a “from-life hider”, perfectly representative of her surroundings. She feels no love for him and has little respect. Yet her position is unwinnable, as a return to Russia means a return to poverty, terrorists, random violence and hopelessness. Hank recognizes her struggles and his insecurities only make matters worse.

These, then, are the culprits of the novel’s title, the motivators that make the story progress. For Hank – boredom, loneliness, disillusionment; for Anna – physical and economic safety and escape from the anarchy of modern-day Russia. Robert Hough takes these ingredients and blends them together into a delectable poisonous stew that is delicious from beginning to end.

The energy between people is an amoral minefield,” The Culprits’ unnamed narrator says.

Enter The Culprits’ minefield. It’s worth every dangerous step.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert-HoughI am an unapologetic Torontonian. Like my city, I am hard-working, irreverent to the point of caustic, and honest. I grow misty with nostalgia every time I pass beneath one of those ugly CN railway trestles of my youth. In addition to novel-writing (when Doctor Brinkley’s Tower comes out in February it will be my fourth) I also like film, chess, spelunking, turkmenestani thumb wrestling and babies.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

The Dragon and the Needle – Hugh Franks

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

  • dragonandneedleTitle: The Dragon and the Needle
  • Author: Hugh Franks
  • ISBN13: 9781909716261
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: June 26th 2014 by Book Guild Ltd
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Genre/s: Thriller/Suspense
  • Print Length: 174 pages
  • Source: Publisher

SYNOPSIS – The clash between the Orient and the West is put under the spotlight in this far-reaching novel of medical and political intrigue. A mysterious syndrome is striking down political leaders across the Western world. Named Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome, or ENDS, it has baffled medical experts. The Western prejudice against the mysteries of Oriental medicine, and the growing acceptance of acupuncture as an effective method of treatment, are just two of the contrasting approaches explored in the story. Then a brilliant young British doctor, Mike, and a glamorous American acupuncturist, Eleanor, become involved in finding the cause of ENDS. They think they are on the right track, but the implications are shocking. Could this be an audacious ideological plan for world domination? And how does Eleanor’s dead husband Chen fit in? When the secrets of Carry Tiger to Mountain are revealed, where will Eleanor’s loyalties ultimately lie?

REVIEW

In the short span of 174 large-printed pages, The Dragon and the Needle, by British author Hugh Franks, delves into international intrigue, the philosophical differences between East and West, murder, conspiracy, politics, acupuncture and modern medicine, a husband who may or may not be dead, and a love affair that may or may not be doomed. Its premise is interesting enough. ENDS – Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome – is killing politicians and VIPs throughout the world. There are no symptoms. There is no understanding. People are just dying. It must be stopped. The fate of civilization is at stake.

Cue the music. We’ll be back after this commercial break.

This is not a novel. This is a soap opera worthy of American afternoon TV. It is peppered with stereotypes, inane dialogue (“He was smiling like an open piano” – huh?), ridiculous melodrama and contrived plot progression. Mike Clifford, a young, attractive and brilliant university researcher and doctor, will save the day. Eleanor Johnson, a young, attractive and brilliant acupuncturist and doctor, will help him save the day. And while they’re saving the day, they may as well fall in love at the same time. “I think I have to kiss you”, Mike says after only knowing her for a short time. And then he did. But just a quick kiss. They still have to save the day.

Structurally, The Dragon and the Needle ricochets from plot point to plot point through questions asked by the narrator. What will happen next? Will Mike and Eleanor be ok? Will their love last? Are they in danger? Who is the strange Chinese man? There are no chapters, just breaks in the action and a lot of sentences that end in …

Perhaps the question that should be asked is whether The Dragon and the Needle should be critically reviewed at all? Just like a soap opera, there will be a large audience whose only aspiration is to be entertained. All My Children and General Hospital survived and thrived for years. It didn’t matter if the characters weren’t believable and the story lines were far-fetched. It only mattered that it was entertaining. Using this logic, The Dragon and the Needle may be a success. Maybe it is good summertime-by-the-lake reading, an escape from the pressures and stresses of real life. It doesn’t have to be literature, it just has to amuse.

