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Book reviews: The Only Girl, The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-old Man | Books | Entertainment

Category: Art & Culture,Books

girl

MEMORABLE: Author Robin Green worked with the legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, right (Image: HASSELBLAD X1D/MARC POKEMPNER)

For example, Sylvia Patterson’s I’m Not With The Band featured not only her fantastic pop reminiscences but also her relationship with her alcoholic mother. In The Only Girl, Robin Green not only recalls her entertaining memories of working on Rolling Stone magazine in its 1970s heyday but also her experience of sleeping with “almost every man I met in those days”.

Green began working at the cult American rock magazine in 1971 after a stint as Stan Lee’s secretary at Marvel Comics. Her first Rolling Stone story was about Marvel and after that, she became the only woman on the masthead – where the writers are listed – of the magazine. She vividly recalls what it was like to be at the heart of American counterculture of the time, complete with tons of sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

How was it for her? She later recalled that “…my years at Rolling Stone were some of the best years in my life – but also the worst” and that sounds about right.

For every great moment spent meeting big stars and working with interesting people like up-and-coming photographer Annie Leibovitz, there were really awful ones, such as a deeply unpleasant press junket to New Mexico to meet Dennis Hopper who was “…loaded to the gills, feeling put upon by our presence… and an absolute pig to the groupies with whom he stocked his house”.

GIRL BOOK

The Only Girl - My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone (Image: FREE )

Green and the other women on Rolling Stone, who were mostly editorial assistants, appear to be the ones who are doing all the heavy lifting on the magazine while the freaky men freaked out.

“Mostly the girls’ life was at the office, serving the boys,” Green writes.

And frankly, it sounds awful. Green eventually lost her place on the masthead, getting the sack after being asked to write a profile of JFK’s son Robert F Kennedy and  sleeping with him.

Green’s book is a no-holds-barred story of a woman trying to fi nd her way in uncharted waters for women of the time and being tough enough to ride out the terrible sexism.

But there is a happy ending to her story as her writing talents led to a successful career as a TV writer on shows including The Sopranos.

If Green could stand up to the fairly awful men she met in her rock writing life, then Tony Soprano and his ilk would have seemed like pussycats.

Clair Woodward   

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The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-old Man (Image: NC )

The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-old Man by Jonas Jonasson

Fourth Estate, £8.99

Anyone who has read Jonasson’s first novel, The Hundred-Year-OldMan Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, will need no encouragement to rush to the sequel.

His centenarian protagonist Allan Karlsson is a delightful comic creation combining a sense of adventure with great talent at getting into the most appalling scrapes and phenomenal luck in getting out of them.

Since the first book, Jonasson has given us two equally imaginative comic novels, The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden and Hitman Anders And The Meaning Of It All.

But as he explains in his introduction to his latest book, Allan Karlsson “kept strolling around inside my head and calling attention to himself”.

Finally, the author gave way and this is the result. The story begins in Bali where Karlsson, now aged 101, and his kleptomaniac friend Julius Jonsson have been running a dodgy business exporting asparagus.

Unfortunately they have also been living it up, spending the suitcase of money they acquired in the previous book. That suitcase is now almost empty and they need to flee in a hot air balloon.

The balloon comes down in the Indian Ocean where they are rescued by a ship smuggling uranium from the Congo to North Korea. Fortunately, Karlsson knows a thing or two about nuclear weapons, or at least he pretends he does, so he sets himself up as an adviser to Kim Jong-un.

Kim is just about to call his bluff and have him executed when he is rescued by a leading Swedish diplomat on her way to the UN in New York after a meeting with Kim. Karlsson and Jonsson thus find themselves on a plane to the US where they meet President Trump whom they find very repetitive, dim and bad-tempered.

So they don’t give him the uranium they pinched from North Korea, instead handing it to a friendly German diplomat they met in a New York park. That, more or less, is how Angela Merkel gets into the story too. And that’s just for starters.

With the future of world peace in their hands, Karlsson and Jonsson try their luck at clairvoyance and selling coffins, but that leads them into even greater trouble before they finally go back to farming asparagus in Kenya.

