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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 images.

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. ...
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Posted: 7/10/2008 12:53:57 AM 

 

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.<...
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Posted: 7/8/2008 5:08:11 AM 

 

Alcoholics write books, too.

Sometimes they write crime fiction. Sometimes they write literary works. No matter what form the novel takes, the real dark star is the bottle.

Think of Dr. Strangelove riding the bomb out of the bomb hatch and into oblivion. Substitute a bottle for a bomb and you find a metaphor that unites a number of books in this genre: The drunken hero/anti-hero. Drinking is not just a life style; it form, shapes, distorts the human condition. Like a moth to flame, we can’t take our eyes off the flutter of wings as they close in on the fire. What is not terribly surprising about these books is their semi-autographical nature. Where the drinking takes place the strip joints, bars, nightclubs, and back alleys also transports the reader into the environment where the drinking takes place. Not every writer who creates a drunk for a hero is an alcoholic. Though looking at the record, it would seem that such a writer is rare....
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Posted: 6/25/2008 1:38:17 AM 

 

The Timesonline has an interview/profile about Elizabeth George, an American, who has written a series of crime novels set in England. Her latest is Careless in Red .

“George is an Anglophile crime writer from California; Thomas Lynley, her detective hero, is an English aristocrat with posh friends and a titled wife whom the author killed off in the 13th book to cries of anguish and outrage from her readers. Her stories are all set in regionally distinctive bits of Britain such as Yorkshire or Cornwall…” ...
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Posted: 6/18/2008 6:34:54 AM 

 

Writers differ on their approach to creating fictional characters. In crime fiction, the background and relationship of the characters fuels motivation, colors narrative, and propels the story forward. In order to make the novel realistic, the characters must think, act, believe and circulate in ways that are credible to the culture where the story is set. Before I start a novel, I write a brief history for each characters, including age, education, marital status, family background, employment history, and his/her emotional range: what makes him/her feel fear, hatred, passion, anger, etc. All of this proves useful when it comes time for writing the novel. I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of what the characters are capable of doing, believing, plotting or planning. My characters range across nationalities: Americans, English, Spanish, Italian Thais, Chinese, Burmese, and Khmer. On the surface they often share many superficial attributes; but underneath, where the cultural wiring is laid down, they are often surprisingly different in expectation, values, and customs....
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Posted: 6/2/2008 1:34:30 AM 

 

Crime fiction, film and art connect both City of Angels.
At the hip.
And at areas above the hip.
In August, the crime thriller starring Nicholas Cage, Bangkok Dangerous will open worldwide.

Set designer Jim Newport (who did a brilliant job on Bangkok Dangerous) and has been nominated in the past for an Emmy, recently launched in Bangkok his novel “Chasing Jimi” and I attended the launch party, where Jim read from his book. ...
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Posted: 5/29/2008 11:51:25 PM 

 

The British edition of The Risk of Infidelity Index is now out in Great Britain. You can buy it at Amazon for £7.79.
Or better yet do go your bookstore and pay £12.99. Bookstore owners deserve to make a living like anyone else. And God knows that Amazon is rich enough.

I am pleased with the cover design. The designer captured the noir spirit I seek to create in the Calvino series. Great cover, compelling story, an internationally published crime fiction series, so what happens next should be easy, right? ...
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Posted: 5/27/2008 11:08:06 PM 

 

I have finished reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. Here Comes Everybody and would like to my comments on the book.

Shirky examines the dynamic of social communities that have arisen as a result of the Internet and assesses the possible long-term consequences they represent to corporations and governments. The usual way of doing business or governing a country is about to change in significant ways. I’ll start with two examples used by the author: Wikipedia and Linxus. The conventional way of producing an encyclopedia or software is for a company to find the resources to fund the highly skilled employees who are assigned specific tasks. That means allocating capital to pay for the office space, equipment, salaries, benefits and other cost of doing business, on the basis the product or service sold by the corporation will return sufficient revenues to pay all of the overheads and still return a profit. ...
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Posted: 5/27/2008 6:18:53 AM 

 

W.H. Auden wrote in The Guilty Vicarage, Notes on the detective story by an Addict, which appeared Harper’s in May 1948: “Actually, whatever he may say, I think Mr. Chandler is interested in writing, not detective stories, but serious studies of a criminal milieu, the Great Wrong Place, and his powerful but extremely depressing hooks should be read and judged, not as escape literature, but as works of art.”

