Archive July 2008
Regulars of the Texas Lonestar Bar in Washington Square gathered to attend
funeral services for George Pipas who died in Bangkok last week. George was a
fixture in Bangkok expat circles; part of the fabric. At age 84 years old he
came to the bar every day for lunch and held court. George had been on Normandy
Beach on D-Day; and he’d been to many other places afterwards. He was a genuine
character, someone who looked after his friends, and had lived long enough to
see major changes in the world. He knew back in December that he had a death
sentence. He just got on with his life and never asked for sympathy.
9.00 a.m., Catholic funeral services were held at the Church of the Holy
Redeemer on Soi Ruam Rudee, and following those services the body was moved to a
Buddhist wat for cremation. The local V.FW. Club sent representatives who
performed a service for George at the wat.
As a recording of Taps
played at the Wat, one could but hear George’s voice, in that throaty gurgle of
emotion shouting, “Will someone change that goddamn music.”
of Infidelity Index was co-dedicated to George who was both a friend and an
inspiration for the Calvino series.
|Crime fiction: Around the world in 80 sleuths
The Independent on 22 July ran Jonathan Gibbs list of 80
detectives from around the world (in no apparent order) by city. Cities included
are: London, Oxford, Paris, Istanbul, Madrid, Rome, Athens, Berlin, Seattle, San
Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, Havana, Mexico City, Beijing, and Tokyo. A
crime fiction is writer was chosen for each of the cities. I was pleased to see
"Christopher G Moore has long
been a big name in crime for his Vincent Calvino books, based on the exploits of
an American private eye in Thailand's seedy underbelly, but they're only now
coming out in the UK."
Read 'The Risk of Infidelity Index' (Atlantic)
PAYIING BACK JACK, the 10th in
the Calvino series will be released in Thailand in December 2008 and in 2009 by
Atlantic Monthly Press in New York. ASIA HAND will be released by
Atlantic Monthly Press in New York in 2010. Meanwhile I am at the early stages
of writing Calvino 11 and that explains for the infrequent updating of the blog.
Glad to report that Zero Hour in Phnom
Penh has been released in B-Format by Heaven Lake Press has been released. Third
in the Vincent Calvino crime series, Zero Hour in Phnom Penh has been
translated into Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Thai and Spanish. Zero Hour
in Phnom Penh also won the German Critics Award (2004), the Premier Special
Director’s Award Semana Negra (Spain) (2007)
A Bangkok based private
detective, Vincent Calvino, takes a case in Cambodia at the end of the
devastating civil war. In the early 1990s, UN peacekeeping forces try to keep
the lid on the violence. Gunfire is heard nightly in Phnom Penh, where
Vietnamese prostitutes ply their trade among UN peacekeepers from the balcony of
the Lido Bar.
Calvino traces a missing farang, through the
Russian market, hospitals, nightclubs, news briefings, and UNTAC Headquarters.
Calvino’s buddy, Colonel Pratt, knows something that Calvino does not: the
missing man is connected with a cache of jewels stolen from the Saudi royal
family. Calvino discovers that he is not the only one looking for the missing
farang and that murderous forces of evil continue to swirl in the
alleyways of Phnom Penh.
The Evergreen Review’s Jim Feast reviewed Risk:
in the private eye genre, such as Christopher Moore, who take up the traditional
form, as he does in The Risk of Infidelity Index, originality is not
measured by examining the plot. This never varies. A client hires the gumshoe to
investigate a matter, which turns out to be much more complex than it appeared.
Neither does it appear in the creation of novel character types, since these,
too, are largely invariable and include the heroic but flawed hero, a cop who
hounds but also befriends the detective, a treacherous blonde, and so on. The
true measure of originality lies in the invention of atmosphere.
By this term, I mean to convey a tonality that combines attention to
setting and the details of everyday life as well as the creation of characters
who emerge naturally from the milieu.
The fine accomplishment of Moore
in this book is to excel in all three areas of atmosphere creation, as I will
illustrate in a moment.”
It has been a good month for the Calvino series. My Spanish
publisher Ediciones Paidós has released Kicking Boxing en
Nirvana. My author copies arrived today. Looking at the covers from various
editions, each publisher and their art department have come up with different
No, this isn’t a new Calvino title. It is the Spanish edition
of Spirit House. In England, Atlantic Books has released a paperback
edition of Spirit House.
