Editor reviews

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
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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.
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Critic reviews

“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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Keith on 05-04-11

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.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Geoff on 24-01-12

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 !

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Brendan on 07-09-10

Slow burning, but leaves a warm glow

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:)


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13 of 15 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Ramon on 26-10-10

Slow start but after a few pages your hooked.

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.

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17 of 20 people found this review helpful

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