The champagne launch party for Outlaws Inc. went with a bang this week at London’s Goldsboro Books, with nearly 200 attendees and word of mouth putting the book at No.2 on Amazon‘s true-crime bestseller list by the following morning. Attendees included many of the detectives, diplomats and monitors in the book itself, plus a couple of surprise ‘undercover’ guests.
Novelist Tim Turner, Matt Potter, Henna Silvennoinen of Conville & Walsh
At the outset, all toasted the success of the non-fiction work – a journey into the largest gun-running network the world has ever seen, from Eastern Europe to Africa and beyond – with crystal glasses of iced, triple-distilled Russian Standard vodka (to give things a truly Russian flavour) and champagne. There were talks from Ingrid Connell, editorial director at publishers Pan Macmillan, and author Matt Potter, followed by signings as the party spilled out onto the flagstoned courtyard of London’s Cecil Court. The highlight? Apart from the book, of course, the edible Hammer & Sickle cupcakes, Soviet star petit-fours with Lenin’s head on them, and muffins decked with edible dollars and ‘lines’ of icing sugar – all courtesy of cake artist Jules O’Neill – held guests rapt.
Signing copies of the book
Thanks to David at Goldsboro Books for playing the role of host to the hilt, to Jules O’Neill for the edible artistry, and to all at event sponsors Russian Standard vodka for providing the thirsty media types, UN inspectors, diplomats and publishers in attendance with a taste of Slavic sophistication they won’t forget!
Listen to the first discussion of Outlaws Inc. on Wednesday 1 June’s edition of Up All Night, BBC Radio 5Live’s night-time show – also available on BBC iPlayer. Matt talked to Giles Dilnot about the adventures, investigative work and accidents that informed the book. Once it’s vanished from iPlayer, I’ll try to post a recording of the show here, too.
The first virgin cases of Matt’s non-fiction thriller/true crime book Outlaws Inc. will be broken open at a launch reception at London’s Goldsboro Books. For a place on the guest list, more information, or interview opportunities and press material, email matt [at] mattpotterbooks [dot] com or h.guthrie [at] macmillan [dot] co [dot] uk.
Just a small post today, happy memories of shopping for fake driving licences in the Urals while out there researching the book in 2007. Though it’s fair to say this one is not the best likeness of me, it certainly seemed to work whenever I flashed it at hotel reception check-ins. Serious question, though. This was a £5 readymade. I also bought Russian PM Vladimir Putin’s (clean licence, St Petersburg citizen, currently a Moscow resident – and Roman Abramovich’s. Others were bespoke, with the correct picture and whatever else ($10). If you really had a problem and needed to disappear – let’s even say you were someone like the guy on the licence – how hard would it be? It might cost more that $5… but not that much more.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.