Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Nick the Greek and The Mask of Dimitrios



I’ve been reading Harry Petrakis’ novel Nick the Greek, an interesting and entertaining piece of Greek-Americana which is about the greatest gambler of all time, Nick Dandolos, who originated from Rethymnon. Dandolos, apparently, won and lost millions, although Petrakis suggests that an authentic gambler isn’t motivated by money, but by an extreme form of philotimo, a fearless gesture informed by self-abnegation and, ultimately, self-destruction. There’s a good chapter in Nick the Greek in which Dandolos spends time in Paris gambling and womanising with a fellow Greek high-roller, a sympathetic portrait of the arms dealer, the original ‘merchant of death’, Basil Zaharoff (Vasileios Zacharias). Zaharoff is supposed to have provided the inspiration for the character of Dimitrios Makropoulos in Eric Ambler’s brilliant noir novel The Mask of Dimitrios (1939), which relates the obsessive quest by an English writer to trace the career of the Smyrniot Makropoulos, who is a thief, killer, spy, assassin, drug dealer, drug addict, white slave trader and all the rest, a quest that takes him on a journey through inter-war Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and France. The book was made into a classic film noir in 1945, a clip from which is above.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie, the main actor was Zachary Scott ( a Greek). Good entertaining movie, b/w; vintage Hollywood

John Akritas said...

It is an excellent film. The novel's even better. Was Scott really a Greek?

Anonymous said...

Hello Fellow Greeks,
Please check Wikileaks this weekend (probably Monday best since there will be a lot of documents that will be added).
There will be some information about Greece and USA strong arm tactics.

John Akritas said...

Yes, these latest wikileaks look interesting. I've seen reports suggesting that they'll reveal that Turkey supported Al Qaeda in Iraq, while the US has been backing the PKK.

lastgreek said...

The Americans even warned the Canadian government of possible embarrassing leaks. Can't wait

Isn't the internet great? :-)

lastgreek said...

The person believed to be responsible for the 100s of thousands of classified US military documents is US soldier Bradley Manning, 22, who until his arrest earlier this year was an intelligence analyst stationed in Baghdad. Here's the link to the online guardian article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/how-us-embassy-cables-leaked

John Akritas said...

Mostly tittle-tattle so far, LG; though I did read a good cable analysing quite scathingly Turkey's foreign policy, which described it as having 'Rolls Royce ambitions with Rover resources'.

lastgreek said...

Well, there is the surprising presence of Israel in Azerbaijan where an American embassy official from Azerbaijan's capital compares Israeli-Azeri relations "to an iceberg with nine-tenths unseen."

The bit about the US planning to spy on just about everyone in the UN was kinda damning considering that it's a violation of international law. But then again, who are we kidding---international law applies only to the weak. Why make a fuss, eh?

And then there is the language (or lack thereof). Hilarious. Comparing Putin to Batman, Kim Jong-il described as "a flabby old chap," Gaddafi "accompanied by a voluptuous blond" ... lol You know, there is nothing odd about having a voluptuous blond ;-)

PS I have a couple of cool anecdotes about Nick the Greek. :-)

Hermes said...

Apparently there are some interesting leaks re Greece and Cyprus coming soon.

lastgreek said...

That will be interesting, H.

I've read that wikileaks will be releasing documents on some major US banks (Citigroup? JPM? BAC?). Now that could be very nasty indeed. Probably explains why the American govt. wants Assange's head so bably.

Btw, I like the gossip on Prince Andrew. Man does he ever have a big mouth.

John Akritas said...

The Greece and Cyprus stuff is what we're waiting for, though I thought it was interesting the contempt the Americans had for Erdogan and, particularly, Davoutoglu, who many Greeks seem to think is some sort of genius. Like I keep saying, the Turks are all bluster and front and if only the governments in Greece and Cyprus had the balls…

What are these Nick the Greek stories, LG? I know the man spent a lot of time gambling in Canada.

lastgreek said...