The murder, for Auden, should take place in the Great Good Place, and, his view, that meant the countryside. Preferably the English countryside. Should the author intend to write a detective story rather than aspire to something closer to art, and then his murder victim should ideally turn up in the local vicar’s garden.

I recently read Matt Beynon Rees’ The Collaborator of Bethlehem, an Omar Yussef Mystery, which, on Auden’s terms isn’t a detective story but a novel that seeks to break open a window into the realm of political and social reality of the modern West Bank. In recent years, it has become more common to find “detectives” working foreign landscapes. Rees’ novels are an addition to this growing trend. There two basic templates for this crime fiction penned by authors who are from different backgrounds that the one they’ve chosen to set their books. Rees is English and writes about the Middle East where he was former Jerusalem Bureau Chief for Time. Working on the ground as a journalist opens many worlds, especially for a foreigner who is less bound by the traditional protocols that restrain or otherwise limit access. ...
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Posted: 5/23/2008 6:45:08 AM 

 

Try and imagine the numbers involved in a mass death. What does 80,000 dead in Burma mean? Can anyone imagine the magnitude of the loss?

Here is Chris Carlson’s photograph taken at an Obama rally held in Portland, Oregon. There are about 75,000 people in that crowd and looking around the edges of the photo, others may have been cropped out.


Photo: Chris Carlson/Associated Press...
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Posted: 5/19/2008 10:41:53 PM 

 


Dali, Yunnan Province, May 2008

Dali and Lijiang have two things in common. They are in a physically beautiful part of China and both were destroyed by earthquakes in 1996 and subsequently rebuilt. Resident foreigners are less frequent than in Southeast Asia. Foreign tourists are also something of rarity in this part of China. English is not widely spoken, and communication can be a challenge. In Thailand, language can be an issue for non-Thai speakers, especially outside of Bangkok. Kunming is about the same size and I found very few people at hotels, restaurants, tourists destinations that could speak any English. ...
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Posted: 5/15/2008 10:35:20 PM 

 

The Spanish Edition of Spirit House is titled Kickboxing en Nirvana.

Kickboxing en Nirvana will be released on Thursday 15th May. This is edition is 368 pages and is sold for EURO 18. Why the title change for this edition? The Spanish publishers,EDICIONES PAIDOS IBERICA, S.A.were concerned that Spirit House was too close to Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits

The cover art for the Atlantic Books edition ISBN 9781843547914 (UK edition) of Spirit House is provocative and moody. The UK release date is 1st July 2008. This edition is also available in Australia from Penguin on 29 September 2008. ...
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Posted: 5/12/2008 11:48:35 PM 

 

Over the next few days I’ll blog about my trip to Kunming, Dali and Lijiang –all in Yunnan Province. At the Kunming Airport on 12th May, I felt the strange sensation of the seats in the waiting room moving. Having awoken at 5.45 a.m., I put it down to the lack of sleep and the usual disorientation that goes with long-distance traveling. Only after arriving back in Bangkok, did I find out there had been a major earthquake (7.8) in Southwest China leaving (according to recent press reports) 8,500 dead.

Earthquakes were a topic of conversation in Dali and Lijiang with locals and the expats. Both had experienced major, destructive earthquakes in the past. The mud bricks held together with a bit of straw all baked under the sun were quick to collapse in a major quake in 1996, which destroyed most of Lijiang and surrounding Naxis (ethnic minority group) villages. Most of the old town had been rebuilt. Lijiang draws millions of Chinese domestic tourist. Snow Mountain is in the distance. ...
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Posted: 5/12/2008 11:37:35 PM 

 

There have been a number of authors whose travels through Southeast Asia have enriched their fiction and non-fiction. From the previous generation of English writers such as Conrad, Maugham, Orwell and Burgess to the current generation of Paul Theroux and Pico Iver, these writers have been mobile. These writers were not the kind to stay at home worrying about how best to promote their books, experiencing anxiety attacks over their writing career, obsessed at their Amazon rankings or who received what award. None of that truly matters and at the end of the day only gets in the way of writing. The heart of fiction is connected, at least in part for these writers, with their wide-ranging travel experiences gathered along the back streets of the big cities and dusty roads of rural Asia.

