Excited to be taking part in today’s Blog Blitz for the non-fiction title, Chasing Black Gold by Robert Stone, the incredible true story of a fuel smuggler in Africa. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Make sure you scroll down and enter the giveaway to win one of ten signed copies of the book.
“ROBERT STONE was a serial entrepreneur – an enterprising individual, mostly on the wrong side of the law, who spent twenty-five years operating all over the world, before being arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Over the course of his career, Stone earned and lost several lifetimes’ worth of fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, saw men die, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, trading fuel with generals, rebels and businessman, was both his career high and, ultimately, what brought him down.”
If this book was fiction, you’d dismiss the plot as being entertaining but too far-fetched to be believable. This story is stuffed with exotic locations, memorable characters, outstanding twists and turns of fate and luck, good and bad, and, at the centre, a man who takes unbelievable risks in pursuit of money. And it’s all true.
Honestly, I was gripped from start to finish just because I could not believe that this is the way some people live. The book explores a world of criminals, smugglers, bandits, corrupt officials, dictators, con artists, double crossers and every other type of scoundrel you see in the movies but struggle to believe exist in real life, but the author spent his youth consorting, in fact leading, such people in the pursuit of the fortune and lifestyle he’d dreamed of having during his difficult and impoverished childhood in Canada and it is utterly compelling, It reveals in bald detail a world that is totally alien to most of us; a world filled with private jets, yachts, Swiss bank accounts and apartments in Rio on one hand, but also squalor, danger, bribery, corruption, being held at gunpoint, repeated arrest, constant fear of death and finally a long period spent in prison and the US legal system. If you ever want a morality tale, this is it, and an entertaining one to boot.
The author, who writes in the first person and hence is the main character, is what my granny would have called ‘ a rascal’ who is out for a fast buck and even millions in the bank is not enough to make him stop his pursuit of more, even given the huge risks he is taking. In fact, I would say the adrenalin rush he gets from the danger, and the sense of satisfaction he has from spotting an opportunity and making the most of it is as important to him as the money. Any psychologist, amateur or otherwise will have a field day picking apart his motivations. He is also quite charming and as likeable as any confirmed rogue can be, given he is not quite as ruthless as some criminals you read about can be and does have a certain level of loyalty and morals to draw on, albeit of a different caste than those of us who are law-abiding citizens. Reading it can me an interesting moral dilemma since I found him quite likeable in parts.
The destinations covered – Brazil, West Africa, Europe, USA – are all well drawn and fascinating. In found the parts describing West Africa particularly riveting as it is not a part of the world you often read about and is one of the remaining truly undemocratic and lawless parts of the planet left. I have family who work in oil, on the legitimate side, so it was especially interesting to me to see the dark side of this industry.
The writing is fairly straight forward, written as if he is just telling the story, and without frills but I think that makes it all the more immediate and compelling. It jumps around from country to country and time to time so you have to pay attention to start with so as not to get lost and the pace is extremely fast, sometimes leaving you breathless. There were parts which were skimmed over and I didn’t quite get to grips with why certain things happened but overall it was well written and really gripping and fascinating.
I felt very sorry for his wife and wondered why she stuck it out so long, especially with the small children but we’d have to read the story from her perspective to understand that. I was glad it ended the way it did, but I was left with one question – Is the container still resting on the seabed in Alaska and does the book with its co-ordinates in still exist? Could he be tempted to go back and retrieve it? That’s another story.
It was very refreshing to read a non-fiction memoir for a change and as they go, this is a goodie. It would appeal to fans who enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street or Catch Me If You Can and I would highly recommend it for something a bit different.
Chasing Black Gold is out now and you can buy a copy here.
To enter the draw to win one of ten copies of Chasing Black Gold signed by the author, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the Author
Author Robert Stone first came to Aberdeen Scotland in 1973 as a pioneer saturation diver in the early dangerous days of the North Sea. Retiring from diving in the mid 80’s he became a serial entrepreneur –mostly on the wrong side of the law. He spent the next decade operating businesses all over the world from his Aberdeenshire home.
Stone earned and lost several fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, was only one of his many exploits.
His Scottish wife and young children knew nothing of the dark side of his life until the day they were all arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Connect with Robert: