Bob Moore: Don't Call Me A Crook!

by Rachel Baker on June 9, 2009

Don’t Call Me A Crook is a lost memoir originally published in 1935 by Hurst & Blackett, Ltd. Its original publication name was Don’t Call Me a Crook: My True Autobiography, and was reprinted by Dissident Books this year with the addition of the subtitle “A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime“.

Bob is a crook, a liar, a thief and a murderer. He has traveled the world and can’t go back to some of the places he enjoyed the most, because of his crimes. He’s a racist, an alcoholic and an opportunist. He’s a crappy husband, an absent father, and yet, you get the sense that he does care about some people in general. Bob is the type of person you expect to see at the neighborhood dive, drinking way more whiskey than he probably should and weaving a tale of excitement that makes the young people in the bar envy his life of adventure, and not thinking until the next day (after the hangover has been nursed) what a freak that guy at the bar last night was.

He doesn’t see himself as a crook though:

“Because I think it is very wrong for a man to waste his opportunities. But a crook is a man who does not wait for opportunities; a crook is a man who makes his opportunities. I would never be a crook, because I would not choose to live by a life of crime.”

Bob Moore spends the the whole book explaining how he isn’t a crook. ‘I did this but, it was because of that.’ and ‘I killed a man, but it was because someone else said to, and I didn’t think before I pulled the trigger.’ He takes no responsibility for his actions and reasons that the crimes he committed were because of other people.

In this autobiography Bob Moore tells us in very meticulous detail why he can’t go back to all the places he’d like to go back and the rational as to why he acted the way he did. In some ways, I think good ol’ Bob thought he was helping people to learn the lessons of life –

“I suppose there are people that would say I should have got back quicker to meet her, but I really think she learnt a valuable lesson, because now if she ever has a daughter that she has to warn about how dangerous it is to get talking to a strange man in a train she will be able to speak from personal experience.”

I’ve never read a book where I despised the main character as much as I did Bob. There was nothing endearing about this man at all in the book. But the book is an autobiography probably written in the 1920s and published in the 1930s. I bring this up because life was extremely different then. Bob was an immigrant from Glasgow, he had to figure out a way to make it in the world. He chose a life of what we would consider crime. Personally, I think he was crazy.

Strangely, I enjoyed Don’t Call Me a Crook!. It is a raw autobiography written by a man who was not a literary genius (not even close). The current publisher, Dissent Books, does a great job of leaving footnotes to explain terms and phrases we may not use today; while at the same time, leaving the book probably as raw as the day Bob Moore started putting pen to paper. The tone was very conversational and kept me engaged. Towards the end the story began to drag a bit, but that’s something that happens in most memoirs I’ve read.

This is not a book I think I would pick up in a bookstore, however, I’m happy I had the opportunity to read it. After completing Don’t Call Me a Crook!, I can’t help but wonder if Bob Moore every actually re-read what he wrote and found himself to be as despicable as I found him, and whether at some point in his life if he came to the conclusion he was in fact a crook. I also can’t help but wonder if this stuff really did happen or if Bob Moore was just trying to make some money with his talent for storytelling.

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