Martin Booth is posthumously back in the spotlight again, thanks to George Clooney and a film adaptation of his novel, originally titled A Very Private Gentleman. Imagine his handsome graying head bent over a half-finished butterfly painting at a cafe table in southern Italy, then aiding in the murder of prominent public figures in Washington, D.C. Indeed, this yarn is actually the very interesting inner monologue of a man who makes guns for covert political assassination plots. It is not a thriller per se, which is perhaps why the film has not been particularly well received. But Booth launched his career first as a successful poet, and the novel is a wonderfully evocative character portrait in a way that simply cannot be captured by film.
It can, however, be captured by voice. Ralph Cosham, who has narrated other such deep portrayals in the likes of Heart of Darkness and Frankenstein, brings the same super classy and sleuth-worthy British accent that he brought to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. He can spend several minutes discoursing on the proper way to pack a false-bottomed briefcase, then jump to his philosophy on the important differences between the two hookers he's been seeing together twice a week.
Suffice it to say that the plot is intensely understated, and that the real treat is in this man's ability to understand himself and his surroundings. He is a speculative and moral creature who does not shy away from examining his own fleeting pleasures and broad failures. During these 10 hours of Cosham's strangely absorbing monologue, there is still enough time to thread in a sparse and therefore reasonably plausible conflict of a spy on the run from another spy. The things that might make it a failure as a film are precisely those things that make The American worth a listen. Megan Volpert
The locals in the southern Italian town where he lives call him Signor Farfalla - Mr. Butterfly - for he is a discreet gentleman who paints rare butterflies. His life is inconspicuous: mornings are spent brushing at a canvas, afternoons idling in the cafés, and evenings talking with his friend, the town priest, over a glass of brandy.
Yet there are other sides to this gentleman’s life: Clara, the young student who moonlights in the town bordello, and another woman, who arrives with $100, 000 and a commission - but not for a painting of butterflies.
With this assignment returns the dark fear that has dogged Signor Farfalla’s mysterious life. Almost instantly, he senses a deadly circle closing in on him, one which he may or may not elude.
Part thriller, part character study, part drama of deceit and self-betrayal, The American shows Martin Booth at the very height of his powers.
(Previously published as A Very Private Gentleman.)
©2004 Martin Booth (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Booth constructs his most focused, tightly written novel to date, reminiscent of William Trevor’s classic Felicia’s Journey and the late Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Booth has created a rich, conflicted antihero whose clever rationalizations mask a soul weary with self-doubt…making us question our own moral values." (Boston Globe)
“Haunting, shocking, and tense…Crisp yet lyrical, simple yet intelligent.” (Booklist)
Loved the slow buildup of the story.
Very graphical in detail and very well read.
If your looking for high pace action, this isn't it.
But if your looking for an intelligent and story told from the 1st person, this is a good one.
Slow start but after a few pages your hooked.
This is an intriguing read, and definitely an internal study of the thought process of a person involved in killing. You are much more likely to get the real skinny on "hitters" from this novel than from most of the other tosh written about them. Fascinating discussion on weapons, preparation and personal awareness, all real tools of those who operate in this world.
The listener needs to pay attention, because the information is delivered with a sly self knowing anarchy. The reading is, like the book, understated and quite brilliant.
Heh, I haven't seen the film yet, but I'll bet it ain't nowt like the book:)
One of my favorite books this year. Booth develops this character slowly, like a good friendship should be developed. From the beginning we meet a lonely man, matter of fact, and circumspect about the details of his life.
First person narratives are my favorites, and this is one of those. Our mystery "American," reveals himself in small slices, just as one might choose to invite someone into one's own life. He's deeply immersed in his secretive craft, and under a watchful eye, his descriptions of his surroundings come alive in the mind of the reader.
He is a man of secrets, a certain fatalism, limited emotional intimacies, and rather than being amoral about his profession (manufacture of assassin's arms), he articulates a code of ethics above his surroundings. He stands outside the world of normalcy, and describes a consistent world view by which he lives. It's lonely, but has it's own serenity, and above all he is safe from all the things, and people who hurt us in so many ways.
We meet his customers, and through his eyes we even respect the idealism of their craft. But this solitary man is not without his enemies, and when at last he is run to ground by one of them.... well you'll just have to read the story to see how it ends.
I'm a APP. PROFESSIONAL and love it!! I have over 100 books in my library and not stoping any time soon!! Thanks audible!!
THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER MOST OF THE TIME,IN THIS CASE IT WAS.A SHORT STORY AND A GREAT LISTEN.IF YOU LIKED THE MOVIE YOU NEED TO TAKE THE TIME TO READ A VERY PRIVATE GENTLEMAN..THAT IS THE REAL NAME BEFORE GEORGE CLONEY.. YOU WILL KNOW MOST OF THE PLOT,SO I WONT GIVE IT AWAY.BUT THIS IS A BETTER ENDING THAN THE MOVIE IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN...
