Archive October 2007
|The Risk of Infidelity Index
My publishers Grove/Atlantic have come up with
the jacket cover design for hardback edition of The Risk of Infidelity Index
The subtitle on the cover will be: A Vincent Calvino
Crime Novel. The Risk of Infidelity Index is scheduled for release on 21st
December 2007 and is now available at Amazon for pre-orders in case you wish to send a copy as a Christmas, Hanukkah, or
New Year gift to a friend.
I’d appreciate any feedback on the cover:
There is a gurgling sound coming from below. This is the sound of discontent
being registered about the power and influence of the rich in America. The way
things are shaping up, it is a good bet that wealth accumulation, tax ceilings,
inheritance tax, health care as well as education are all taking aim at the
society of super-rich. Wedged between the indictments that the rich have harmed
America by the corruption of resources and marketplaces, Mark Blim writes in his
article titled Below the Fold: A World without the Rich:
rich corrupt the major institutions of American society. It bears repeating that
the rich don’t get rich or stay rich simply by making better widgets and saving
the profits from their corporate endeavors. They make legislatures
dysfunctional, regulatory authorities their watchdogs, and professions their
poodles. They corrupt presidents. They even corrupt each other, as corporate
heads are bribed with board positions and in turn protect the interests of the
company that bribed them.”
The first lesson in fictional story devices is discovered when a student opens
her first history textbook. Only they aren’t told the history inside is fiction.
Students are taught this is what happened. Accept it. Memorize it. Take it to
heart. What other events happened, or didn’t happen, the motives of rulers and
generals, alliances, and failed alliances, and shifting power structures aren’t
usually part of the package.
Thai children’s learn about sacking of
Ayutthaya in 1767 as if that is the only event worthy of mention, ensuring that
children associate Burma as an brutal aggressor with Thailand as a victim.
Laotian school history books paint Thais as villains. And so it goes.
untangle the web of power, influence and brute force is a challenge for any
historian. The historical record is often incomplete and biased. The more
distant the events, the more likely the conclusions are the product of myth,
wishful thinking, and self-serving political forces.
Thailand isn’t the
only offender in the manufacture of history to suit its own self-interest. Japan
still can’t come to grips with World War II, the Chinese history on Tibet has
the earmarks of heavy-handed editing, the Americans are silent on the
extermination of native Indian tribes, and these few examples don’t begin to
describe the often distorted and unreliable narratives that children are taught
in their local schools.
The first lies children learn are from the
school history books. Once the first lies are accepted as gospel the ability to
play on preconceived ideas becomes easy. The students who are now adults have
grown fat and stupid on a steady diet of falsehoods. They are softened up for a
lifetime of official and commercial story telling that blurs reality and
illusion and that suits perfectly the interest of those seeking power and
profit. Challenge the conventional historical received wisdom is dangerous.
People find comfort in the official spin; they become uneasy when they learn the
truth is vastly more complicated and what is extracted must be qualified.
The hometown team may also be implicated by uncomfortable historical
events. Silence is another enemy of truth. Those who break that silence are
rarely thanked; more likely they are hounded, persecuted and marginalized. There
has always been a lot at stake when it comes to writing history. That why who
writes the history school books and what the choose to write about and what they
choose to ignore has huge implications for social and political development.
The IHT ran a profile on John Burdett: John Burdett: Detective writer at work in a seedy Bangkok
Burdett is the author of best selling Bangkok 8, Bangkok Tattoo, and Bangkok Haunts.
Burdett says that the 4th novel in the series will be
On the scope of his research behind his books, the IHT says:
“Burdett, a 56-year-old former lawyer, has spent the past seven years
chatting up hundreds of bar girls - research! - as inspiration for his
critically acclaimed trilogy, soon to be quartet, of gripping detective
thrillers set in Bangkok's netherworld.”
“As part of his research, he
has traveled to the stilt houses in northeast Thailand, a Lao-speaking region
known as Isaan and the home turf of most of Bangkok's bar girls.”
insight Burdett’s books provide into Thai culture, the IHT says:
Burdett's writing is also keenly anthropological, decorated with wry
observations that carry a ring of truth to those who live in Thailand.”
Burdett divides his time between Bangkok and France.
|Helping out Some Kids in Need
Every month someone will write or phone and ask
for information about a worthy cause that could use money for something other
than SUVs, cell phone, expensive dinners, etc. Like most people, I want to see
money go to the people who need it as opposed to the people who administer it.
I received the call for help below from Volunteers of Children
Development Foundations. They had a fire. 40 kids from the streets are taken
care of by this NGO. Now a number of these kids have no place to live, and what
meager possession they had went up in smoke.
If you are inclined to send
along some funds, you can be sure it will be put to rebuilding the basic
housing, buying clothes, mattresses, and blankets.
Call for help
In the Thai town of Chiang Saen, close to the Laotian and
Burmese borders, the Volunteers for Children Development Foundation (VCDF)
provides shelter and care for more than 40 children - some from Thailand and
some from Myanmar - that have been rescued from the streets and their dangers:
drugs, violence, prostitution etc. Thanks to the continuous efforts of Mrs.
Nuchanad Boonkong, also known as Kru Nam, these children, boys and girls, can
rebuild their lives, go to school and look more serenely toward the future. Some
suffer from serious psychological traumas, some also from mental problems ;
thanks to Kru Nam and other volunteers, the foundation is a place were they can
live and laugh together, practise dance, games and other activities, in a word
live the life every child deserves.