It just has to make you smile like an open piano.

About the Author
Hugh Franks was educated at Hurstpierpoint College and Sandhurst. He joined his regiment, the 13/18 Royal Hussars, and with them took part in the Northwest Europe campaign from Normandy to the Baltic in the Second World War. He was twice mentioned in Despatches for bravery. After the war, he was a lecturer and instructor for the Army, then became executive director of a small successful business. He has also worked as a public relations consultant and director of a small recruitment consultancy, lecturing, recruiting and writing articles. He has written several novels, plays, books of humour, film scripts and short stories. A biography, Will to Live, won a US literary award in 1980.

 

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

In Our Time – Ernest Hemingway

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

  • IOTTitle: In Our Time
  • Author: Ernest Hemingway
  • ISBN 0684822761 (ISBN13: 9780684822768)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: February 28th 1958 by Charles Scribner’s Sons (first published 1924)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Genre/s: Literary Fiction/Short Stories
  • Print Length: 156 pages
  • Source: Purchased

My critical eye is half-closed.  I’m writing as a fan.  Intelligently, hopefully, but with admitted bias.  Ernest Hemingway is one of my favourite writers.  And while I don’t always understand him, I continue to read and re-read him.  I’m not critical because how could I be critical?  It would be like telling Picasso he used too much gray or telling Hitchcock that the Psycho shower scene wasn’t quite right.

In 1925, Hemingway published In Our Time, his first collection of short stories.  He was young and poor and knew he wanted to write.  His methodology, according to his somewhat-fictionalized autobiography A Moveable Feast, written many years later about his early life, was to write one true and pure story about everything he knew well.  And so “The End of Something” and “Big Two-Hearted River – Parts One and Two” are about camping and fishing. “Cross Country Snow” is about skiing.  “Out of Season” takes place in Italy, where Hemingway spent time as an ambulance driver and was wounded in World War One.  Other stories discuss boxers, soldiers, and bullfighting, subjects that make Hemingway the most masculine of writers, themes that would appear over and over throughout his career and develop as full-length novels.  And of course, scattered throughout, are episodes of drinking, understandably coming from the pen of one of America’s premier alcoholic authors.

Not only did In Our Time introduce Hemingway as a new writer, it introduced him as a new kind of writer.  His stories were unusually stark, stripped of adjectives, short and blunt.  They seem to begin just after the beginning and end just before the finish.  They explore intimate events in extreme detail.  Plot seemed secondary.  Between each story are very brief bursts of micro-narrative, usually violent and disturbingly casual, feeling like cathartic moments needing to be purged.

Consistent throughout most of In Our Time is the character of Nick Adams, a young man who is essentially Hemingway’s conduit, who allows Hemingway to tell his own stories and express his own doubts and fears and hopes in the guise of fiction.  In “Big Two-Hearted River, Part One”, Nick is travelling alone through the countryside:  “His muscles ached and the day was hot, but Nick felt happy.  He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs.  It was all back of him.”  And later, “he had not been unhappy all day”, as if being happy was an unusual occurrence.  Knowing the history of depression and suicide in Hemingway’s family, and foreshadowing his own self-inflicted death, happiness was indeed a rare commodity.

In 1954, Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  By that time, he was legendary, ranked in the pantheon of 20th century writers.  I discovered his genius after a trip to Paris, where I walked where he walked and sat in cafes where he sat.  And now, whenever I want to read but can’t decide what to read, I usually end up reaching for him, to re-explore what I’ve already explored many times before, to re-enjoy, usually to discover something new in the familiar words.

HemingwayErnest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections and two non-fiction works. Three novels, four collections of short stories and three non-fiction works were published posthumously. Many of these are considered classics of American literature.

