Archive July 2006
Thai Day reviewed Heart Talk
on Monday 31 July 2006, and concluded, “Heart Talk is an interesting reference
and would make a good gift for anyone with a passion for the Thai language.”
Keep in mind that there is a companion website for Heart Talk
to support the book. Have a look at http://www.thaihearttalk.info You can click on to a jai phrase
and listen to a native Thai speaker properly pronounce it. There are sample
phrases, and quizzes where you can test your knowledge of the language of the
Heart Talk is 384 pages and is a vast improvement on the
previous two editions.
Last Sunday I flew to Phnom Penh. One of those fifty-five minutes flights that
now make even the most exotic place accessible. Changes are everywhere since my
first trip to Cambodia in 1993. The scale of the city stays much the same:
mainly three, four story shop houses, wet markets, old colonial era villas with
a fresh coat of paint and new windows. The bone-aching poverty remains. The
leathery sun beaten faces under over sized bamboo hats. Swarms of motorcycles
cut across multi-lanes of traffic in a ballet of near death experience. The
streets filled with people. I try to imagine that day in April when the Khmer
Rouge emptied the city, leaving it to the dogs, cats and rats.
with a Cambodian author (H.E. Francis Sam Sotha) whose personal memoir charts
his four years inside the killing field. Heaven Lake Press will publish those
memoirs in the autumn. During my stay I visited the church where the author
spent time. Sam and his wife Sony showed me around the grounds. The chapel, the
quarters where students lived, and the inner grounds. The church which survived
the khmer rouge unfortunately will not survive the development of the city. The
old church is scheduled to be pulled down. Here is a photograph of the church in
One of the best books written about that time is Bizot’s The Gate.
Few books ever capture the feverish
nightmare of the killing fields as The Gate. The pacing, the rich narrative
drive, the drama unfolding in ordinary lives makes it a classic. If you want to
lens to view one of the great horror stories of Southeast Asia, you should buy
this book, curl up, turn off the telephone and computer and let yourself be
transported to a world that you will thank god you never had to experience first
It is in my hands. Heart Talk. Like a new baby. Is she ever beautiful.
If you want to deeper your understanding of what is below the surface in
thinking when it comes to the Thai language, then this is the book.
Inside is a whole world of emotional, irrational, logical, playful, sad,
hopeful and funny ways that the Thai heart plays itself out.
Buy my new
baby. She wants a place in your heart.
|Crouching Tiger Sequel in Canadian Courts
Success brings in the
lawyers faster than failure.
CBC Arts files a report about a court battle of film rights to
a novel. A case in point is Dr. Hong Wang — who works as a research scientist
for Agriculture Canada in Swift Current — whose father wrote 5 novels, one of
them Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Ang Lee film based on the book
went on to make $200 million in worldwide sales. Lee and his co-producer got the
original rights for a five-year period for $30,000.00. Now the family wants
$500,000 from those wanting to make the sequel.
The crouching tiger is
Sony Pictures, which has sued the family in Regina. Another studio, we will call
them Hidden Dragon, also claims rights to the book.
If you wish to add your 2 cents to any of the blog entries, there is now a
readers comment box. Click on and pass along your thoughts.
It would be
a good thing to create a community where everyone has a chance to share their
opinion on a topic.
The CBC Words at Large has posted a feature article about Canadians
who have won international awards for crime fiction. According to the article, I
am one of seven Canadian crime fiction authors to win an international award.
Other Canadian authors included are:
- 2006 Louise Penny won the New Blood Dagger for Still Life
(McArthur & Co.) Edgars
- 2002 Peter Robinson won the Dagger in the Library
Award for his Inspector Banks series (Penguin Canada)
- 2002 Giles Blunt won
the Silver Dagger for Forty Words for Sorrow (Random House Canada)
2002 Illona van Mil won the Debut Dagger for an unpublished manuscript for
- 2003 Sylvia Maultash Warsh won the Edgar for Best Paperback
Original for Find Me Again (Dundurn)
- 2002 Tim Wynne-Jones won the
Edgar for Best Young Adult for Boy in the Burning House (Groundwood)
- 2001 Peter Robinson won the Edgar for Best Short Story for "Missing in
Action" (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)
I have had several replies about my earlier blog discussing the importance of
originality. The most thoughtful of the comments came from one reader, a long
time resident of Thailand, who wrote:
“Liked the blog on 'originality
of story' (vs. talent alone). In particular, "Self-discovery is not the
basis for an original story" - should be standard text in 'Literature 101". How
many SE Asian novels would we have (gratefully, graciously) been spared?
