CHOP CHOP - The Adventures of Skin Minelli

chop chop

Chop Chop follows the adventures of Skin Minnelli, a true larrikin whose entire family were Italian tobacco farmers, until the government tried to destroy the industry. 

When they resort to illegal practices and a life of crime, some end up in jail for 6 months, while others continue the smuggling racket. 

Set mostly in North Queensland and the Tablelands this is a hilarious adventure of battlers, pirates, murderers and some very hot ladies. 

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95



ISBN: 978-1-921919-35-0
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 159
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins
Painting by Artie Eustace



Author: Artie Eustace
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English




I have recently read Artie’s book entitled ‘Chop Chop’ and found it both hilarious and interesting with adventurous and mysterious twists. I had to read from start to finish in one go – couldn’t put it down.

Leanne Pascoe 

It has been an absolute pleasure to type this novel for Artie. He has so far been a life-long friend and I admire his wit and love of life. I found it distracting to type and read the book; I just wanted to keep reading!

I wish Artie all the luck in the world with the success of ‘Chop Chop’ and in life. He is a wonderful, genuine man and I love him to bits.

Danielle Christie 

A non-stop page turner, cleverly constructed, alive with plots and sub-plots, plus humour and murder with a great ending. Well done, Artie.

P.G. Horton 

All in all Artie, and without prejudice, it is a riveting read, and I look forward to you enjoying the benefits.


Read a sample:




 “Shit!” said Uncle Tony. I knew that such a subtle emanation from the lips of my God-fearing uncle, Tony Romano, meant trouble – Trouble with a capital ‘T’. I did notice that the enunciation was perfect. Despite living in Numboola for close on fifty years, my Uncle Tony has difficulty with English, as do most of the Italian farmers who established tobacco farms in the local Mareeba area many years ago. I followed his concerned gaze down the hill. Through the stunted eucalypts that surround our drying shed, a large cloud of red Queensland dust could be seen tracking up the dirt access road that swings up the hill to our farm.

This track veers from the highway that leads to the North Queensland city of Cairns, about forty clicks away.

“Shit!” I said. Emerging through the angry dust was a plain blue Ford Falcon sedan with the telltale twin aerials sprouting from the boot. They may as well have had ‘NARC’ printed across the doors. I looked at the absolute despair etched into the dark rugged old face of my uncle.

“Bastardo! Bastardo! They dob us again,” he said in resignation. We watched as fear, in the shape of DI Charlie Wessells, poured from the Ford Falcon.

Let me explain the situation that has led to this point in time. The reason why my dad, Mario Romano and Dino, my cousin, Uncle Tony’s son, are doing a stretch in the local slammer ‘Lily Valley’ prison farm. It began when the bloody Government blindsided us with a monster called globalisation, which we believe is basically ‘selling’ the country. Try as I might I still can’t accept what they are doing to us. Now I reckon I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but those rotten pricks have blood on their hands! I’m not going all tragic on you here, but it is important to explain why we have had to resort to a life of so-called crime.  They stopped us selling our tobacco.

Now tobacco has been the life-blood of dozens of Italian families in our area for 150 years. The social consequences of what the Government has done were, and still are, bloody awful – suicides, bankruptcies, broken homes. The list goes on. Sorry about that, but without it what follows wouldn’t make much sense. Suddenly, the fruit of our labour has become contraband. We tried to survive by tapping into some lucrative southern markets, mainly Mafia controlled, but we knew we had to be very, very careful.

This new enterprise started in rather a hasty, bumbling way. Dad and Mario decided it would be a piece of piss to chuck a bale of ‘illegal’ tobacco onto the back of the ute, chuck a tarp over it, and drive off to Brisbane in the middle of the night. They might have even made it, but for a stroke of bad luck. They didn’t know that a flash flood was to hit the Mulgrave River Bridge at Gordonvale.

After being washed off the bridge, the ute became snagged in a log jamb. They were eventually towed to safety, with the load very much intact, by a very brave Mr Plod, who promptly slapped them in irons, had them in court before you could say ‘Bob’s your uncle’, and subsequently delivered them to ‘Lily Valley’. He got a citation. Dad and Mario got six months. They must be ready for release any time now. We already knew that we had undercover agents entrenched in the Atherton Tablelands, but what totally pissed us off, even though us wog families had closed ranks as Italian families tend to do, was the fact that the ‘fuzz’ was greasing palms for information on who was smuggling chop-chop, the commonly accepted name for our now illicit produce, and how it was being transported.