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

The Sea Is My Brother – Jack Kerouac

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” 
― Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums

  • Sea is my brotherTitle: The Sea Is My Brother
  • Author: Jack Kerouac
  • ISBN 030682180X (ISBN13: 9780306821806)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: November 1st 2011 by Penguin Books 
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Genre/s: Literary Fiction
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Source: Purchased

The Sea is My Brother is a simple quick-read of a book with an unfortunately bad title. Its plot is basic, its style is amateurish and inconsistent. it reads like the initial attempt of a young kid who just got back from travelling the world for the first time and suddenly feels like he has a wealth of experience and wisdom to share with the world. So why should we be interested in this book? Because in this case, the young kid is Jack Kerouac, and The Sea is My Brother is his first book, written fourteen years before On The Road, his classic novel that became the Beat manifesto and the bible for freedom-seekers, hedonists, and counter-culture anti-establishment rebels.

Written when he was just twenty-one years old and based on his journals, The Sea is My Brother is a highly autobiographical account of Kerouac’s experiences as a sailor with the Merchant Marine in 1943. The two main characters, Bill Everhart and Wesley Martin, are, according to Kerouac scholars, representative of how he viewed his own personality. Everhart is an assistant professor of literature at Columbia University who sees himself as “an unusually free and fortunate man, but honestly…not happy”. He is a responsible member of society but feels there is much more to life than what he is experiencing. He wants “a life with a purpose, with a driving force’.

When he meets Wesley Martin at a New York City bar with a group of his friends, he is presented with the alternative lifestyle that intrigues him. Martin is a sailor, a wanderer, a traditional-society drop-out. He had a wife, a house, a job, but he left them all to travel across America and then join the Merchant Marine. He is, in Everhart’s view, “no more than a happy-go-lucky creature to whom life meant nothing more than a stage for his debaucheries and casual, promiscuous relationships”. After a few drunken hours, Everhart is convinced, as Kerouac was too, that the sea is his answer.

Despite his decision to “drop out”, Everhart’s internal struggle, and presumably Kerouac’s as well, only intensifies as he approaches the ship after a 24-hour hitch-hike from New York to Boston harbour. In only one day, his views swing radically. He asks himself “What folly was perhaps being committed?” in a moment of doubt but then quickly admits to feeling “a fiery tingle to move on and discover anew the broad secrets of the world”.

The novel concludes as the ship sails out to sea with Everhart literally confronting his own uncharted waters. Whatever happens after is not important, the plot of the book is not important. What matters is Kerouac’s initial tackling of the themes that he would explore for his entire career – freedom versus responsibility, adventure and spontaneity versus practicality, and ideas versus action. The Sea is My Brother questioned established rules and presented an option for a new youth culture. It would take another fourteen years before Kerouac could present it perfectly, but its infancy is here, and therefore, so is its value.

Jack-Kerouac-13Born Jean-Louis Kerouac, Kerouac is the most famous native son of Lowell, Massachusetts. His parents had immigrated as very young children from the Province of Quebec, Canada, and Kerouac spoke a local French Canadian-American dialect before he spoke English. He was a football star at Lowell High School and upon graduation in 1939 was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University. However, after an injury sidelined him on the football team, Kerouac grew unhappy with Columbia and dropped out of school.

During this period in New York City, Kerouac became friends with the poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelist William S. Burroughs, as well as Herbert Huncke and others who would be associated with the “Beat Generation.” When Kerouac finally broke through with the release of “On The Road,” he was faced with challenges presented by the fame that followed as he tried to live up to the image portrayed in his novels and facing criticism from the literary establishment for being part of what was considered a fad. He would go on to publish additional novels, many of which used settings based on Lowell – including “Doctor Sax,” “The Subterraneans,” “The Dharma Bums” and his final great work, “Big Sur.” He settled in Florida with his wife, Stella Sampas, and his mother, where he died in 1969 at age 47. He was buried in Lowell.