Going unmentioned was the mastering of "story-telling", which draws the
reader along (with or without originality): The reader's curiosity the
ring in his nose, the author having tethered the ring. For example, I think
[insert the name of many Booker Award winning author] is a rarity in that he
qualifies as "master" in talent, but unable to generate enough curiosity
factor for me to be able to finish even one of his books.
Code had an embarrassing over -abundance of these writing
'techniques' to generate curiosity, along with, of course, being able to
add nothing original. (But it was apparently not an "over-abundance"
to the masses...). The "Code" also successfully played to the "curiosity
" of the masses on the secrecy and conspiracy angle as relating to
ancient and occult symbolism. The masses were also intensely
curious about what religious 'revelations' and sacrileges might be in the
offing. It's only afterward that you realize you've been eating cotton candy -
it looked impressive and tasted good at the beginning; only later you realize
there was nothing there to begin with.
Unfortunately, piquing the
collective curiosity (starting the 'buzz') -within the confines of the
written work- can only be attempted, it cannot be calculated in advance.
(Expensive PR/ puff pieces/ hype being another matter - where excrement like
BKK-8 can be fobbed off as readable if the 'right people' say it is readable. -
the creation of curiosity in the potential reader.)”
|Sell By Date on Thriller Heroes
One of the best reviewers in Asia is Mark Schreiber, who pens reviews for The
Japan Times. His most recent offering comes under the heading of “Vietvets come in from the cold war.”
On Sunday 16 July
2006 Mark Schreiber reviewed:
THE LAST ASSASSIN by Barry Eisler. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2006,
334 pp., $24.95 (cloth).
WHITE TIGER by Michael Allen Dymmoch. St. Martin's Minotaur,
2005, 308 pp., $ 24.95 (cloth).
THE TUNNEL RATS by Stephen Leather. Hodder and Stoughton,
2005, 501 pp., £6.99 (paper).
Schreiber scored a direct
hit when he warned that authors should realize that we are approaching a time
when fictional heroes (at least of the action variety) won't be Vietnam vets.
Time rolls on. And ultimately time rolls over us, hero or not. The inevitability
of age will undo Vietnam vet heroes as contemporary action heroes just as
happened with vets from earlier wars. Much in the same way no writer of
contemporary fiction is recycling WWII or Korean War Veterans as the leading man
in crime fiction; unless, it is an old geezer found face down in the mud outside
of the barn, pitch fork in one hand and freshly signed will in the other.
Placing a recognizable time tag on a main character for a continuing
series requires planning. I figure an author has about a dozen books before his
vet hero starts enjoying a cup of warm milk as he swallows a bunch of pills for
his heart, bladder, liver and kidneys before crawling into bed alone to watch
Jay Leno. While the movie actor playing James Bond is turned over every few
years as the producers decide the arteries have hardened in the existing lead.
This is a good lesson for any author contemplating a series of books based on a
hero with a military background. I wonder whether in editorial meetings behind
closed doors the editor, marketing and sales guy, the cover design guy, or the
bean counter in the brown suite ever think about the shelf life of a fictional
character beyond the current book.
“But the hero was a body guard in
Dallas the day JFK was shot,” says the editor.
”Everyone knows where
they were on that day.”
“I wasn’t born on that day,” says the marketing
“So how old is the hero?” asks the design guy who already has a
cover in mind.
Editor blushes. “He has no age.”
There is a hush
in the room. The marketing guy clears his throat, “How old do you have to be to
get a secret service job? At least ten years old,” he says laughing into his
The bean counter has punched his calculator madly. “Assuming he
was twenty-two years old in 1963, that makes him 65 years old. And he’s running
down bad guys, jumping over walls, dodging bullets.”
The editor says,
“It’s a book that will appeal to the Baby Boomers.”
There is a lot of
eye rolling around the table. Even Baby Boomers will have to give up sooner or
later, surrender to the fact heroes are like hockey players, once they hit 35
years old they are off the ice, doing radio commentary, selling used cars,
entertaining those at the bar with stories of what real hockey used to be like.