And In the United States, a paperback edition of Spirit House will also be released by Grove/Atlantic in August 2008.
The month of August will see Amazon offering Spirit House as a free download for
the Kindle. If you’ve not read Spirit House and own a Kindle, this is a good chance to download a free
The Risk of Infidelity Index will come out in Italian later this year and in Spanish in
2009. The English trade paperback edition of Risk has been receiving
favourable attention in the UK press.
“The Risk of Infidelity Index (Atlantic, £10.99) is the first (there are nine in total)
of Christopher G. Moore's humorous and intelligent Vincent Calvino novels to be
published in the UK. Calvino is an engaging Bangkok P.I. who thinks he is about
to smash a major Thai drug piracy ring when things start going pearshaped. It's
a great introduction to the seamy side of Bangkok where the author has lived for
20 years.” –The Daily Mail (July 2008)
“There's plenty of violent
action and some memorable low-life characters, but the real star of the book is
Bangkok, which Moore, a long-term resident of the city, brings to vibrant,
sleazy life.” The Telegraph (June 2008)
And a week later also
appearing in The Telegraph, “A vividly observed Bangkok” was selected as
one of 50 best books for summer reading.
“The Risk of Infidelity Index is a complex, violent, and high readable thriller.” –One80
|Status Quo Bias in Fiction
In cognitive science there is the notion of status quo
bias, meaning people like things they way they are and rarely welcome
change. This bias is often written about in the context of political science and
economics. But it is rarely discussed as such in the world of novels, publishing
and literature. It is hardly a stretch to find that status quo bias applies to
fictional worlds. Readers, critics, and editors may complain that a character
has through actions or thought departed from what he or she did in previous
books. We expect the character to remain the same, and knowledge of this
collective bias can influence the decisions made by an author in the kind of
future books he or she will write.
If you write a series with continuing
characters (such as the Vincent Calvino crime series), then you know that
readers soon develop a bias for characters acting, feeling, and expressing
themselves in familiar ways. Anyone writing novels would do well to learn the
basic ideas behind the Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion and status quo bias.
Sometimes these ideas are buried or kept out of sight because we labor
under influence that characters in the best novels evolve during the course of
the book. While that evolution indeed is admirable as far as it goes but it
often ignores a fundamental need that readers have for characters (in a series)
that are unchangeable. That is the balancing act required of a novelist who
writes a continuing series. Or a politician who wishes to be re-elected. To make
readers (or voters) comfortable with change, that they will gain something more
valuable in return. A good author can defeat the status quo bias but the burden
is on him or her to make a good case for the divergence from the status quo.
Subjective judgments are as important as strict logic. A point made by
Professor Bostrom about status quo bias in the debate about
cognitive enhancing drugs. In the context of a novel, the personal decisions a
character makes and the social networks from which he or she plays and work,
more often than not reinforce pre-existing biases. If you believe that Bangkok
is semi-jungle environment with elephants as the primary mode of transportation,
then you won’t appreciate having your bias challenged by a noir novel set in a
modern urban setting. But if you are open minded and understand that such bias
impairs rather than enhances judgment, you will seek out novels that allow your
biases to be challenged. The large number of crime novels set in foreign
locations indicates a large number of readers who are willing to accept the
challenge to their biases.
Though critics such as Clive James
have said such books are essentially “guide books” without any enduring literary
value. In his New Yorker article, he put his cards on the table:
form for real writers, the detective novel is bound to be a dry well in the end,
because a detective novel, no matter how memorable in the detail, is written to
A perfectly executed status quo bias example.
the twin of irrationality. It exists below the surface, often unconsciously
informing our decisions and judgments. If a literary author writes crime fiction
or science fiction, critical eyebrows are raised like a chorus line of high as a
Most places one looks in the world of books there are
examples of status quo bias. Sometimes, as in the case of Clive James, dismissed
altogether in the junkyard of forgotten. We all suffer from status quo bias one
way or another. But understanding that this is an essential part of the human
condition makes it easier to accept that when it happens to us, don’t take it
personally. And instead take hope from such writers as Colin Cotterill, Matt Beynon Rees, Donna
Leon, and Michael Dibdin. who have challenged our bias about exotic
lands. Don’t pay into the bias they are writing another line of Lonely Planet