#13 – Secrets of Scent & Daring Desperadoes: A Diverse Dose of Literature and Entertainment

Today I reveal the captivating secrets of the perfume world in Dominique Roques’ “In Search of Perfumes” and the daring escapades of Arizona’s train bandits in Doug Hocking’s “Southwest Train Robberies.” Immerse yourself in the intoxicating world of scent making, from the fragrant fields of Andalucia to the exotic sandalwood market in Australia, and uncover the untold stories of the Wild West’s most notorious train heists, from supernatural robberies to ingenious escapes. Plus, discover fascinating tidbits about Romania’s national sport and a binge-worthy South Korean TV series on Netflix. Listen in as I bring these lesser-known literary and TV treasures to light!

Timestamps:

“In Search of Perfumes” book discussion – 00:00

“Southwest Train Robberies” book discussion – 07:40

Looks on Romania – 16:45

Looks on Vincenzo – 20:20

Books Discussed:

“In Search of Perfumes” by Dominique Roques.

“Southwest Train Robberies” by Doug Hocking

Transcript:

Blaine DeSantis: Hi everybody, this is Blaine DeSantis and I welcome you to another episode of Books and Looks. Yes, I thank you for coming back as we discussed some books that I’m reading, things that I’m looking at, and we got a big, big day today. Lots I’m gonna be reviewing today. So, you know, I wanna thank each and every one of you for listening, for sharing, for telling your friends, neighbors, relatives, loved ones, even people you don’t like about it, we don’t care. We’ll take our listeners from anywhere and we’re really happy that you’re sharing it because I can tell you what another great week of numbers for books and looks. So again, really appreciate you listening and I’m just gonna dive right on in cuz I got two books today I wanna review for you.

And you know I mentioned throughout this year that this is my year of discovery. I’m trying to find books that you might not hear about by authors you might not know. And I think today we have hit the mark with both of these to put it mildly. Okay. My first book is an amazingly great book. I love it. It was called “In Search of Perfumes.”

” In Search of Perfumes” by Dominique Roques. Dominique Roques. Dominique, if I pronounce your last name improperly. I’m sorry. It’s a 304 page book by Harper via press. You know, every year I seem to get a book that is just a little bit quirky, a little bit about something that’s not in my wheelhouse. I’ll tell you what, this is one of those.

This is a wonderful biography and memoir about this gentleman’s life buying and procuring the raw materials that go into perfumes. You know, we don’t think about this. This is a French scent buyer, okay? And he is telling us about his life, sourcing the best of the raw materials that are used to make the leading perfume scents.

Let me tell you what it is a wonderful book with a beautiful cover, beautiful cover, and lots of stories. And what I like about this is he divides this into 17 separate chapters. Okay. 17 separate chapters. Each chapter dealing with a different raw material, a different scent.

And he’s taking us all over. We start in Andalucia, we go to Provence, we go to Bulgaria. Yep. You’ll be hearing about that. Bulgaria and French Guiana and all points in between. We learn about the difference between vanilla and vanillin, we learn the difference between natural sense and microbiologically created smells. We learn about the grades. That’s right. The grading of the scents. I didn’t know that. But apparently not all scents are similar. There’s grade 1, 2, 3, you know, the top grade goes to perfumes, then it might go to something else and down to your household product, which is the lowest grade of the scent. So like I said, we learn about vanilla and vanillin, we learn about lavender and lavenden, which is really interesting because I thought all lavender was lavender. No, a lot of it is not the top grade lavender. That only grows in very small plots. Very, very hard to find.

And a lot of people go to France, as a matter of fact, according to uh Dominique, to have their, their pictures taken in fields of lavender, and it’s not even the real lavender, it’s the lavenden that’s been growing. Interesting stuff. Like I said, we go to Bulgaria. What’s in Bulgaria? Roses. That’s right. The best smelling perfumed roses come from Bulgaria, and they have to be picked in the morning, and they have to be picked in such a way that the, picker’s hand does not touch the petal, which is extremely hard to do. Now, all the pickers are gypsies. I know some people get upset with the word, but that’s what they used in the book. That’s what they’re known as. They’re gypsies. They’re gypsies, and they pick in Bulgaria. As a matter of fact, most people who pick in Europe are gypsies or migrants, whatever you want to call them.

