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The Age of Dis-Consent

The Age of Dis-Consent

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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. ...
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Posted: 10/24/2007 3:00:14 AM 

 

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.

That 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. ...
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Posted: 10/24/2007 2:58:22 AM 

 

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. ...
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Posted: 10/22/2007 4:50:37 AM 

 

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. ...
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Posted: 10/12/2007 6:38:04 AM 

 

Monks were shot and killed in Rangoon. Crackdown troops have been called into the capital from the provinces. As the Blues song says, “You’ve only got your life to lose.”

Burma is a collection of many small nations with diverse histories, languages, cultures and aspirations. It is difficult if not impossible to say how a consensus would emerge in the event the military leaves the scene. General Aung San showed a way toward a solution. So it is possible. As for Yugoslavia or Iraq, the analogies may not hold. Analogies work better in science and literature than in politics where the dropped glass always breaks in a new and novel pile of debris. From this distance, it appears the military has managed to unite these diverse groups in a common cause. ...
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Posted: 9/27/2007 1:18:18 AM 

 

Cynthia Ozick’s The Din in the Head discussed in the Joseph Epstein article should spark some cultural soul searching in other countries. While the Americans worry about the advance of technological proxies to increase exposure to the crowd, in Asia the crowd has played a much a different role. The issue isn’t technology. The issue is the cultural constraints on people wishing to withdraw to innerness, to separate themselves from the crowd. Meditation springs to mind where such a withdrawal has broad cultural support....
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Posted: 9/21/2007 5:48:24 AM 

 

Joseph Epstein is one of America’s foremost social and literary critics. The rare breed of thinker who draws lessons from the intersection where technology and literature collide. In his article “The Literary Life” at 23 Epstein writes:

“A good heart remains the first requisite for a great novelist. *** So many young novelists appear to be up against the same problem, settling for composing books that go in for verbal feats and imaginative flights over gripping moral dramas: I have in mind the novels of Michael Chabon, David Foster Wallace, Gary Shtayngart, Jeffrey Eugenides, among others. Belief goes to the heart of the problem: if you don’t know what you believe in, you cannot construct moral dramas, which leaves you with making jokes through elaborate literary constructs to make the sham point about reality not quite existing, or that life is really no more than a dream, sha-boom, sha-boom.”...
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Posted: 9/21/2007 12:31:48 AM 

 

One question that comes up in publishing fiction is how to get someone in a bookstore to pickup and buy a book by an unknown author. We have all picked up a book where we didn’t know the author. What makes a reader take the chance on such a book? Part of the decision is connected with validation. If a friend or a member of our family has read a book and recommended it, that might be enough to tip the scales. And often it is. Or if we’ve read an appealing review of a book by a critic we trust, then we would often buy it.

Where there is no worth of mouth from friends or family, and no review, but you are attracted to the title, the subject and the cover, what can help you make up your mind? A recent article in the Denver Post says it is the blurb on the back of the novel you are holding. And bookstore employees are also readers, how do they view blurbs?...
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Posted: 9/19/2007 10:18:55 PM 

 

The best fiction is often the result of character development that creates an arc of intellect and emotion, finely tuned, elaborately structured, and with broad spectrum or range. Such characters bore deep into our own consciousness as if in the story telling, the author has found a way to channel our own thoughts.

The advances in psychology and cognition research continues to reveal more about the way our emotions and intellect are networked. A recent article in The Edge worth reading on the subject is by Jonathan Haidt and titled: MORAL PSYCHOLOGY AND THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF RELIGION

Here’s an excerpt:

“The basic idea is that we did not evolve language and reasoning because they helped us to find truth; we evolved these skills because they were useful to their bearers, and among their greatest benefits were reputation management and manipulation. ...
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Posted: 9/19/2007 4:25:25 AM 

 

Manchester based novelist Michael Walters has written two crime novels set in Mongolia. Walters is a management consultant by trade. I would expect he would have an interesting angle on business deals in Mongolia. The English editions are available on amazon.co.uk, and the American edition of the first book will be released by Berkly Books in 2008. Meanwhile English edition of The Shadow Walker released in May 2007 by Quercus is available on amazon.com.

The Shadow Walker, a British geologist turns up in a Mongolia minus his head. The hero is a police officer named Negrui. And the first two books have drawn praise for the description of Mongolia, the culture, the people, and the legal system. Negrui partners with an English police inspector and they track the bad guys through the Gobi desert. ...
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Posted: 9/18/2007 4:25:27 AM 

 

Yesterday a MD-82 twin-engine departing from Bangkok crashed as it attempted to land at Phuket airport. Reports here list 88 known dead about around 42 passengers survived the crash. Among the dead 50 were foreigners. The flight was on One Two Go flight OG 269. There had been heavy rain and gusting winds at the time of the crash.