Writers often talk and write about the writing or publishing experience. But there is far less about the experiences that a writer draws upon to fuel his or her imagination. Like fossil fuel experiences can run out. New, fresh experiences are the basis for feeding the imagination. Or one can recycle from information in newspapers, TV, the Internet on the basis that the writer can bring a new angle to old information. Sometimes that works. Travel is proactive. You’re not reading about someone else having an adventure. It is happening to you; it is in your face, not on screen. You must deal with it. ...
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Posted: 4/28/2008 2:04:10 AM 

 

I recently gave an interview to Radio Singapore International. I talk about the original idea of a private eye series set in Southeast Asia, along with my research into the culture and history of the settings.

They introduce the interview with a quote from one of the Vincent Calvino novels, "I have no attachments. Next life I will make a perfect Buddhist. But in this life I am paying off the karma of a last life. I am an ex-lawyer from New York City. No one gets himself born in New York City without having made some major mistake in the last life. Whatever that mistake was it was bad enough to cause me to abandon New York City for Bangkok. Flipped from the wok straight into the fire. For the past dozen years, I've been solving crimes in Southeast Asia, keeping and trying not to get burnt."

You can listen to podcast of the interview on mp3. ...
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Posted: 4/23/2008 12:49:49 AM 

 

There was never any golden era in publishing. It’s always been tough. Let’s get that straight. But once upon a time long ago there were a few publishers who looked beyond the bottom line, who fought for authors, struggled to bring books to light when the authorities would have put the publisher in jail. Barney Rosset,* perhaps more than any other living person, represents the very best of this kind of publisher in America. He is a legend and in any other country would be given the designation of Living Artistic Treasure. But truly literary people are rarely so honored in America in 2008.

We live in an era of the bottom line and MBAs with sharp pencils whose vision is the next quarterly earning report. Barney wasn’t that kind of publisher. He sought quality and settled for nothing less. If the book sold fine, if it didn’t that was fine, too....
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Posted: 4/22/2008 12:39:06 AM 

 

The Times Food Critic Giles Coren had an interesting piece on how the British kill themselves by eating an English breakfast. Have a look at the amusing attack on Coren following the article. All very British.

“I'll tell you what's holding us back from finally getting rid of the fried English breakfast for ever: lack of education. You never see a person with a degree eating a fry-up, do you? Certainly not someone with a 2:1 or better in a humanities subject from a university founded before the invention of the iPod. That's because they are smart enough to know better.” ...
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Posted: 4/21/2008 1:14:30 AM 

 

Copyright law is complex. That is a sentence that few would wish to contradict. The current lawsuit involving Harry Potter author and a fan writing an lexicon of Harry Potter terms is a good example of the struggle between those wishing to expand copyright protection against those who wish to see limits placed on authors’ rights.

As a general rule, a copyright extends for the length of the author’s life and expires 70 years after his or her death. The difficulty arises because each country has its own copyright laws and they are not always consistent. Further, the length of copyright duration has been increasing over time. The time expansion is no surprise in the United States where large vested corporate industry (e.g., Disney) have successfully lobbied to extend the length of copyright to the current 70-year period. ...
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Posted: 4/17/2008 6:58:36 AM 

 

The Nation’s Daily Xpress section ran a profile under the title: Hollywood beckons Moore today (Wednesday 9 April 2008). Jim Pollard’s article focuses on the film option deal for the Calvino series and background on the series set in Thailand. ...
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Posted: 4/8/2008 10:07:39 PM 

 

I delivered the 10th novel in the Vincent Calvino series to my agent and publisher on Sunday 6th April 2008. PAYING BACK JACK, which is set in Bangkok (with some scenes in Pattaya) is scheduled for publication at the end of 2008. ...
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Posted: 4/8/2008 10:07:03 PM 

 

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