The lighter side of Moscow’s customs officials

Tha Cu$tom$ Posse at Domodedovo, yesterday

News from today’s Moscow Times suggests all that glaring and journalist-deporting Russian customs and border officials have been doing recently may just be a front to disguise their real fun-loving side. What other conclusion can we possibly draw from this video, showing a group of Moscow customs men and the mime-along pop video they made in their downtime? Except they actually went and posed with all ‘their’ confiscated goods. Coming only a matter of weeks after the bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, Prime Minister Putin is said not to be pleased. That’s the thing with music. Timing.

Parental advisory: contains ladies, moderate pimpin’ styles and mild scenes of an R’n’B nature.


The case of the vanishing cover

The cover that wasn't (left); and the one on the book (right)

The great lost cover? Here’s one cover redesign that came in from the brilliant Stuart, art director at Pan Macmillan, only to fall by the wayside in favour of the one you see in UK and Commonwealth shops, on the right, and here. I just thought I’d post it here for two reasons. One, because although it’s not going on the book, I love it as a piece of art, and I hope some of you out there enjoy it too. And two? I guess because some might find it interesting to see just how plastic and continuously morphing a book is, right up to the moment it hits the shelves. (And if you think this is a radical change, imagine what’s gone on with the text.) I’ve always been a bit of a geek for outtakes and early sketches from musicians, painters and writers, and I guess this is the closest I get to having a “lost bootleg” from those year-long Outlaws Inc recording sessions. It’s very cool. But the one on the right? That feels very cool… and like it’s right.

German edition is riveting. Literally.

The cover of Tödliche Fracht: Die heimliche Geschäft in Waffen und Drogen – the German title for Outlaws Inc., was finalised today, and a thing of rare beauty it is. The German publisher Econ/Ullstein, has gone to town with a grey-metal ‘special’ and embossed ‘rivets’ to replicate the sinister crates and plane fuselages that transport illicit arms, drugs and contraband across the world’s blank spaces. I love covers like this – they’s beautiful, they’re tactile, and they engender their own excitement for the feel, before you even think about the content. The German edition hits stores across Germany and Amazon on 30th September 2011.

What’s German for ‘Outlaws Inc’?

The answer, of course, is ‘Tödliche Fracht’. OK, lie. But the title of the book’s German edition, published in late summer by Econ/Ullstein Verlag (former home of the coolest politician ever, Willi Brandt) is Tödliche Fracht: Das heimliche Geschäft mit Waffen und Drogen… which translates back as the extremely cool ‘Deadly Cargo: The Secret Trade in Weapons and Drugs’. There’ll be some German press and a quick tour taking in interviews, broadcast media and maybe some speaking in Berlin, with more TBC as I write, around September. For more details, see the Contact page.

Brandt: Never knowingly outgrooved

Check out the Daily Q&A

I’ve added a new section to this site: the Daily Q&A. It’s a chance for you to ask whatever you want, and for me to give you some ‘DVD extras’ in the form of insights and extra content on Outlaws Inc and on my writing in general. I’ve called it the Daily Q&A, because I’ll check it every day, but don’t hold me to giving you daily answers. OK, maybe short ones. Send questions to matt [at] mattpotterbooks dot com.*

Another Daily Q&A gets off to a relaxed start

*Unless you’re a spambot or a troll, in which case WOAH! Hold the email and take a look at this instead. I like it. (I can’t figure it out, but I like it.)

Oliver Stone and me: unfinished drinking business

I chatted to legendary director Oliver Stone back in 2003 for a great little magazine called Jack that I worked on. He was making his Fidel Castro documentary Comandante, and was, as I remember, a great guy. Someone once told me that talking to Stone would be “like talking to 20 different people at once, all of them highly intelligent, but all interested in completely different things”. Well, it was a bit like that. But more fun. As the interview went on, and much against the repeated protestations of a very anxious man called Brad whom I took to be his PA, Stone got more and more into our chat. We had a hoot, in short, and he ended up asking, in an odd (endearingly odd) approximation of a Brit accent if I fancied “hooking up for a pint in one of your pubs” when he next came over to London. Anyway, for this piece I got to quiz him about the people he’d worked with who’d left big impressions, from Castro himself to The Doors. And now, thanks to the new online mag from Jack‘s old supremo James Brown – a great little thing called Sabotage Times – the piece has been republished. I post it here just because it carries fond memories for me. Hope you like it. Mr Stone? Your round, please.

Stone with Castro in Comandante

“Captain, you’re not gonna make it…”

A home movie taken on what looks like a mobile phone or small handcam captures the extraordinary ability of post-Soviet pilots – like the protagonist of Outlaws Inc – to get their ancient warhorses airborne, even carrying 15 tonnes of cargo that – according to the paperwork, not to mention to the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight – shouldn’t even exist. Choice line: “Dammit, I’ve got no film left to record the crash…”

New Bloomsbury USA catalogue showcases Outlaws Inc

The new 2011 Catalogue from Bloomsbury USA showcases Outlaws Inc. Alongside the likes of A.C.Grayling, William Boyd and Harold Jacobson, you’ll find Matt’s full-page profile on page 47… accompanied by a pic from the book of Matt relaxing in Kabul, Afghanistan, after a high-stakes brush with the ex-Soviet airmen now forming the core of the biggest underground smuggling network the world has ever seen.It’s this network, and Matt’s adventures within it, that’s at the heart of the book. To read more, you can download the full PDF of the Bloomsbury USA catalogue here

Bloomsbury USA 2011 Catalogue

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US edition of Outlaws Inc finalised

The American cover of Outlaws Inc was unveiled on Amazon today. It features ammunition of the type transported by the book’s maverick pilot protagonist, a former Soviet Red Army grunt I’ve called Yuri – but whose real name(s), identity, even appearance and moves I’ve agreed will remain secret to protect both him and me. He makes his living trafficking looted and grey-market ammo, aid, drugs, even black-ops forces, to warzones, rebel strongholds and pirate ships. It’s a nasty job. It’s a dark cover.

Outlaws inc (US edition)

Outlaws inc (US edition)