Once an author links a hero or anti-hero to a large historical event or
person, he/she automatically has an expiry date. Longer than a shelf life of a
loaf of bread, but still a sell by date looms. Readers are fussy about the
background of characters in a novel so it isn’t an alternative to make them men
and women without a past. The infinitely difficult path is to create a bio for
the character who may become a continuing character without explaining he
learned how to fly Cobras during the second Gulf War. But one day that second
Gulf War hero will be restricted to casting him as an old geezer face down in
the mud in front of the barn door or Larry’s Dive.
|Man Bites Dog or Client acquitted, his Lawyer goes to Jail
Here is an idea for a book: When a Lawyer Needs A Lawyer
local newspapers reported that Chuwit Ramovisit and 129 associates had been
acquitted in the 2003 demolition of 135 retail shops on Soi 10, Sukhumvit Road.
At the time, observers reported that Sukhumvit had been closed off by a large
group of men. They seemed to be well organized and in the early hours of the
morning on January 26, 2003 bulldozed the six-rai area. The shop owners pulled
out the odd TV and other items from the debris. But basically they lost
All of the accused pleaded not guilty. Fair enough. The
court found Mr. Chuwit’s lawyer guilty and sentenced him to eight months in
It seemed someone had to serve some time for the massive wreckage.
An ending worth of Shakespeare
I’ve been asked what books I have been reading (and I’ve expanded this books
that I have in the pipeline from amazon). Readers are naturally curious as to
the kind of books that authors read. An author’s reading preference often
provides an insight into what they choose to put in (and exclude) from their
books (if not a window into the author’s personality, taste, interests, etc).
I read a mix of fiction and non-fiction titles. I just finished Temple
Grandin’s Animals in Translation. Insightful, quirky, original and
thought provoking as the author is autistic and draws a comparison between the
way the mind of an autistic person works and that of other animals. The current
novel that I am reading is Charles McCarry’s Old Boys.
read a number of books over the same time period. Here are recent titles that
I’ve ordered from amazon and are next up on my list to read:
Divided Mind : The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders"
John E. Sarno;
"Descartes' Error : Emotion, Reason, and the Human
Antonio Damasio; Paperback; $9.75
Rita Carter; Paperback; $15.72
"Mapping Human History :
Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins"
Steve Olson; Paperback;
"In Other Words"
Christopher J. Moore; Hardcover;
"Emotions Revealed : Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve
Communication and Emotional Life"
Paul Ekman; Paperback;
"Happiness : A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important
Matthieu Ricard; Hardcover; $14.92
"The Swallows of
Yasmina Khadra; Paperback; $9.24
"Speak of the Devil : A
Richard Hawke; Hardcover; $14.27
"The Long Tail : Why
the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More"
"Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir of Aspergers and an
Daniel Tammet; Hardcover; £10.18
|The Risk of Infidelity Index – Calvino update
finish the second draft in two weeks. Meanwhile, the new cover design has been
approved. I appreciate the many comments and suggestions the first cover drafts
received. The views of my readers are an important consideration. We went from
blood in the water to a target with bullet holes in it. That is all part of the
creative process. I am fortunate to have a publisher that at least listens to my
On the 27th of July, the second draft of Risk will go out to a
select number of readers who have previously read and commented on early drafts.
In this part of the process (which is crucial) I can strengthen the book by
taking into account the comments by readers who want to love the book. If that
reader finds flaws, then an author must be open minded enough to have a second
look and find a way to mend the flaw. That is the function of the third draft
(at least for this writer).
It is not unlike the inspection of a house
which the builder says is ready, only when you go through the downstairs, you
find a few things missing, say a door to the back garden, a place for the
fridge, a staircase that leads to nowhere. They want to love the house but they
know they can’t live it until the things have finished, unfinished, or forgotten
have been fixed.
Jeffrey Cohen has done
both. He’s been a reviewer and he’s a novelist. His perspective on
getting a bad review is interesting. The review he received was one of those:
Chop off the writer’s fingers, then hands, and finally arms, toss them in a
velvet bag and burn it in bonfire on the fifty yard line as half-time
entertainment. Make certain the stadium is filled with 50,000 wannabe writers
who need a lesson about writing crap.
That kind of twisted, nasty review
that makes you wince like you are watching an autopsy. But the person isn’t
quite dead. Oh, oh, that looks like it hurts. But, hey he volunteered for this,
doesn’t he know when you go through that door marked published writer that he
entered into a world of hurt? Ignore his screams of pain. He deserves having the
top of his skull sawed off. No brain of any consequence inside? It doesn’t
matter, he’s dead now.