Last night all the local stations along with CNN carried footage of the crash. The plane split in part on impact. Some passengers were thrown out of the crashed plane; most died for fire or suffocation inside. The plane caught fire after the impact. Apparently there wasn’t much time until the entire plane was consumed in flames. Reports indicate that many passengers had been knocked unconscious by the force of the impact and still had their seatbelts on when the flames incinerated the aircraft....
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Posted: 9/16/2007 11:13:23 PM 

 

Authors of crime fiction often draw from real events to interject the feel of reality into their novels. Sometimes, though, reality becomes stranger than fiction, and the author may using “facts” that spoil the fictional world. For example, take a long trial before a jury and the judge nods off. No doubt this has happened on more than one occasion. But what if the judge has a condition that predisposes him to suddenly slip into a coma like sleep?

There is a court decision on this precise point that deserves wider circulation. In this case a judge who presided (when he was a awake) over a criminal case where the defendants were accused of drug offense. The judge fell asleep during the trial. Not once, but many times. The two defendants were found guilty by a jury, and they appealed on the not wholly unreasonable argument that the judge should have been awake during their trial....
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Posted: 9/9/2007 11:44:41 PM 

 

Peter Temple has been on a hot streak. His last novel The Broken Shore won a CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger.

In a recent interview by Bob Cornwell, he goes into the nuts and bolts of writing crime fiction. Here’s a taste from the pot of porridge he offers up: ...
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Posted: 8/29/2007 11:09:33 PM 

 

Thomas Fuller had a good article titled “Thais ask: What’s in a Nickname” where he reports on the trend for parents to resort to the use English words as a substitute for the traditional Thai nickname. Instead of Dam (Black), Fon (Rain) or Meaw (Cat), the new generation goes by names such as Money, Bank, Seven.

A school teacher told Fuller about the confusion when more than one kid is nicknamed Bank. He solved the problem in a creative way: “In one classroom there were three children nicknamed "Bank." To tell them apart, fellow pupils had renamed the children "Big Bank," "Medium Bank" and "Small Bank."” ...
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Posted: 8/26/2007 10:41:00 PM 

 

While a number of authors fly by the seat of their pants when setting their books in Southeast Asia, one writer who lives in Thailand and knows the region and gets the details right is Colin Cotterill.

His latest novel set in Laos is ANARCHY AND OLD DOGS and has received a rave review by Janet Maslin in The New York Times. ...
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Posted: 8/24/2007 6:08:03 AM 

 

In the beginning was the Word. Crime fiction, in its current trajectory, owes much to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald to name the obvious trinity that many current crime fiction writers light a candle in homage. Of course the lineage is longer and deeper, including Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe.

The BBC has picked up on the popularity of crime fiction with the story: The Genre that just won’t die The cozy novels of Agatha Christie continue to sell. ...
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Posted: 8/24/2007 1:41:00 AM 

 

Ever so often a professional writer will open the blinds on the creative process and unveils what lies behind the writing of a book. Peter Straub’s wonderful new book Sides has several essays which uncloak the mystery of the writing process. Straub has won multiple awards for his fiction that includes horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream fiction. ...
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Posted: 8/15/2007 4:46:12 AM 

 

Price of most things is related to their scarcity. As most of the English editions of my books have been published by Heaven Lake Press in Thailand and are not widely available outside of the Kingdom, it isn’t unexpected to find the relative scarcity reflected in price. When you buy a second hand edition, though, make certain you know what you are buying. Most of my novels have gone through many editions. For example, A Killing Smile has gone through 8 different print runs. Only the original White Lotus edition 1992 is a first edition. If you pay for a first edition and it is a later edition, you’ve overpaid. I have yet to see a special edition of A Killing Smile or Gambling on Magic on offer. The main point: if you are buying a second hand copy make certain you understand that price is correlated to whether the book is a first edition or a later printing....
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Posted: 8/9/2007 12:22:01 AM 

 

The Altantic Monthly hardback edition of The Risk of Infidelity Index is scheduled for release in the United States and England on 21 December 2007. You can pre-order your copy from amazon. If you are in England, you can pre-order from amazon.uk.

RISK will retail in bookstores for $22.00. The Amazon.com price is $14.96 -- a 32% discount, and less expensive than the trade paperback edition in Thailand. The UK price is £9.66. This is one of the many advantages of having a large print run by a major publisher.

What is important for any author is the support of his publisher. Grove/Atlantic have made The Risk of Infidelity Index their lead title in the Winter 2008 catalogue. No writer could ask for a better show of faith in a book. For an author to have the full backing from a major publisher means a huge amount of effort will go into the promotion and distribution of the book....
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Posted: 8/9/2007 12:06:35 AM 

 

The Thai version of Pattaya 24/7 is available in bookstores throughout Thailand. Though I suspect you will have to find it at a Thai language bookstore. I doubt whether the English language bookstores in Thailand will have it on sale.

The Thai edition of Pattaya 24/7 is on sale for Baht 200. Below is the cover art. Lots of bullet holes, lots of leg; all the elements required to catch the eye. The neon signs advertising entertainment establishments in Pattaya should also attract attention. ...
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Posted: 8/6/2007 3:52:40 AM 

 

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