Will do, J. I am trying to locate a book I read some years back by Ted Thackrey titled "Gambling Secrets of Nick the Greek." Some really entertaining anecdotes, including one where the Greek took Einstein on a tour of a Las Vegas casino.

Yes, the Greek's connection with Canada was Montreal and harness horse racing. Back in the day, horse racing was very popular in the ciy. (The horse racing track is now closed.) Had it not been for some lady trouble, who knows, he might just have stayed in Montreal ... lol

You know, the Greeks could have set an earth-shattering example to Europe and the rest of the world earlier this year. Show for once and for all that they deserve to inherit the name "Greek." But no, the bloody fools went ahead and handed what little sovereignty remained to them over to the foreign banksters---you know, the German, French, and Austrian banksters. Ireland buckled, too. No surprise there---can't put up much of a fight when you're sloshed half the day, can you? Nope, you can't. Guess who said "NO" to the banksters when they came uninvited knocking at their door?

Iceland.

Little Iceland.

No more debt, real incomes rising, GDP growing. Oh yeah ... they still have their f-ckin' dignity!

How are the Greeks doing?

Little, f-ckin' Iceland!

Tell me Greek politicians should not be arrested and tried for treason. Go ahead. :-(

John Akritas said...

I read about the Einstein in Las Vegas thing – is it true, I wonder? – and there's a section in Petrakis' novel with Nick the Greek up in Montreal winning big on the horses with some wild bets. It is strange how Greeks have gone along so compliantly with the demand that they bail out the German and French banks. I guess there's some subconscious thing going on about Greeks knowing that the Greek system is so endemically corrupt – and that they've milked it for all they can – and now it's payback time – literally. The Icelanders feel innocent, the Greeks don't.

lastgreek said...

I finally managed to get on wikileaks today. We have not seen anything yet. Only 486 cables out of a total of 251,287 have been released so far. I didn't know the material spans over 44 years. I guess we'll have to wait for the years 1967 and 1974 ;-)

Btw, Tom Flanagan, a former advisor to the Canadian Prime Minister, on Canadian TV last night, called for the assassination Julian Assange. Uttering death threats is a crime here in Canada. LOL Someone must have told Flanagan, because he apologised for his bravado today. I say Canadians accept his apology and then ship the brave Flanagan to Afghanistan where he can show off his bravado against Taliban fighters.

John Akritas said...

Right, LG; the rate at which they're releasing the documents, we'll all be dead by the time it gets round to Greece and Cyprus – although what are we going to find out anyway, that the Americans think Greek leaders are spineless fairies? We knew that anyway.

I've got nothing against Canada, but don't know why the politicos there should be getting so worked up about the release of US documents. What's Canada got to worry about? Eskimos?

Hermes said...

6.29pm: The ripples from the US embassy cable leaks get wider and wider – and Turkey seems to be the country most upset by the revelations.

The prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed onto a live television interview to rebut claims from the cables that he had a cache of secret Swiss bank accounts, saying:

"To accept as true the lies and slanders that emanate from the personal hatred of one or two former ambassadors and to accuse the government is a great wrong."

To make matters worse, Turkish officials have started to suspect that the main cause of the cable leaks was to weaken the Turkish government. Senior politicians are starting to suggest that Israel was behind it all. Here's a report from Hurriyet Daily News:

Israel could have engineered the release of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents on WikiLeaks as a plot to corner Turkey on both domestic and foreign policy, according to a senior ruling party official.

"One has to look at which countries are pleased with these. Israel is very pleased. Israel has been making statements for days, even before the release of these documents," Hüseyin Çelik, deputy leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the party's spokesperson, told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

''...that certain political parties in Russia worked hand in hand with mafia groups. He alleged that intelligence officials orchestrated gun shipments to Kurdish groups to destabilise Turkey and were pulling the strings behind the 2009 case of the Arctic Sea cargo ship suspected of carrying missiles destined for Iran...''

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/01/wikileaks-cables-russia-mafia-kleptocracy

John Akritas said...