This Booth/Cosham combo produces a book in easy conversational style, about what its like to be an assassin or assassin’s assistant.
The scene is set in a quiet Italian village. You feel as if Mr. Butterfly, this pleasant and likeable gentleman, is sitting in front of you, in an easy chair, with a glass of wine, describing his life as assassin. His way is casual, gentle and quiet. Introspective. You cant quite imagine him doing what he does, but the way he tells it makes it seem quite natural and acceptable. Almost.
The irony is, that because he is an agent for killing people, he doesn’t have a life himself.
A good, well-written and interesting book.
though this is the novel from which the American with Clooney came from, it is rather different. in the film they tried to slow things down from the conventional bullet ridden films and to show a more quiet, meticulous, thoughtful man without a lot of dialogue and it almost works ( i like the film ) but there is more inner monologue in the novel that of course couldn't come out in the film without the often hamfisted "voice over" which is hard to do well, especially for this much soul searching. I like the novel very much though be warned it is not a run around shooting things up type of novel. it reminds me of Graham Greene, especially if you combine his Catholic novels (there is some religious discussion with a priest) with his serious thrillers, like Human Factor.
You never have to wait for anything if you bring a good book.
In a reversal of the norm, I enjoyed the movie so I thought I would give the book a shot. I'm delighted that I did, but you must know that the plot line of this book is not at all like the plot in the movie. In fact I find it hard to see where they got the movie plot from this book since they share only some names and minor sub-plots.
Martin Booth is an elegant writer who paints a chillingly intimate portrait of the alien world inside the head of an aging master craftsman of assassin's weapons. We see an older man searching for peace and love after an especially violent and solitary life. Booth's finely wrought depiction of small town life in Italy makes me feel as though I've lived there too.
The narration is solid, without resorting to hokey artifice. Overall, a great read (listen).
If this is Booth at his best - I'm glad I haven't been tempted before. The narrator did a good job with what was frankly a self-indulgent analogy fest by the writer. I kept waiting for something to happen, for some excitement - it didn't eventuate and I couldn't wait for the agony to end.....
No one but an obsessive compulsive person who wants to listen to hours of repetitive ad irrelevant detail.
No, it is uniquely awful
Yes, just to see what he can do with a decent book, though I'm skeptical.
All of it. I'm an avid reader and I like just about anything. I find it difficult to believe this book was published.
I'm surprised you guys recommended this one.Still love Audible and have enjoyed so many books.
Shorten it 50 percent
This book, which I thought was a thriller, is a long florid impressionistic description of Italy, Italian geography, culture, cuisine, and art, along with butterflies and gunsmithing. The identity and activities of the protagonist are kept secret for the first third of the book. Very slow to come to its climax. Frustrating listen.
no way I'd read it
"Beautiful, compelling...loved every moment ..."
This was a complete revelation...to me it was poetry written as prose...I was totally drawn into the Italian culture the author was describing...it was like staying on after a wonderful holiday and becoming part of the fabric of the culture that had impressed you...and juxtapositioned against the antihero's flawed philosophy it was a totally compelling read..I couldn't put it down..I later found out that Martin Booth was in fact a respected poet and this doesn't surprise me...it is simply beautiful to read... I wish he'd written a sequel...don't judge it by the film - I found the the book a totally different experience...and the narration is outstanding...that's my opinion on a great read.
"A wonderful narrative !"
Having seen the film, I thought it would be great to read/hear the story. Being a fan of all things Italian , I was hopeful the story wouldn't disappoint.
Well the narrator reads perfectly and the story although slow moving is poetic in it's beauty . It is so engrossing time floats by and you feel saturated in Italian village life and the underlying 'thriller'.
Having read many many books and having converted to ' audible' this is by far the best story and narrative I have listened to, feeling I now know both the main characters and the wonderful locations. Molto Fantastico !
What a remarkable book!! I hate that they changed the title, but I love that they did because I may not have read it if they had not! A story much deeper than the movie, with a lot more insight into a man who made such deadly weapons, his life and little quirks that made him the human being as well as a ‘shadow dweller.’ Ralph Cosham’s voice and accents had me enthralled I could not stop listening and at once puts a different face on the main character other than Mr Clooney’s. (No offence Mr Clooney.)
Martin Booth created an amazing little piece here, with insight and depth that I feel sure must be someplace near the truth during the times it was written and even today; if you swap some of the lesser technologies to more modern ones. The description of Italy was beautiful I was walking down those little streets, sitting in the Piazzas, sipping Espresso and smelling the lemons on the trees in a sleepy Italian town that seemed to carry on as though the rest of the world did not exist. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys books such as ‘The Day of the Jackal’ and wondered of the life of the Gunsmith these assassins buy their tools from. Descriptive, exciting, well written and well told. This is a great audio book.
"Not the action adventure that I was expecting."
Lovely descriptions of Italy, intertwinned with some Italian phrases, but not the adventure story I expected. It was long winded and boring at times which was not helped by the narrators voice.
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