Now, as far as prisons go, ‘Lily Valley’ is not too bad. TV, recreation facilities, gym, you name it, they have it. Keep your nose clean, take care picking up the soap in the shower, and you’ll survive. When you lob in there, they check you out to see if you have any expertise in any given field. Naturally Dad and Mario were allocated to growing things in the farm’s garden, and being there makes it easy for us chuck a few grams of ‘wacky-weed’ over the fence. ‘Hooch’ or ‘Grass’ all netted a few extra bucks for the ‘save the farm’ fund. This is also the fruit of our labour. We all know that stuff is illegal, but that’s not the bloody point here is it? A man’s got to make a quid. You well might ask ‘how do I know all this?’

Perhaps I should introduce myself. My dear Italian Momma and Poppa called me Arturo! For Christ’s sake! That name will not be mentioned again! My friends call me Skin; not that I’m skinny. The reason for it is because my big brother, Mario, was called Fatty. Now I’m six foot tall, that’s with my pair of R. M. Williams on. I’m twenty-five years old, fit as a drover’s dog and I think I look like I should; a bit ‘Woggie’. Dad reckons I couldn’t get a fuck in a brothel with a fist full of fifties, but I’ve got news for him. I’m going to suggest that we sow oats as an alternate crop to tobacco and, believe me, I’ve been practicing.

Now, the reason I know all that stuff about prison, is because I’ve been there. Dobbed in! We now know, through the family underground, the identity of the arsehole responsible for my sojourn at the prison farm, but I’ll get back to him as soon as I have censored my description of that particular arsehole. Of course I was only growing the weed for my own personal use. Six months the bastards put me away for. I only had a measly twenty five plants. Didn’t I get the rough end of the pineapple! But, righto! Let’s get back to that fundamental orifice of the rectal variety, which under censorship, still equates as arsehole!

There is a family of Sicilians, who have long been suspected of being associated with a Melbourne mafia gang, living three farms down from us, on the main highway towards Cairns. There are three sons, and one of these is a real heavy bastard, a vile bully of a man. One day we spotted him up one of the power pylons that traverse our property. If we hadn’t seen the bright splinter of light reflecting off the rim of his binoculars we would never have spotted him. We ran through the scrub, getting close enough to verify that it really was this vile bully, locally known as Sick Sam Bellini. Yeah, it was him alright, scoping directly at my 25 precious marijuana plants. We were going to harvest the crop in a couple of days, but knowing that this ‘sicko’ was onto us, and would be on his mobile right now to the Narcs, forced our hand. We had better do it immediately.

By the time we got back to the shed, to get the gear required to do the job, the Narcs were barrelling up the drive. Busted! The arsehole hadn’t wasted any time using his mobile! That, in a nutshell, is the first round of events that Bellini was involved in that resulted in one of our mob ending up in the slammer ‘Lily Valley’ for growing a bit of the green, green grass of the Tablelands, and my introduction to efficient soap retrieval.

The second event that involved ‘Sick Sam’ eventuated after our livelihood became an illegal activity. Strange as it may seem, it is not illegal to grow and process tobacco, but you try and flog the bloody stuff and they’re on you like a ton of bloody bricks. Anyhow, what happened next was our second attempt at smuggling chop-chop.

The first stage of our supposedly slick operation was to get 1,000 kilos down to Rivertown, to where my cousin Lou and his delightful missus, Di, had their prawn trawler based. From there, it would be transported by sea to Brisbane, where it would be picked up by an old bikie mate I went to Nudgee College with, Big Danny. What he did with it, we didn’t want to know. He could please him bloody self provided Lou and Di docked back in Rivertown with 150 grand in their kick.

Let’s go back to the beginning of our super slick operation. We did some pretty cool alterations to my old Tojo ute. It had a timber tray back, and surrounding the timber was a frame of 50-millimetre steel U-section. By replacing this with 100-millimetre steel, we had created enough space to install a false floor. Diabolical, eh! Although just a narrow space, it was just enough to pack in 1,000 kilos of chop-chop. We sprayed the cavity with three coats of epoxy resin, knowing that the fuzz were now using sniffer dogs that could detect the delightfully pungent aroma of fresh tobacco. It would be a simple matter of unscrewing a couple of the top boards, and running a knife down through the epoxy resin to remove the baccy, which was sealed in ten kilo zip-lock bags. This of course would be done very covertly, under cover of darkness, when we got to Lou’s boat in Rivertown. That about brings us up to speed.

