Book review – Agliotti book beggars belief

2013-07-07 14:00

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Jacques Pauw pours scorn on contemptible biography, calling it one of the worst books he’s ever read.

If you believe Glenn Agliotti: A Biography, this sleazeball is nothing but an affable and gregarious old uncle who unintentionally fell foul of the law.

We know it is not true. Agliotti is a convicted drug smuggler, swindler and corruptor of our police commissioner.

But according to author Sean Newman, Agliotti is “a laugh a minute” and it has been an “absolute pleasure” to work with him.

Co-author Peter Peigl is even more infatuated with his pet crook. He lauds him: “Your bravery in overcoming gargantuan odds and fearlessness in the face of adversity is inspirational.”

Let me tell you how the book starts and you might be even more nauseated. Chapter 1 is titled: A Wonderful Man.

This man sits in a cell. Predictably it reeks of piss and the walls are adorned with graffiti.

A teenage girl is incarcerated next to him for shoplifting. She’s devastated and sits on the floor with her legs drawn to her chest.

The man starts talking to her.

He comforts her and rolls his bottle of mineral water across the corridor to her.

He calls policemen to bring her food and tissues.

They speak all afternoon.

The next day someone fetches her. As she leaves, she turns to him. “God bless you,” she says. “You are a wonderful man.”

I don’t know if this conversation ever took place (would the police throw a teenage girl in a cell for a night?).

Neither do the authors. This was dished to them by Agliotti and they swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Why? Because it beautifully sets the scene for what they want to achieve: a whitewash of a criminal.

After toiling through the first few pages, I thought it couldn’t get worse. It does. From there it is downhill all the way.

If I were reading the book for pleasure, I would have thrown it away after that first chapter.

There is only one redeeming factor: the size of the book.

The actual book is only 186 pages (if you exclude five appendices that bring it to 219) and the paragraphs are widely spaced.

Some pages have barely 20 or 25 lines of script.

One of the appendices is a transcription of an interview with Agliotti’s daughter Chiara.

Why would you publish the whole interview other than to fill pages? Or is it the kind things she says of him?

Piegl and Newman (with Karyn Maughan) are also the authors of Lolly Jackson: When Fantasy Becomes Reality.

Several reviewers have slammed that book and both books suffer from the same disorder: the actions of contemptible characters like Agliotti and Jackson are so irredeemable that it is suicide to try to portray them as adorable scallywags.

The result is a carefully orchestrated media attempt that is bland, tedious and tiresome.

The book lacks scrutiny and inquisitive analysis.

If one believes what they are dishing to us, Agliotti must be the only convicted drug smuggler in the world who didn’t know he was dealing in drugs!

Several of the assertions in the book lack credibility.

When Agliotti was about three, he was in a car accident with his family.

They had a head-on collision with drunk German tourists.

“As the cars collided, the young Agliotti slid under the seats and somehow became cocooned in the twisted metal.”

Really? A three-year-old boy who slipped under car seats at the impact of a head-on collision?

And guess how the young Agliotti heard of his father’s death?

At school, when the headmaster announced it during morning service!

The book also suffers from bad editing.

The authors, for example, say that Agliotti holds “permanent South African citizenship”. Ever heard of temporary citizenship?

Piegl and Newman have already been forced to rectify mistakes.

A note labelled “erratum” is found in every copy, which stated that the authors wrongly associated two of their characters with drugs.

This is how Piegl attempted to explain the mishap: “This goes to show that writing this book was a complex procedure with various aspects interlinked and some well-removed from each other but sharing a commonality.”

One gets the impression that the authors and their publisher, Penguin, slapped the book together in great haste with only one purpose in mind: to make money.

I am utterly disappointed that Penguin – a publisher associated with quality – decided to publish this book.

I am aware of at least two other publishers that turned down the book.

The book delivers very little in new revelations around Agliotti’s fascination and participation in the underworld.

If you read Adriaan Basson’s Finish & Klaar: Selebi’s Fall from Interpol to the Underworld about the Selebi court case or Mandy Wiener’s Killing Kebble, there is very little new in this book.

But one cannot help but think that there is a book in Agliotti. When my colleague Charl du Plessis interviewed the mobster two weeks ago, he hurled some of his school-yard vitriol at the journalist.

“People think I’ve got these millions stashed away. I say: China, if I had f***ing money stashed, do you think I’d be sitting here like a c**t? I’d be on a f***ing island sipping piña coladas.”

That’s the Agliotti I want to see: raw, shameless, unapologetic and unrepentant. Not the Jik job that Piegl and Newman did.

Newman is no newcomer to the world of sleaze. He was Lolly Jackson’s marketing manager and the spokesperson for the Teazers group. He is now the marketing manager for, among others, Sexpo.

Piegl was, for a short while, the editor of the South African Playboy.

I am hesitant to criticise authors this severely as I know how difficult and laborious it is to write a book. But there is nothing redeeming about their effort.

If you think I’m being unfair, here’s a paragraph from page 84, which embodies the book for me. It’s how the authors describe Agliotti’s bribing of Selebi: “Ever the generous soul, Agliotti didn’t see any problem in buying gifts for his friends.

People did it all the time. He couldn’t see how such an innocent expression of giving could be either questionable or illegal. There were allegations that in return for these payments Selebi let him see top secret documents, but Agliotti pooh-poohed the idea.”

Talk about pooh-pooh?.?.?.

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