This is as much ludicrous fun as the first book but with the additional bonus of being set in today’s crazy political world with delightful cameos for Kim Jong-un, Trump, Merkel and others you may have heard of, all flailing around as they are outwitted by a 101-year-old. Highly recommended. 

William Hartston

moneyland

Moneyland: Why Thieves & Crooks Now Rule The World & How To Take It Back (Image: FREE )

Moneyland: Why Thieves & Crooks Now Rule The World & How To Take It Back by Oliver Bullough

Profile Books, £20

In the 1960s, bankers in the City spent a lot of time twiddling their thumbs or enjoying long, boozy lunches. They didn’t have enough to do because they didn’t have the cash to do it with. The City was dying as a worldwide financial player because of restrictions introduced after the Second World War aimed at avoiding the runaway inflation, currency devaluation, tariffs and trade wars that had led to chaos and conflict.

Switzerland, however, with its culture of bank secrecy, was awash with money, much of it dirty. Trouble was, nobody could get at it. Those who had salted away ill-gotten gains in numbered accounts – escaped Nazis living in South America, Mafiosi, intelligence agents, embezzlers – could only dream of ways to spend it and Swiss banks did not even pay interest.

Then London-based German banker Siegmund Warburg determined to get his hands on their loot. He tasked Scottish war hero, journalist and banker Ian Fraser with surmounting the political and bureaucratic hurdles that prevented Warburg from selling “Eurobonds”. Fraser persuaded the London Stock Exchange to list the bonds, even though they were not issued or redeemed in Britain.

He sweet-talked central banks and blurred the jurisdictions in which the bonds were bought and sold. The bonds paid good rates of interest and avoided any tax. Crooks could carry them across national borders and turn them into cash wherever they wished.

Their loot was unchained. Welcome to Moneyland. Today, says Bullough, a former Reuters reporter in Moscow, it’s a world of “Maltese passports, English libel, American privacy, Panamanian shell companies, Jersey trusts [and] Liechtenstein foundations”.

Moneyland is a formidable piece of journalism but also a polemic. The root cause of Moneyland, he says, is that money is international but laws are not.

“If the world is to stop billions upon billions of dollars draining into Moneyland and away from oversight, it needs to act as one.”

Throughout the book runs a throbbing vein of anger at the injustice that allows, for example, the wealthiest 10 per cent of Russians to own 87 per cent of everything in the country. Bullough urges us not to think that this does not matter to us. Why can’t our children afford to buy a house? Moneyland is one of the reasons.

Do we value our democracy? Then we must prevent Vladimir Putin’s kleptocrat cronies from “hiding dirty money behind elaborate corporate structures”. Those who wish to hide their fortunes are becoming ever more resourceful.

Senior Chinese officials have been known to extract eggs from their wives, fertilise them and then implant them in Japanese women. Under Japanese law, the surrogate is the child’s mother and her name goes on the birth certificate so the child is Japanese.

The Chinese official can then transfer his money to a relative who is ostensibly Japanese. One such toddler had a bank account containing $17million. The book is sometimes dense with facts and Bullough tries to lighten it with references to, for example, Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger (it wasn’t about Pussy Galore at all but a plot to wreck Britain’s economy – who knew?), comic book Tintin and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter.

Like all investigative reporters, Bullough occasionally turns up a blind alley in his search for the story. That’s just the nature of the game. The trouble is that he takes us with him and there are passages that frustrate and don’t enlighten us much. But the author is using them to make a point. See, you can only follow the money so far.

The title of his book suggests that Bullough has some answers. Well, up to a point. He argues that we should never allow money to be anonymous.

“If real names can be attached to property, it becomes very obvious, very fast, which property has been stolen.” But he concedes that there need to be exceptions to any ban on secrecy such as “film stars at risk of being stalked, political refugees pursued by rogue regimes”.

“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a 1926 short story.

“They are different from you and me.”

Oliver Bullough proves him so right.

Richard Dismore 


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