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Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: Falcon at the Court of Siam

by Lang Reid

This week’s book is truly a local production. Printed and published in Thailand by Asia Books and written by well known expat resident, John Hoskin, Falcon at the Court of Siam (ISBN 974-8303-52-7) was released last year and deals with the life and times in old Siam.

Author Hoskin is a well respected researcher and this shows in the attention to detail that he throws at the pages. It is difficult to fully grasp the situation that is being described as occurring in the 1680’s - over 300 years ago. To write about your own family 300 years ago would be onerous enough. Hoskin does this for a long departed society in an alien land!

The book takes the form of a diary or journal, complete with dates at the commencement of alternate short chapters. It is this time scale that makes you sit back and take note. Hoskin’s use of the English language is noteworthy, in that the principal characters speak unadulterated English. Not classical "Ye Olde English" or modern hip-talk, but just a simple undated English, giving the book’s tales an immediacy that contrasts so well against the chronological dating.

The contents are not a superficial overview of times gone by, but include such concepts as promulgated by Phaulkon when asked what his salary should be when offered a position with the Siamese government, "Lesser men might name their price, but for me there is no sum that will satisfy. Only power. Have that and the other is either limitless or meaningless."

In the end, it is left to the reader to decide whether Constantine Phaulkon was a soldier of fortune, an opportunist, a brilliant strategist or someone who was stupid enough to become a martyr to a cause that was not his in the first place. In the best traditions of thrillers, there is a denouement to help you decide!

The review copy was supplied by Bookazine, and should be available at all major booksellers. It was on the shelves with an RRP of 425 baht. To meld history and fiction in a credible way is not an easy task, but Hoskin has done this with great literary dexterity. I was glad to see that he had not attempted to give his Siamese people’s speech an "Asian" affect, as I believe that "Thaiglish" is demeaning for all concerned.

The book stands out through Hoskin’s ability to conjure up credible situations to fit in with the known historical facts. He is actually so adept at this, that you begin to wonder if somewhere along the line he had managed to come across Phaulkon’s real diary. It is only when you think again and remember the sacking of Ayutthaya around 80 years after the Phaulkon era that destroyed all written records, and that the Greek Phaulkon, even if he did keep a journal, would most probably not have written it in English anyway!

I found it a totally fascinating book and one that should keep any student of Thai history in discussion material for many years. Well written and researched and deserves to be well read!

Music CD Reviews: Ian Hunter “All of the good ones are taken”

by Mott the Dog

5 Stars *****

This album has got class written all over it. Recorded in 1983, two years after his previous album "Short Back and Sides", it smacks of an artist at the top of his powers, who has already been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and was allowing the rest to try and catch up. That is not to say that every effort was not put into this collection, in fact, all the tracks were written by Ian Hunter with the exception of the two written with long time mates Mark Clarke and Hilly Michaels. In similar vein to Hunter’s more thoughtful work like "All American Alien Boy", Ian made lyrical assaults on several controversial topics including US television, government nuclear policy, and the recent Falklands war.

Hunter’s usual partner in crime, Mick Ronson, was at the time off involved in other projects; however, he did contribute to one track, ‘Death and Glory Boys’, some absolutely shattering lead guitar. Hunter has always had the luxury that most of his best mates also happened to be some of the leading lights in Rock ‘n’ Roll. So the main band was made up of Mark Clarke (ex-Rainbow, Greenslade, Tempest, to name but a few) on bass; Hilly Michaels (ex- Little Feat) on drums; long time sideman Tommy (Maddog) Mandel on keyboards; and filling in Mick Ronson’s mighty plectrum work, Robbie Altar. When you add to this some astounding saxophone work by the mighty Clarence Clemmons from the E Street Band, you are left with a very fine pedigree stamped on the recordings.

The album opens with the first of two versions of the title track, a fast and slow version were recorded to open and close the album. The faster one being used as a single by record label Columbia to promote the album in the States. ‘Every Step of the Way’ follows, which is a lovely smutty dumb love song. Next song is ‘Fun’ and it is self explanatory. It was later covered by the Monkees on their" Pool it" album. ‘Speechless’ was the first of two songs on the album about the absurdity of television.

"Every time I watch you

Gotta switch you off

You surely can’t be serious

Every time I see you

I just can’t believe

You go below ridicules"

‘Speechless’ was also covered this time by "Status Quo" on their 1986 LP ‘In the Army Now’. ‘Death ‘n’ Glory’ was inspired by the Falklands War, but could be about the futility of any war, where the young are called out to fight and die for reasons that they don’t really understand.

‘That Girl is Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is pretty self-explanatory and is the good time sister song to Hunter’s earlier hit ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’. It would make a good soundtrack to any night down Pattaya Walking Street. ‘Something’s going on’ was of far more substantial matter, dealing with the uncertainties of nuclear war and the power that a small minority of people have over the majority of us. Television comes under the microscope once more in ‘Captain Void ‘n’ the Video Jets’, only this time in a comical manner, perhaps implying that the writer himself was spending a little too much time in front of the Google box instead of the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle.

The album draws to a close in mellow fashion with ‘Seeing Double’, a song of desperations living out your life in these modern times, and then the closing version of the title track, with some of the best work Clarence Clemmons has ever laid down, and yes, I include anything he has done with Springsteen.

Anyway, how can anyone possibly dislike an album, when half way through the song ‘Fun’ Hunter implores his audience with "I wanna party - Get down - Boogie". What more do you want?

It is about time the record company got hold of the master tapes from 1983, re-mastered them, and added a few of the extra tracks that were recorded at the time, with new liner notes and not the ones taken from the vinyl edition, which are now so unreadable small without a magnifying glass, especially as there is Ian Hunter’s poem in tribute to Guy Stevens on the inside sleeve in its original hand written form.

But that does not detract from the marvellous music provided on this timeless collection of Rock ‘n’ Roll.


Ian Hunter/Vocals, guitar and keyboards

Robbie Altar/Guitars

Tommy (Maddog) Mandell /Keyboards

Mark Clark/Bass

Hilly Michaels/Drums


All of the good ones are taken (fast version)

Every step of the way



Death ‘n’ Glory Boys

That girl is Rock ‘n’ Roll

Somethin’s goin’ on

Captain Void ‘n’ the video jets

Seeing Double

All of the good ones are taken (slow version)

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]