Yes, the thing on Russia arming the PKK is very interesting. Add that to American contempt, revelations about Erdogan's personal corruption and blaming Israel for all its woes, then Turkey is getting it in the neck from all and sundry. Most amusing.

lastgreek said...

What's Canada got to worry about? Eskimos?

"Snow and freesing weather hit UK"

"UK: More snow and freezing weather has delayed trains and closed schools, roads and airports"

"Travel chaos hits UK after more heavy snow"

"Snow and big freeze cling to Britain"

[lastgreek shaking his head, a trace of a wry smile curving his lip.]

J,

Mi igloo es su igloo ;-)

John Akritas said...

Personally, LG, I'm an Inuit nationalist. By the way, what's the position of all the Greeks in Quebec on Quebec independence? It's true, the English have had a bad week, what with the weather, the Wikileaks revealing the contempt the Americans hold them in and, especially, the humiliation of receiving only two votes in their failed bid to have the 2018 World Cup here.

Hermes said...

The quicker Canada breaks apart the better. It is an idiotic construct with no relationship to ethnic reality.

lastgreek said...

Ha! Karma!

If you want to know why I haven't replied to your question yet, J, it's because Monday night we were ambushed by a helluva snowstorm. I say "ambushed" because Environment Canada had forecast about 2 to 4 centimeters of snow. I think we got 20! times that amount. I've been shovelling for the last 2 days ...lol

Greeks on Quebec independence?

Well, ask any Greek-Canadian, including myself, and he will tell you--If it were not for the bloody cold winter, Canada would be the greatest country in the world.

In the last referemdum--1995--on Quebec indepedence, the Greek community voted overwhelmingly "no". Had only a simple majority of Greeks voted "yes" instead, the separatists would have won.

The quicker Canada breaks apart the better. It is an idiotic construct with no relationship to ethnic reality.

Interesting, H. That's the same, asinine argument the occupation regime in occupied, northern Cyprus is trying to foister on the rest of the world---that a united Cyprus "is an idiotic construct with no relationship to ethnic reality."

Careful what you wish for, H.

John Akritas said...

Extreme cold, like in Canada and northern Europe, is not conducive to great culture and civilisation, in my opinion. Rather than thinking and talking, we have to spend our time trying to keep warm and shovelling snow. It's very primitive. If the first Greeks had carried on northwards and wound up in what is now Poland or England, our race would have become nothing; but, fortunately, our ancestors had the good sense to settle in places with a climate better suited to our innate genius.

lastgreek said...

What are you going to do, J? Every place has its pros and cons. Sure, it's crossed my mine to move to a warmer climate, say like California or Florida. But the American way of life has too many restrictions for my liking. I cherish the freedom of speaking and living freely; America has neither.

. . . but, fortunately, our ancestors had the good sense to settle in places with a climate better suited to our innate genius.

Unfortunately, most of those "places" are presently under barbarian occupation. Moreover, what little of the original homeland remains to the Greeks is constantly under internal and external threats.

John Akritas said...

It's a difficult choice, LG; freezing our bollocks off with one set of barbarians or enjoying the sun with another. Maybe we should check out what kind of life the Greek sponge divers in Tarpon Springs have. Surely, we have to opt for the sun. The snow and cold is fun at first, then it saps your morale. If only Cyprus weren't occupied by Turks and Greece by morons…

lastgreek said...

The snow and cold is fun at first, then it saps your morale.

You want to laugh? After I picked up my little one from school today, she wanted to go play in the snow a bit before we headed for home. "Sweety, daddy is freezing. We're going straight home ... and no buts. Home!" Seriously, it was around -10 degrees, but with the wind it felt like -100! ... lol

That's why in Greece this summer I didn't mind at all the "40+" days, because I knew, come winter, like a penquin, I'd be freezing my nuts off :-( Hockey team is doing great, though :-)

Speaking about Greece and morons, I read recently that Greece has about 200 tons of Gold reserves. I hope that is the case and the gold hasn't ... you know, mysteriously "walked away."