As a novelist, he has admitted to having second
thoughts about his own file cabinet of bad reviews written about other people’s
“The relationship between authors and reviewers is a very
complex one. Having done both, I can tell you that neither is easy, neither pays
especially well except at the very top of the profession, and both are done for
the sheer love of the form in almost every case. I've written reviews that I
wish I could take back (all negative ones, even when the film/book/play/record
in question was truly awful--I was snarky and shouldn't have been), some that I
would hold up for all the world to see and some that, well, I had a deadline and
it was a slow week.”
|Japanese literary award for Michael Connelly
Over at Jiro Kimura’s The Gumshoe site
comes the news that “Michael Connelly won the Maltese Falcon Award from
The Maltese Falcon Society Japan for LOST LIGHT (Little Brown, 2003) as the best hardboiled/private
eye novel published in Japan in the previous year.” Connelly also won the Falcon
Award, the first being for THE BLACK ICE (1993).
|Eyes of Wisdom Exhibition
If you are in Bangkok on Friday 7 July 2006,
please drop in at the The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand around 7.00
p.m. I will make a speech to open a special exhibition of photographs by Ralf
Ulrike Crespo Foundation and Goethe-Institute Bangkok which are
the sponsor of the exhibition expect a full house.
exhibition is a contribution to the understanding between religion and culture.
He is based in Bangkok, and traveled around the world for five Years to make
portraits of the dignitaries of the world’s most significant religions. His work
resulted in an exhibition and a Pictures Book, which is called Eyes of Wisdom- a
plea for inter-religious dialogue.
More than 50 large format black and
white Portraits offer an opportunity to observe and encounter great human beings
who have become symbols of their faith.
“Photos can be many things Art,
remembrance, documentation Here they become symbols Of a deeper truth”
“The heart of all religions is one.”
His Holiness the XIV. Dalai
The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand
518/5 Ploenchit Road
Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
+66 02-652-0582 (fax)
Colin Cotterill’s latest novel in his award
winning series titled Disco for the Departed will be released on 1st August 2006.
The advance reviews are excellent. Booklist wrote:
entry in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series finds the spry, wry national coroner of
Laos picking up a few new dance moves courtesy of a Cuban relief worker whose
spirit takes up residence in the old doctor's body. Now that Siri's status as
spirit host and ghost dreamer is well documented, Cotterill wisely opens up this
disco-era tale of murder and deception by giving sidekicks Mr. Geung and Nurse
Dtui their own rich subplots.”
I am one third of the way through the second draft of The Risk of Infidelity
Index. It amazes me how the process of writing a second draft elements of
the story and character arise as if my magic. The creative process is a mystery.
We all draw from our own private well of experience, drop the bucket, wait to
hear the splash, then slowly pull it back up and examine what is inside.
I feel this time out, the story is stronger, and the new characters well
defined. Each time I come across one of the new characters I ask myself what do
I really know about this person? Looking at her or his actions, motives, and
desires, what is there in the history of the person that makes these elements
natural and understandable. A person in fiction, as in real life, can only act
unpredictably if we have a base line of knowledge of makes the person’s actions
predictable in the first place.
Like many writers I check on the amazon.com rankings of my books. Mostly this is
an ego-driven, time wasting exercise, taking away from the more task at hand:
writing. The rankings are never stable. Like the mirror of life, they seem to
have more in common with matter at the quantum level.
If I stand on the
fence to crow this morning, it is to pass along that the German edition of Cold Hit,
retitled Nana Plaza (by my German language publisher) is ranked at
8,374. This ranking will no doubt follow my stock portfolio and fall off the
cliff by the end of the day.
At the moment, here’s the scoop:
Broschiert: 313 Seiten
+ Verlag: Unionsverlag; Auflage: 2.,
Aufl. (Mai 2001)
+ Sprache: Deutsch
+ ISBN: 3293202047
basierend auf 6 Rezensionen. (Schreiben Sie eine Rezension!)
Verkaufsrang: #8,374 in Bücher
The German edition of Spirit
House which is titled Haus der Geister is doing even better:
Broschiert: 313 Seiten
+ Verlag: Unionsverlag (März 2000)
+ Sprache: Deutsch
+ ISBN: 3293201687
basierend auf 7 Rezensionen. (Schreiben Sie eine Rezension!)
Verkaufsrang: #4,751 in Bücher
The last piece of German publishing
news is that Haus der Geister is now available in an audio version. Delta
Music has produced 4 CDs for the German market. The ranking is not so
impressive, coming in at 171,670. Hopefully for the CD producer this will change
for the better.