Okay. But anyway, there’s a wonderful picture of a lady who spent all morning getting a bag of rose petals. And she’s carrying this bag of rose petals, has 6,000 petals in it. It can be used to make maybe one ounce of liquid that goes into the perfume. 6,000 rose petals. And during a year they use something like 400,000 bags of this.

Are you kidding? Unbelievable labor intensive, labor intensive stuff that goes on in Bulgaria for the best of all this rose petal scent. But it doesn’t stop there. He goes to different countries and tells us about the flowers, it’s culture. Who does the picking? What are conditions like there? He takes us to Sri Lanka, where we go with the tree tappers. To get the cinnamon. That’s right. We go to the trees. We go to get sandalwood, which no longer grows in India. Yeah. It’s been improperly and illegally farmed. And now the sandalwood, which you get. Most all of it comes from Australia. Yeah. In the Outback. Who would’ve thought that?

I didn’t. I mean, these are the little facts that just make this a wonderful, wonderful book. We go to Madagascar for vanilla. Oh, and the vanilla market, up and down swings and sways. Every year it’s something different. As a matter of fact, what we saw, oh, during times of difficulty, the vanilla pickers would pick the vanilla beans.

They would actually put nails into the vanilla bean to get extra weight to make it look like they were picking more than what they were. What a disaster that was for the industry, for anything. Add nails in there. Oh my God. It’s just absolutely amazing and we hear about stories of the native’s population and how they pick or cut or tap or distill raw materials.

What a wonderful book. Friends. You know what? It’s not a book. You need to sit down and read cover to cover. You can read a chapter, put it back down, go back and read another chapter. It’s amazing. We understand that every people who are the pickers live pretty much in poverty. It they, they are, be it the gypsies or in the indigenous people over in, you know, Asia, Africa, you know, we know that they’re not in good shape financially and living condition wise, but they have jobs.

And the other thing we find out is that the perfume industry actually helps these workers more than their own government. We find that there are schools started by the perfume industry, medical clinics, infrastructure, water. They’re doing everything they can to help the people who are picking their product for them.

It’s an amazing book, folks. I’ll tell you what, it is one that I’m gonna remember a whole heck of a long time, and if you give it a chance, I really think you want to go ahead and try this book. Now. If you say, well, I can’t find it, go to my website viewsonbooks.com and you’ll see my review there and there there’s a link when you can purchase the book. Yep. You can purchase the book that way. I don’t think it’s coming to your local library, , but Blaine’s gone out in his year of discovery and found this little gem which I rate a five star to be very honest with you. And from there, we’re gonna go to another sort of off, off the wall type topic.

We’re going to the Western genre now. Used to be when I was a kid, I’d go to the bookstore and there’d be a whole section – Western – and you could go there and you read all the different books by Western writers. Not there anymore. Go to Barnes and Noble, go to the big box stores, go even on other places, and you still don’t find the Western genre.

And it’s, and there, I know as the people who write Western and publish westerns are very upset about that. I know the people at my friends at True West Magazine are very distraught about this, but there’s not much you can do. But I’ve got a Western genre book for you. That’s right. It’s called Southwest Train Robberies by Doug Hocking.

Now it’s only 204 pages long. It’s done by Roman and Littlefield Press. It’s a small book, but it covers the train robberies in southwestern Arizona. That’s right. You talk about a little area that’s got a lot of train robberies. This is non-fiction. Okay. This is the area. And it’s a little bit of a tedious read.