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

The True Story of the Bilderberg Group – Daniel Estulin

GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe

  • bilderberg_cover_front_2009-bigTitle: The True Story of the Bilderberg Group
  • Author: Daniel Estulin
  • ISBN 0977795349 (ISBN13: 9780977795345)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: September 1st 2007 by Trine Day
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Genre/s: Non-Fiction
  • Print Length: 312 pages
  • Source: Purchased

DESCRIPTION – Delving into a world once shrouded in complete mystery and impenetrable security, this investigative report provides a fascinating account of the annual meetings of the world’s most powerful people—the Bilderberg Group. Since its inception in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in the small Dutch town of Oosterbeek, the Bilderberg Group has been comprised of European prime ministers, American presidents, and the wealthiest CEOs of the world, all coming together to discuss the economic and political future of humanity. The press has never been allowed to attend, nor have statements ever been released on the attendees’ conclusions or discussions, which have ramifications on the citizens of the world. Using methods that resemble the spy tactics of the Cold War—and in several instances putting his own life on the line—the author did what no one else has managed to achieve: he learned what was being said behind the closed doors of the opulent hotels and has made it available to the public for the first time.

The Golden Rule for conspiracy theorists should be this – if you are going to propose that every aspect of life is not what it seems, you should do it in the most academic and intelligent manner possible. Otherwise you will have no credibility. You will sound like a paranoid nut. And even if what you are presenting is true, it won’t sound believable. The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, by investigative journalist Daniel Estulin, sounds like the rambling of a paranoid nut.

In 1954, a collection of the world’s most important politicians, business leaders, media barons and other high-ranking officials met at the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands to conduct secret discussions on the state of world affairs. Since then, the Group has met every year at a different international location. Attendees have supposedly included Bill Clinton, Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper, Henry Kissinger, Conrad Black, Margaret Thatcher, presidents and prime ministers of most European countries, and CEOs of many of the world’s largest corporations. The goal of their meetings, according to the author, is ‘to create a single globalized marketplace, ruled by a world government (which in turn controls its courts, schools, and the people’s reading habits and very thoughts), policed by a world army, financially regulated by a world bank”.

Among other seemingly outlandish claims, the author purports that The Bilderberg Group supports “selective breeding”, that they manipulated the Watergate scandal, forcing Richard Nixon to resign, that they forced Margaret Thatcher from office, that it was their plan for Quebec to separate from Canada, and that they decided on the sale of Ontario Hydro. He calls the entire devious operation “a mammoth machine, which, like an octopus, grows larger, bolder and more powerful as its tentacles reach out and strangle everything and everyone in its path”.

The fact that the Bilderberg Group exists cannot be denied, and the author provides almost one hundred pages of photos and documents as proof of its existence. The problem with his book is that his presentation is rambling, inconsistent, and completely non-academic. He will follow a chapter on the Bilderberg agenda with a completely unrelated story of how he supposedly met a shady ex-spy in a Toronto pub or how he was accosted by thugs in
Italy, changing directions again with a brief history of Marxism and the Russian Revolution. It’s as if he couldn’t decide where his book should go, and so he jumps from activist journalism to personal anecdotes to philosophical musings. While there are one hundred and thirty endnotes, many of his claims are not referenced at all. To further erode his academic credibility, one of his sources is actually an article from Penthouse magazine.

The True Story of the Bilderberg Group could have been a fascinating if hard-to-believe account of secrecy, deception, world power and ambition, an account of the ultimate conspiracy theory, one that seems impossible to comprehend, yet presented intelligently, might just have some validity. Instead, it feels more like the report of a sleep-deprived, paranoid college kid who has a deadline and is running out of time. Better to scrawl something on a  piece of paper, no matter how incoherently it comes across, than have nothing at all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Daniel Estulin is an author, public speaker and investigative journalist who specializes in researching and reporting the Bilderberg Group, an annual invitation-only conference of the elites in the fields of business, finance, media and politics.

CKIn his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

 

Surly Joe – The Gambler

CONTRIBUTOR PROFILE – Surly Joe

In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom.  His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side.  After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia,  Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto.  He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.

For the record I would like it known that I am far more computer savvy than this clip would have it seem but I couldn’t help but be reminded of exchanges between Joe and I in the past.

As the far more discerning and cultured of the two of us, my plebeian tastes run along the lines of strawberry zinfandel than a full bodied red. Therefore it should be no surprise that Joe would be the one to select George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London as his debut review. I can only hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did.