Book Review: A Guide To Recognising Your Saints by Dito Montiel

I can’t remember when I picked up this book, it was in a bag of stuff at my Mum’s. I suspect, as a raging bookaholic, I picked it up cheap because the blurb sold it to me. Whenever I did, or whatever my reasons were, I’m glad I did because it was a fantastic read.

The book is the memoir of Dito Montiel a musician and former model for Versace. The book is a series of anecdotes from Montiel’s life, from his chaotic youth in Queens as a brawling street kid, and a series of dead end jobs. It then moves into his rock ‘n’ roll excesses as a drug fuelled punk musician, where he wound up rubbing shoulders with the elite like Allen Ginsberg.
It’s a crazy, fascinating life and a story I wasn’t familiar with, not having heard of Montiel before, despite his band Gutterboy having a certain notoriety as the “most successful unsuccessful band” ever. Having been signed for a then unheard of $1m, the band recorded one album, embarked on a tour filled with excess and craziness, before they split.
It benefits from Montiel’s writing which is brilliantly vivid, and Montiel is an engaging and warm narrator. He writes with an oddly poetic eye and even in the stories of violence and dodgy schemes there’s an almost romantic side to his reminisces and his love of his hometown.
There’s also something natural and unaffected about his writing style, and the stories flow easily. It’s like chatting to a random at a bar who turns out to have lived one hell of a life and be a pretty amazing storyteller.
What I found most enjoyable was the real warmth Montiel holds for the people he meets along the way, even the dodgier and freakier characters. It’s a colourful life and one that leaps off the page, and I found myself fascinated throughout and developing a real affection for Montiel, who comes across as a bit of a hustler but one who seems strangely sensitive and insightful given some of the misadventures he gets in over the years. He’s no saint, but he does see the good and beautiful, even in the conmen, crazies and the city’s back alleys.
It just proves that sometimes being a bookaholic pays off, and you wind up stumbling onto a brilliant book.
Verdict: Full of energy, written with easy charm and strangely moving. Montiel’s writing is deceptively simple and he captures the characters and adventures in a manner that really puts you in the story. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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