Now, why, why do I mean tedious? Well, there are a lot of names cuz there are a lot of people who robbed trains and a lot of people in posses boom, ba boom, ba boom, you know? And so it’s a little bit of a tedious read, but I’m gonna tell you what, I had a great time learning about these, these trade robberies from the first train robbery, which just was a hoot.

The very first train robbery was in 1881. The robbers were so unsophisticated, they never even wore a mask. So everybody knew exactly who the train robbers were. Not only that, they were so unsophisticated, they didn’t know what to look for. They, they thought there was, uh, stuff in a, in a Wells Fargo box.

There was some, but the bigger stuff was in the registered mail bag from the US Mail. They missed all that. You know, it was just a comedy of errors, which, you know, a week later they were all arrested and whoops, good things don’t happen cuz you see, what happened was this started getting more and more. There was what we called a plethora of train robberies, a plethora of train robberies in this southwestern Arizona.

Now when I talk Southwest, have any of you ever been to Tombstone? I love Tombstone Only was there once. Sat on a grandstand at 2:00 PM in the afternoon, a hundred and some degree temperature. Felt like a baked potato, but I watched the, I watched the recreation of the gunfight at okay corral. Tombstone is way deep south.

When you go further south, you get to Saguaro National Park and then the Mexican desert. This is where all these train robberies are going on. Okay? Nobody’s there. It’s pretty empty. And so robbery upon robbery starts happening down there. We had that first one. You know, everybody glamorized it. Hollywood has glamorized train robberies.

It wasn’t. Okay? First of all, most everybody does get caught. Many of them get killed. And in Arizona it got to the point where train robbing became a capital offense, and they were hanging people for robbing trains. And initially the populace was behind this. But then as times got a little more difficult in the 1890s, early 19 hundreds, the trains started raising their rates and people didn’t like that.

Now they don’t want to have people killed for robbing the trains. As a matter of fact, they were sort of happy people were robbing trains. It’s a wonderful book. You find so many great things. We find about the supernatural train robberies. Oh yeah. They thought, they thought that a ghost was robbing the trains cuz they couldn’t find any clue as to the the thieves.

Because what happened was this one time the thieves made their robbery, they were chased by a posse into a cave. The sheriff and the posse said, well, we’ll, we’ll wait ’em out. And so they camped by the front of the cave. They camped by the front of the cave for two weeks. That’s right. And the robbers didn’t come out.

Finally, they went in with some, you know, some lanterns because there’re no lights back then. And they discovered that the robbers were gone only to find out later that there was another hidden exit to this cave. They weren’t ghosts. They just went out the back door. But the sheriff didn’t know that. Oh boy. There’s another time when they couldn’t figure out where the robbers had gone because, well, the train went down the tracks, so there’s no, there are no horse prints or anything or footprints around the train.

What could have happened? Well, the robbers got pretty smart. What they did was they stopped the train. They, they decoupled the train and stole what they wanted to do, and then they set the train, they took the, the engineering conductor off, and they sent the train down the tracks around three miles with no, with nobody in charge.

It just went down until it stopped of its own inertia. They went away three miles in the back. Well, they couldn’t figure out how this happened. It again, it took them a long time to figure out that, hey, the robbery didn’t occur where the train is at, it occurs three miles to the rear. They’re wonderful little stories like this.

One of the robbers was so inept, that he tried to blow the safe, okay? Tried to blow the safe, and they tried six times and didn’t succeed. How do you dynamite a safe six times and not succeed? However, they did. . They didn’t do it, folks. They said, this is what I mean. There’s kids, young kids.

Barely teenagers who are robbing trains. It’s loaded with stories like this, okay? It highlights 12 of the robberies that are going on in the Southwest, and it’s a lot of fun. If you like the Western genre or you like trains or like, you know, reading about train mysteries or robberies or things like this, this is a great book for you.