On October 16, 3 days ago, an
electrical problem took place in one of the four bamboo huts where the boys are
currently living in the countryside near the city. A fire started, and it was
only a question of minutes before the hut was burnt to the ground.
Unfortunately, it contained lots of things for the children. Not only the
fridge, the gas stove, the washing machine, the rice cooker, the sewing machine,
the lawn mowers, some musical instruments and other equipments have disappeared,
but also the food and most importantly, the children’s clothes, shoes,
mattresses and blankets. With the winter season approaching, this is a serious
problem, since the cold can be bitter at night in the northern provinces of
Kru Nam and her co-helpers therefore face a difficult
situation, and are looking for help too face immediate needs – new clothes,
mattresses and blankets. Would you like to do something, especially donate some
money to buy new clothes and basic furniture for the boys’ centre; your help
will of course be greatly appreciated.
|It starts with a pair of eye glasses.
But where will it end?
Japanese detective story author Edogawa Rampo was
known, for among other things, his signature glasses. He died in 1965. Yohei
Kusanagi, a young Tokyo designer has come up with a replica of Rampo’s glasses
as a way to encourage young people to read. One hundred copies of the replica
are offered for sale. The price: Yen 84,000 or roughly US$735.
would buy a lot of books. It makes me wonder if young Japanese potential readers
have that kind of cash for a replica of Rampo’s glasses.
the Daily Yomiuri online + Associated Press, “His glasses, the
bottom of which are rimless, have bifocal lenses and a rounded tortoiseshell
frame. The writer's signature is printed on one of the bows.”
a replica of Somerset Maugham’s cocktail glass from the Raffles Bar? Or his
walking stick? A replica of one of the ship’s Joseph Conrad in a bottle is a
thought. In my case, many years hence, perhaps there might be a replica of my
old, tattered and long expired press card that looks like a Martian passport.
A tip of the cap to Sarah Weinman at Confessions of an
Idiosyncratic Mind for the article.
|Death of a Friend: Max Voigt (1941 – 2007)
Sunday night I lost a long time friend. He died of a heart attack. I just saw
Max last Thursday at lunchtime. He’d lost a lot of weight and said he wasn’t
feeling well. I said, “Max, take care of yourself.” And Max smiled, shook his
head and pushed out the door. He was one of those people with a morbid fear of
doctors and hospitals. Friends offered to take him for a check up. Max just
refused to go past the hospital door.
It is likely you never heard of Max Voigt. Max was an American
lawyer who had lived in Asia for more than half of his life. When I first came
to Bangkok in the late 1980s, Max was head of Corporate Department of a leading
law firm in the City. By chance I saw walking on my soi and struck up a
conversation. A couple of days later, Max sent me my first freelance case. One
case led to another until I had a steady stream of work for the first crucial
years I lived in Thailand. Without Max’s friendship, the work wouldn’t have come
my way, and without the work, I never would have had the time or opportunity to
write novels. I owed Max Voigt a great deal.
Behind the ordinary man
mask Max was an incredible character. I dedicated A
Bewitching Smileto Max and two other friends. In A
Haunting Smile, there is an American lawyer named Ross. A lot of Max
found its way into the Ross character. Ross, like Max, was a Bangkok based
excerpt is from A
“Ross’s technique was to soften up a client who
was racked with regrets, lapses of courage, doubts about his competence. He
found it was successful to start with a minor lesson about bitterness and
courage. *** Ross was the kind of person who befriended only people who refused
to succumb to his sewer-death fear. Some people like people surrounding them who
shared their fears, who reconfirmed that insanity and misery caused by hidden
secret traps set in everyday life, someone to whom they could rage and cry out
against the unfairness of so much personal danger and risk. Not Ross. He wanted
people who climbed into the belly of the beast without blinking an eye as if to
say, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Max will be greatly
|THE RETURN OF THE BIG WEIRD
I finished going through editorial changes to the 5th novel
in the Vincent Calvino series: The Big Weird. BookSiam originally
published The Big Weird in 1996. It was reprinted by Heaven Lake Press in
200. And sadly it had gone out of print. Before Christmas, though, it will be
back in print as in mass paperback edition.
Rereading and editing a
novel that I wrote a dozen years ago is not unlike opening a high school
yearbook and looking at a picture of yourself from the distant past. I’ve
written another 10 novels since The Big Weird first appeared. I have
spent a lot more years with Vinny Calvino and Colonel Pratt so that when I go to
an earlier book, the temptation is strong to do a major overall. You just know
so much more. Like all Monday morning quarterbacks, you can see the plays that
could have been made and were botched. Much the same happens to a writer going
back over a book from 12 years earlier.
I’ve had a very good editor go
through The Big Weird and tighten up the prose. Fixing some narrative,
rewriting dialogue and otherwise remodeling the original house. That’s a good
way to sum up what I’ve had to do. You have a great old house but it needs
renovation. So the rehab job is done. For better or worse.
There is a
new cover in the works. The cover above is from the Heaven Lake Press 2000
edition. Once the cover is set, I’ll post a copy on the blog.
the new and improved edition of The Big Weird in late November. It will be on
sale in bookstores throughout Thailand.