The Magazine for Crime & Mystery


Val McDermid Interview

Nevada Barr on writing HUNTING SEASON plus an excerpt

Paul Doherty's short story THE KYRIE MAN

Stark Contrasts Michael Carlson examines the pulp fiction of Richard Stark

Have you got what it takes to be a Writer? by Fiona Shoop

It Could Only Happen in Hollywood


Robert Sabbag

Canongate £16.99


Reviewed by Calum Mcleod

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AS with football hooligans and former members of the SAS, retired dope smugglers have realised that their former occupation can translate into print with lucrative results. So it is here. Do not be deceived by the name on the spine; Robert Sabbag may bring the narrative skill and an authorial track record that includes cocaine smuggling classic "Snowblind", but this is the story of its protagonist Allen Long, a barnstorming buccaneer of a marijuana smuggler who brought Columbia's finest pot to the discerning consumers of America at considerable profit to himself. The careful reader will approach this with a pinch of salt, wondering whether and how much facts may have been doctored to put Long in a better light or spice up the tale. There is, after all, rather a lot of dialogue for a book dealing with events almost 30 years before.
But that should not spoil the enjoyment. This is a true life thriller that harks back to a more innocent age when drug smugglers avoided guns and violence and were amateur criminals drawn into the life as much by a chance to get a decent supply of weed as by the money. Of Long's smuggling crew, lurching back and forth to Columbia in an aging Dakota, only one carries a gun, and that only because he has a morbid fear of being eaten by sharks. Not everyone they deal with is so scrupulous. Not the Columbian drug growers, who speak of how much they would regret having to kill the Americanos if they had to, and certainly not the father of one of Long's colleagues. "What does your dad do for a living?" Asks Long.
"He's a hitman."
"No really, what does he do? "
"Oh, no, I'm not kidding. He's a hitman."
From the shambolic early days in Mexico, demonstrating why drug users should never attempt to arrange drug deals, to the seat-of-the-pants flights over jungle and ocean and confrontation with cops and criminals, this is a book that cries out to be filmed. When it inevitably is, get in first and tell your mates, equally inevitably: "It's not as good as the book."

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