I really enjoyed this one. And, uh, the one, the last, I gotta tell you this, the last robbery that was not covered, but which actually happened was in 1944. Now the reason the, the, the author did not get into this, Mr. Hocking didn’t get into this, was because of what happened. The last train robbery was when a group of thieves went to a rail yard, and there on the sidetrack, on the siding sat a, uh, train car.

Okay? They broke into it. And what do they escape with? Not money. No, folks. They escape with a load of Spam. That’s right. Spam. And with that, so ended the train robberies in the southwest Arizona region. Yeah. It might have been a, not a bang, but a whimper, but it’s a funny story. Anyway, this is what you get.

Southwest Train Robberies by Doug Hocking. Again, another discovered, booked. Again, you’re not gonna find in your local library and uh, I think you’re gonna really, really enjoy this. Now folks, usually at this time we have an interview and we had one planned for you. But unfortunately, our author Jerry Crowler, had a death in the family and, uh, wasn’t able to record.

Now Jerry’s gonna come back and discuss British comedy with us and his book “just desserts.” But you know, it’s one of these things we wish him the best. And you know, our thoughts, prayers go out to he and his family, but you know, we have got… Lemme just take a minute. Yeah, lemme just take a minute to tell. We have got some amazing guests coming up.

I’m so happy that I got the executive director of the Willa Cather Foundation to come on and talk about Willa Cather and all the things they do out there in Red Cloud Nebraska with the foundation. I, I don’t know if a lot of you have read Willa Cather, but she was a wonderful author back in the twenties and thirties.

Wonderful. Her, her, uh, books, oh, pioneers, my Antonio, et cetera. Just really, really good stuff. And, you know, it’s about, It’s about Nebraska, it’s about conservation, it’s about the community. It’s really something you wanna read. So gear up, but get, if you get a chance, read some Willa Cather. The other thing we just booked this week, and I’m really excited about this, is we’ve got the executive director of the International Churchill Society.

That’s right. The International Churchill Society. What a wonderful thing. All about Winston Churchill, the books that’s going on. He’s coming on too. So we have got some really good people from the book industry or involved with books coming on along with authors. We’re gonna have Brendan Slocumb on, and many of you may have known who I’m talking about.

He had a wonderful book called “The Violin Conspiracy.” Last year he was all over the morning shows, the interview shows. Well guess what? He’s coming here. He’s coming here to discuss that book at his new book that’s coming out. So we’re gonna have him coming in here to talk about classical music, about race and all sorts of stuff.

It’s gonna be a wonderful time. We’ve got, nine consecutive weeks of guests already. And more coming in June and July. It’s out of this world and we’re bringing it to you folks right here. So that’s what I say. Share, share with your friends because you know what, the more you share, the more these authors and the publishing companies want to come on, they like to see our numbers. They’re pleased with our numbers, but these numbers can be even higher. The more we listen, the more we share, the more we tell about this. I’m doing all I can. So I’ve been just a little bit of help and you’re gonna not be disappointed cuz these are gonna be some wonderful, wonderful interviews.

Now I want to go to, I want to go to two things I’m gonna be looking at, okay? What did I look at this year? Not this year, week. Well, I wanted to start out with Romania. Now you probably know my wife is from Romania. Okay. So maybe you think I’m focusing on that too much. Maybe. But something happened there that I’m really excited about.

I just read a story that the Romanian Chess Federation is planning on educating teachers to teach chess to the students in the primary schools. They want to teach chess. Is that not amazing? They want to teach their children this game of strategy and logic and deep critical thinking, and they’re trying to do it world well, not worldwide, but at least in Romania, and they’re gonna start out, their goal is to get 50,000 students.

50,000 students learning this. Now my relatives over there said people won’t do it because it’s an optional class. Oy vey. The bottom line is anything that helps our youngsters. I don’t care if you’re in Guiana, Romania, China, wherever. If you are going to expand their thought process by something like this, this is a wonderful thing.