Back to the dusty blue Ford Falcon as the feared cop stepped out. I suppose it would explain Uncle Tony’s expletive “Slut!” You know what I mean! I urged Uncle Tony to stay calm, what a hypocrite. I could feel the old blender flicking on to number three in my gut, this called for instant deployment of the old sphincter! We had about 30 seconds grace, as the cop strode leisurely from the dusty Ford Falcon.

“Uncle, try and look relaxed!” I said, as I managed to get myself under some semblance of control. I couldn’t help a strong feeling of déjà vu, knowing that fucker Bellini had done it again. You understand the old system of supply and demand. The same applies to grass and chop-chop. We knew that Sick Sam was the puppet of a top mafia don in Melbourne. They were simply trying to take us out of the market. I was looking at DI Charlie Wessells. This is the second time he’d come to our place. Last time he was here he gave me a couple of silver bracelets and took me off for a holiday in the country. Now, as cops go, he’s not a bad bloke. I still race sidecars with his son Vernon Wessells.

He said, “G’day, Tony. G’day, Skin. Howyagoin?”

We both acknowledged him with a pair of shaky ‘G’days’.

He said, “Skin, I’m off duty. Just thought I’d pop in and make sure you’re on the straight and narrow. Everything OK? A little bird told me you might be up to no good.”

I was trying to read the intense look as well as the obvious warning in his eyes. There was some thing else; as if he was telling me to be careful. Perhaps my strong friendship with his son had some meaning for him.

“Well,” he said, “now that I can see you’re OK I’ll head off back down the hill to Cairns. See ya, Tony. See ya, Skin. If you can’t be good be careful!”

Well, I must admit I was stunned. He said so little and yet so much. Uncle Tony was questioning me with his eyes and hands, arms outstretched with palms skyward. This is just an Italian gesture.

“What he say? What he say? He say what I think he say?”

Now just because he can’t handle the lingo so well; I mean he’s only been here for fifty years. Give him break! But he’s as sharp as a tack. You have to get up at sparrow fart to beat him. I know he, too, was wrestling with all the little nuances of Charlie Wessells’ subtle warning. “If you can’t be good, be careful if you can’t be good, be careful, if you can’t be good, be careful.” Like a mantra, over and over in my mind. My mind was doing some crazy cranial blockies. I had to take this seriously. What makes it more to the point is a little conversation that Charlie and I had the day he walked me to court, after he had nabbed me for growing loco weed. He pulled me aside out of earshot of the local uniforms. He said, “You know son, I want you to know that this is just not sitting right with me. I think that you’re a pretty decent young bloke and I know that this conversation will stay on board. When I was about your age, I did exactly the same thing. I was still smoking dope for a couple of years as a young constable. The only difference is I never got caught. And I think that if they were to be honest about it, there are many, many officers who have got through their teens to young manhood in a similar fashion, so believe it or not, a lot of them, like me, suffer a little from hypocrisy. OK. Let’s go and see how big a holiday the magistrate wants to give you.”

“Uncle, I think we have just spoken to a man who deserves our great respect.”

Uncle Tony knew this already. “I told you the old bugger is always a jump ahead of me.”

“Well, Uncle Tony, what’s to be done now? It looks like we have an informer.”

Neither of us said a word, but we had similar thoughts as we stared across the river towards the Bellini farm.

 I turned to look at the ute we had put so much work into. One thing was certain. We couldn’t stop now as we desperately needed funds. This farm had been our family’s whole life. I walked over to my uncle, gave him a hug, and said very quietly, “Uncle Tony, I promise you, I give my solemn word, our little load of  Numboola’s finest tobacco will be loaded onto Lou and Di’s prawn trawler, the ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’. I reckon the only sensible thing to do now, in order of priorities, is to rip the tops off a few tinnies, and try to find a way to complete the transfer without getting sprung. I tossed a XXXX to Uncle Tony and we parked our bums on the tray of the ute to ponder the situation. We knew who and had to be Sick Sam. Probably another nice little earn from the Narcs or the mafia, or both. In country areas like Numboola, nothing is ever locked. Nothing to stop Sick Sam from snooping to date that is. OK, the Narcs know that we are planning to shift some baccy, and they probably know how, but I’m bloody sure they don’t know where to, or when. As I said before, you can build as many secret compartments and stuff them frill of as much chop-chop as you like, just don’t leave the farm with it. Well, at least they don’t know the when, or the where to, so thanks to DI Charlie Wessells for the things he never said.


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