I remember locally, a few years back, more than a few years, I went to a local school and I said, you know, have you ever considered having a baseball statistics club? Well, I was looked at, what do you mean? I said, why don’t you teach your kids fractions and percentages by going through baseball? You know, a guy goes one for two, he’s batty 500. One for three, 333.

You know, I know all these numbers. You can do it in baseball, basketball, football, do it, something like that, that the kids really get a liking to. Okay. As opposed to rote something from the books. That was shot down quickly. No one was interested in that. Okay. I’m hoping that they’ll get at least 50,000 students in Romania who are going to be taking advantage of learning chess. This is wonderful, and I, I think that’s outstanding. Again, I’d report on this no matter where that story happened. Okay. But the other thing that happened is they had decided to name an official sport of the country. That’s right. Now, you might think it’s gymnastics. Nay nay.

You may think it’s soccer. Nay, nay. No. The official sport is Oina, O I N A. Oina. Have you ever heard of Oina? Well, It may actually be a forerunner to baseball. It’s like baseball, but it’s not completely like baseball. But they’ve been playing that since the 12th century over in Romania. And finally they’re gonna try to make it the official game of the country.

Oina was so popular that Romania, back in 1895, petitioned to have Oina as one of the first sports in the first modern Olympic games. They even volunteered to give other countries their players to learn the game and be part of their teams. It was turned down, not a shock . It’s been played for a long time.

It’s like I said, it’s like baseball and like I said, it’s, it’s just something. This is another thing I saw this week coming out of Romania. You’ve got chess and you’ve got Oina. Hey, kudos to those people over there in Bucharest for, for doing that, okay. And now for my second look. I’m going, finally, to get to my Netflix.

That’s right. I’m going back to Netflix. I’m looking at the South Korean TV series called Vincenzo. That sounds Italian, doesn’t it? Vincenzo. That’s correct. It is Italian. What is this about? It’s about a little boy who was orphaned at a young age in Romania, who was adopted by a Italian family who eventually makes his way into the mafia and becomes the conciliary of the mafia family. And with that, he helps different members of different countries mafia to hide things. In this case, gold. 1.5 tons of gold. He helps bury, okay? It’s not that complicated of a plot, but it’s a wonderful show.

He goes back because the head of the mafia dies, and Vincenzo Cassano is the only person who can open this area where it is, uh, hidden. And so, uh, he goes back. And when he gets there. Well, it turns out that there are all these weird and wacky people who, uh, live and work in this, let’s say, shopping area under which he’s buried this gold.

And this runs 20 episodes. It is a wonderful show. Yes, it’s Korean. Yes, they’re subtitles. Okay. But this is a show that my wife has made me watch, and it wasn’t hard to make me watch this. Okay. Because it is just good. We got the bad guys. The Babel group. Oh, the bad pharmaceutical group. They’re bad people.

There’s some, then there’s some wonderfully good performances by bad people. Bad and evil lawyers. I mean, evil. Evil. Oy ya ya. And then you have Vincenzo Cassano, which the, the Koreans have no idea what that means, so they call him Vincenzo Corn Salad. And it’s just, it’s just funny. It’s wacky. It’s off beat. It’s a great show, folks.

It’s 20 episode. I don’t think you’re gonna really find anything offensive with it. Each episode’s around an hour 20, really, really enjoy it. Vincenzo, it’s on Netflix. It is a great show. I think you’re gonna really, really enjoy it. If it makes me stop watching other shows to watch that show, that’s okay.

So you must know it’s pretty good. Anyway, that’s it for another week here at books and looks. I appreciate you hanging around even though we don’t have an interview this week. Our interviews have been going well, the authors appreciate it.

Publishers appreciate it. The PR people appreciate it. So, you know, we’re all happy that we’re all doing well here and that you’re paying attention and, and enjoying these uh, episodes. So anyway, on behalf of the uh, Greenville Podcast Company, on behalf of viewsonbooks.com, this is Blaine DeSantis for Books and Looks saying, may all your leaves be pages in a book.

Image via Walkerssk on Canva.

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